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Lucky Pendant : Device Saves Woman, 93, After She’s Beaten, Robbed of $17,000 by Intruders

Times Staff Writer

Eululia Newsom was taking a nap when several thieves broke into the 93-year-old woman’s home, held a knife to her throat and demanded money.

When she wouldn’t give them any, the intruders beat and stabbed the elderly woman, then hurled her into her bedroom closet so hard that plaster fell from the back wall. Before slamming the closet door shut and locking her inside, one of the thieves noticed that she was wearing a pendant and yanked it from her neck. Then he threw it back at her, saying that it was worthless.

That plastic pendant may have saved Eululia Newsom’s life last Saturday night.

The pendant, about the size of a silver dollar, actually is a remote-control device that activates an emergency call to paramedics and police when it is squeezed. Newsom, who needs a walker to get around, rents the device in case she has a medical emergency and cannot get to a telephone.

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So while the intruders ransacked her house in Athens, just north of Gardena, Newsom groped around in the dark closet, looking for the pendant. Desperate, she later told investigators, she searched for the device with one hand while banging on the door with an antique copper coffee pot that she had stored there. She searched and banged for two hours, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“I was so afraid that I was going to die that I just hammered on that door and screamed bloody murder,” Newsom said Tuesday in a telephone interview from her bed at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, where she is in stable condition.

She said she couldn’t recall how many intruders there were, but that several times a woman who appeared to be the leader returned to the bedroom and threatened to “cut my head off” if she didn’t quiet down. Undaunted, Newsom kept banging away, enough to make a half-inch-deep gouge in the wooden door.

Shortly after the burglars broke into a safe and left with the $17,000 life savings of Newsom and her 60-year-old son, Richard, as well as coins and jewelry, she found the pendant among some scattered clothing and activated the signal for help.

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When she squeezed the device, which she rents for $25 a month, a radio signal went to a control box in her home, which in turn sent a telephone message to Emergency Response System Inc. The Westwood-based company’s switchboard operators have quick access to customers’ medical histories, addresses, nearest police and fire authorities, and a listing of friends and relatives to call in emergencies.

Operators didn’t know what Newsom needed. All that they could hear through a microphone on the control box was a rhythmic thumping. So they sent both paramedics and sheriff’s deputies to Newsom’s house on Budlong Avenue.

Deputies found the torn screen and open window where the intruders had entered the rear of the home, got in, heard Newsom pounding and freed her. Listed earlier in critical condition with stab wounds, severe bruises and shock, she was in good spirits on Tuesday.

“The pendant saved my life,” she said. “I might have just given up. . . . “

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The mother and son, who both have severe illnesses, installed the system in their home about a year ago. The son said they acted after getting busy signals when calling the county’s 911 emergency number during emergencies.

Eululia, an arthritis victim who walks with a cane and said she has survived two heart attacks, a stroke and two bouts with pnuemonia, has been burglarized seven times in 15 years.

Newsom’s son, who was at a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting during the attack, said, “It’s a shame that people could do this to a 93-year-old woman who cannot fight back.”

He said he has been trying in vain to persuade his mother to move from the home they share, where she has lived for nearly 60 years. “I could just cry when I think of how this neighborhood has changed. It’s just not safe here anymore.”

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The sad thing, he said, is that the stolen money was going to be used as a down payment on a mobile home.


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