MILLBURN — Perched on the mantel, a nanny camera quietly records a young mom and her 3-year-old daughter watching cartoons in their living room.
A crash breaks over the hum of the TV and the mother casually walks out of the edge of the frame to investigate. A man bursts into view, lunging and swinging at her head. He punches her in the face over and over again. He kicks her in the head, throws her to the floor, puts her in a headlock. Then, he throws her like a rag doll down the basement stairs.
Throughout the Friday morning attack, there is an eery quiet. The mother silently takes the blows, screaming only once. She later told police that she didn’t want to traumatize her daughter – who sat on the living room couch during the attack, quietly clutching her blanket. Her 18-month-old son slept upstairs, unaware.
Today, as the search continued for the suspect, Essex County sheriff officials announced a $5,000 reward leading to the arrest of the suspect. And police continued to release the video of the attack.The mother allowed the release to make sure the attacker is caught before he attacks anyone else, police said.
Neighbors in this leafy, affluent Essex County suburb said the brutality of the attack has stunned them.
“We always felt safe here,” said Jeanne Mixon, who’s lived across Cypress Street from the victim’s house for 14 years. “My kids walked around at night. We didn’t worry.”
“I’m so scared now,” said Luz Albarado, who’s lived down the tree-covered, quaint street since 2001. “I never saw anything like that.”
Shirley Lukawitz has lived in Millburn for 13 years and said she's never heard of neighbors being robbed — let alone being victims of such a vicious attack — until now.
"It's a little scary," said Lukawitz, 81, who lives on Cedar Street, the next street over from the victim.
John Bushman, who lives next door to the victim, was taking a shower upstairs at the time of the home invasion – and he had left his back door open and unlocked at the time. He applauded his neighbor for releasing the video.
“That’s the kind of person she is – she doesn’t want it to happen to anybody else,” he said. “I hope they catch this guy. I canceled my vacation. I was supposed to leave Thursday.”
Capt. Michael Palardy, a veteran officer on the Millburn Police Department, said he can’t even remember the last home invasion.
“People come here because it’s a safe town,” Palardy said.
The victim is recovering from a number of injuries – a concussion, chipped teeth, an injured lip, facial swelling and leg injuries. But she somehow didn’t break any bones, and has been released from the hospital in the days since the attack.
Police are confident they are working the right leads, and that they’ll soon arrest the home invader, Palardy said.
“We’re not going to rest until we do,” Palardy said.
Star-Ledger staff writers Eunice Lee and Victoria St. Martin contributed to this report.