"We held each other. We were both shaking tremendously," Brenda Ginther testified Tuesday, recalling a terrifying night in December 2011 when she and her husband were held at gunpoint in their Ross Street home.
The trial began Tuesday for a city man accused of conspiring to break into an elderly couple's home and hold them at gunpoint. Hyson E. Fredericks, 36, faces multiple felony charges of conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary, theft and criminal trespassing for the Dec. 11, 2011, incident.
"My client is no Boy Scout," Frederick's defense attorney Julian Allatt admitted during opening statements. "Mr. Fredericks sold heroin to make money."
Fredericks and two other individuals broke into the 59 Ross St. residence, seeking drugs, money and an individual named "Chris," according to First Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Osokow. Victims Bruce and Brenda Ginther have a son named Chris, Osokow said.
"One said, 'Is your son black?' and I said 'no.' He said, 'Then I doubt it's your son.' Someone made the comment that they thought they were in the wrong house," Brenda Ginther testified.
The incident began while Ginther and her husband were lying in bed. They heard what they thought was their cat knocking over a plant in the kitchen, Brenda Ginther testified.
"I sat up in bed to go find out what kind of mess was made. I only got as far as sitting up and there were three ninjas in our room," Ginther testified.
Ginther referred to the men as ninjas because they were wearing all black, she testified.
"They were pointing guns at us. I thought it was our three boys playing a joke on us," Ginther said.
One of the men stood at the foot of her bed and held a sawed-off shotgun, Ginther testified. A gun matching that description later was recovered from Fredericks' residence, according to Osokow.
Ginther ultimately realized the men were not her sons when she did not recognize their voices.
The men began ransacking her dresser drawers and dumped her dog's cremains and two boxes of jewelry into a bag, she testified. The items, some of which were recovered from Frederick's residence, were valued at about $8,000, according to testimony.
"One of the guys asked my husband to get down on the floor. They put a handgun on his back," Ginther testified.
Ginther's husband led two of the men to his wife's purse, which contained $1,400 in cash, according to testimony. The third man stayed in the bedroom with her, Ginther testified.
"The guy in the bedroom said 'not to worry, everything would be OK,' that they had the wrong house and to stay calm," Ginther testified.
The men returned and instructed Ginther's husband to get back into bed, according to testimony. She heard one of the men say "tie them up," but another said that was not necessary since the couple had been cooperative, she testified.
"They told us to 'count backwards from 100 and to not leave the bed.' Then they left," Ginther testified.
After the men left, Ginther crawled over to her husband's side of the bed, she testified.
"We held each other. We were both shaking tremendously," Ginther said.
Although the men were wearing masks, Ginther was able to see their eyes and to determine that they were African American, she testified.
Investigators nabbed Fredericks after his friend, Anthony Rudinski, was arrested for an unrelated offense, according to Osokow.
"(Rudinski) indicated to police that he had information related to this incident," Osokow said during opening statements.
On the night of the robbery, Rudinski drove Fredericks and the other two men to an alley near the Ginther residence, according to Osokow. After the robbery, police tracked the Ginthers' stolen cellphones to a location where they observed Rudinski's vehicle with Fredericks in the passenger seat, according to Osokow.
The defense alleges that Fredericks accepted Ginther's jewelry as payment for Rudinski's drugs but was not involved in the burglary.
"Every piece of evidence can be explained by one person who was involved that night: Anthony Rudinski. He was the individual that orchestrated the entire event," Allatt argued during opening statements.
"Rudinski does have baggage - he was a drug addict and has charges pending - but see if his testimony is corroborated," Osokow told the jury.
The trial continues today before Judge Marc F. Lovecchio. The jury is expected to return a verdict this evening.