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Woman, 86, Dies as Police Search for Her

Times Staff Writer

When 86-year-old Gertrude Roberts reached for the phone in the middle of the night to call Anaheim police about an intruder coming in her window, she didn’t dial the emergency number 911. The mistake may have led to her death, authorities said.

The woman called the police business line, but was too hysterical to report her correct address. Frantically searching up and down the street, officers did not arrive for 12 minutes. By that time, she was dead of an apparent heart attack.

Her apartment was only about a mile from the police station, Sgt. Jack Jansen said, and if she had called 911, “we would have been right there.”

Puts Address on Screen

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The emergency system automatically flashes a caller’s address on a computer screen. Without that information Thursday, police could not immediately find the woman’s ground-floor unit in a senior citizens’ complex at 200 E. Lincoln Ave.

“She was hysterical. . . . She was hard of hearing and I guess she couldn’t understand our operator, who kept asking for a better address,” Sgt. John Haradon said after listening to a tape recording of the 1:22 a.m. call.

Haradon said police finally located the woman by checking the senior citizens’ apartment buildings in the general area and looking for units with numbers similar to those given by the victim.

Investigators have no suspects and no witnesses in the incident at the Village Center, a three-story federally subsidized complex. Haradon said a window was broken to gain entry to the victim’s home, but “we haven’t been able to establish what’s been taken.”

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Although an autopsy established the preliminary cause of death as a heart attack, Haradon said, the case is being investigated as a murder because it was possibly triggered by the break-in.

Earlier Incident

The elderly woman’s death followed by two weeks another break-in at the same complex, during which an 84-year-old woman was raped.

“We are not tying this to any other rapes or homicides,” Haradon said of the death. “But we are keeping an open mind.”

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“People are very concerned and they’re a little worried because this is the second incident,” said Jan Stapler, program coordinator of the Anaheim Senior Citizens’ Club.


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