LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An elderly Pacific Palisades woman who was a victim in a bizarre crime spree earlier this week says she initially thought a transient who allegedly held her at knife-point was her grandson.
Resident Joan Forde told KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta she even tried to give 44-year-old suspect Brian Cruz a hug when he allegedly broke into her home in the 100 block of Marquez Place around 7:40 a.m. Monday.
According to Forde, Cruz was shouting profanities and physically held on to her after he allegedly entered the residence.
“At one point, he even said, ‘I killed your daughter and her son,’ and I thought, ‘Holy cow’,” said Forde. “But then I realized that couldn’t be true, because they live upstairs and he wouldn’t have known…where they live.”
The suspect then asked Forde to use her car and requested that she provide him with a disguise.
“So I’m going through my closets and I wear a size two and he’s six feet tall, but I found a pair of sweatpants,” she said. “And then he ran in the back and he said, ‘I’ve got to cut my hair, I’ve gotta look different’, so he took the scissors out of my drawer and cut his hair in the back and threw it in the sink.”
After allegedly forcing Forde to drive him toward the San Fernando Valley, Forde intentionally crashed her car into a construction vehicle near Palisades High School.
“I thought I was gonna die of course, I thought this was it,” she said. “It wasn’t really much of a decision to smash into something because it stopped everything, and then whatever was gonna happen, happen.”
Forde escaped serious injury in the crash, and Cruz eventually fled the vehicle, police said.
Following the crash, Cruz allegedly carjacked another woman, a teacher, and crashed that vehicle a short distance away, according to police and prosecutors.
After he allegedly broke into another home and forced a third woman to surrender her car keys, Cruz drove north on Pacific Coast Highway and ultimately reached Malibu before hitting several vehicles and eventually crashing again. He was taken into custody a short time later.
In all, three cars were carjacked and at least six cars were damaged as a result of the alleged crime spree, according to police.
Forde, the suspect and one other victim were hospitalized. She was released earlier this week.
“She’s okay, but she’s a little traumatized,” said neighbor Lowell Cauffiel. “She really kept her cool, he had her at knife point.”
Cruz pleaded not guilty Thursday to over a dozen felony charges, including four felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon; three counts of carjacking; two counts each of first-degree burglary, second-degree robbery, and kidnapping and false imprisonment charges.
His bail was set at over $2 million. Cruz is due back in court on Sept. 19.
He faces a possible life sentence if convicted of all charges, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
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