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Victim: ‘I just feel violated’

City woman frustrated after unprovoked crime leaves her without car, cash, prescriptions

April 5, 2008
MILL HALL — Mabel Andrus parked her car in her daughter’s driveway around 8:30 Thursday night and ducked inside for a short visit.

She had been running errands in the area and thought she should stop in to see her daughter and family. She parked behind her daughter’s van, beside her granddaughter’s car and her son-in-law’s truck, at the family’s residence at 220 Rear Church St.

Since she was only planning to stay for 15 or 20 minutes, she said she left her purse on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat, mostly shielded from view by two buckets of cleaning supplies and a tote bag, and locked the doors.

It seemed safe enough.

But during her brief stay, her sense of safety and security was abruptly destroyed by a senseless crime. One or more unknown persons threw a rock through the backseat window, behind the driver’s door, shattering the glass and scattering it across the backseat. Once the thieves gained entry, they stole Andrus’ purse and a tote bag with an assortment of her purchases from the evening.

“I just feel like my rights ... my private property, have been violated,” Andrus said.

As if that wasn’t upsetting enough, Andrus quickly realized she had even more to worry about than just the physical damage to her vehicle. She said she had gotten paid earlier that day and cashed the check, putting hundreds of dollars into her wallet. The cash was gone, along with multiple credit cards, her checkbook, her driver’s license, Social Security card, and vehicle registration and insurance information.

She had just refilled several prescriptions and those drugs, including prescription-strength pain relievers, heart medication and a controlled substance, were tucked inside the stolen tote bag, she said. Also in the tote bag was a gold cross on a chain she purchased for a friend’s granddaughter and a newspaper she had picked up for another friend she was on her way to visit in the hospital.

“Now I’m a walking target because they have my address and my house key and they know I’m on a controlled substance,” Andrus said, fighting off tears.

She has already taken steps to change the locks on her Lock Haven apartment.

Andrus was pulled over earlier in the evening for having a headlight out. She promised the officer she would take care of it immediately, and she followed through on that promise. Right away, she visited an auto parts store to purchase a new bulb, which she tucked in the tote bag with the intentions of installing it the next day. It, too, was stolen.

“I never, never, never leave my purse in the car and I never leave the car unlocked. But there’s always that one time,” said Andrus. To add insult to injury, the burglars relocked the car after committing their crime.

Andrus’ immediate reaction, after getting over her initial shock, was to involve the authorities. She tried to call 911, but instead dialed 811 because she was shaking so badly.

“I was a hysterical wreck,” Andrus said.

State police responded to the scene shortly thereafter. Andrus said they were quite helpful, though they couldn’t offer her any official documentation so she could prove who she is until she replaces her driver’s license and Social Security card.

When she finally made it home shortly after 10:30, she called her best friend, Karen Stover Hafer, for support. Karen came over right away to hold Andrus’ hand, and even gave her the last $5 cash she had.

Together, they started making phone calls. First, they called Andrus’ credit card companies to cancel the cards. Then they called her bank’s 24-hour hotline to freeze her account. Next, Andrus called the local Wal-Mart store to alert them to the possibility that someone might try to use her checks there.

The real frustration kicked in with the other call Andrus made in the wee hours of the morning. Her car insurance company insisted there was nothing they could do for her until she paid her $500 deductible. Her saving grace in that situation was her cousin and insurance agent Dave Bachman of Nationwide Insurance in Howard, who offered to pay the deductible for her until she could pay him back.

The women called it a night around 4 a.m., but Andrus couldn’t sleep for more than an hour and a half. She was up again at 5:30, beginning the next round of phone calls. She called two glass repair businesses for estimates and was initially disappointed in the quotes. Later she said she appreciated the assistance she received from Jim at Diamond Glass in Williamsport, who cut her a break.

“This is what really hurts. I have to pay for this out of my pocket, but I don’t have any money now until I get paid again next month,” said Andrus.

“I gotta figure out who I can borrow money from, and the economy’s so bad right now. And then I have to figure out how to pay it all back,” she continued.

She called the pharmacy where she had her prescriptions filled the day before, only to find that they would not refill the scripts unless she paid for them again. A call to her doctor’s office didn’t offer any other solutions.

She received nothing but apologies from the woman who answered the phone at the office of State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven. Julie Brennan at the Lock Haven office of State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Johnstown, said she would send Andrus a packet to make sure she “covered all the bases” in taking precautions after the incident.

Though Andrus said Lock Haven city police were very nice, they, too, were unable to offer any assistance.

“Everybody just keeps saying, ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you.’ It’s so frustrating,” said Andrus.

The only thing Andrus knows to do at this point is to make a plea to the people responsible for breaking into her car and stealing her belongings and identity.

“Please just return my wallet, with my driver’s license and Social Security card in it. I don’t need the checkbook, I don’t need the cash.

“But please just give me back my wallet. That’s all I ask.”

Article Photos

Mabel Andrus looks at her car, which was broken into Thursday. She also holds the rock the culprit used to smash a window and enter her vehicle.



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