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Home Invasion Scared Grandmother to Death, Coroner Says

Deadly Wilson home invasion moves to Northampton County Court.

Before the robbery, Carrie Smith was a senior citizen who helped other senior citizens, driving them to and from appointments.

Then on Jan. 15, 2012, two men broke into her home, threatened her with a gun and frightened her so much she had a heart attack, which caused her health to decline for two months until she died.

Essentially, the robbery scared Carrie Smith to death. 

That's according Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek, who testified Friday in a preliminary hearing for Rebecca Johnson, Smith's granddaughter and—prosecutors say—one of the architects of the robbery that killed the 76-year-old Wilson woman.

"She needed constant care and attention," following the robbery, Lysek said. "She functioned perfectly fine prior to Jan. 15. She was a very active person."

Lysek was the prosecution's only witness. After a 45-minute hearing, his testimony was enough for District Judge Richard Yetter to move the homicide charges against Johnson to Northampton County Court.

Johnson, 28, is accused of helping two men -- then-boyfriend Rogel Suero and another accomplice police haven't identified -- rob Smith's home. In addition to the homicide charge, she also faces multiple charges connected to the robbery.

Prosecutors allege Johnson got Suero and the other man a key to the house from her cousin, who lived with Smith, and then got the cousin out of the house for the robbery. 

Police say Suero and the other man put a pillow over Smith's face and made her open a safe, giving them access to $40,000 in cash and jewelry. Johnson and Suero allegedly wanted the money to travel to Colorado for a drug deal. 

Assisstant District Attorney Patricia Mulqueen said a 911 tape captured Smith's terror after the robbery. "I'm alone, I'm scared," she tells the operator.

"You can clearly hear her inability to properly breathe because of being upset," said Lysek.

Following the robbery, Smith was admitted to Easton Hospital three times. She died there on March 15.

Lysek ruled her death a homicide, caused by an exacerbation of congestive heart failure due to a heart attack suffered during the robbery.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Matthew Potts asked if Smith hadn't had "mild-to-severe" lung disease prior to the robbery.

Lysek said the severity wasn't clear, and not really the issue.

"She was functional, and that's what we have to look at in a case like this," he testified. "Yes, she had lung disease, and she also had heart disease. But it didn't inhibit her."

Johnson's formal arraignment is scheduled for April 4. Suero -- who was captured by U.S. Marshals in Texas last week -- is due to be returned to Northampton County to face homicide charges soon, Mulqueen said.

gailm February 17, 2013 at 04:10 AM
I hope they throw the book at that pile of crap. I guess no recovery of property

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