WAUWATOSA -- Three people have been charged in connection with a case in which a family was held hostage in their own home. Police described the violent home invasion that happened on July 12 at the home near 116th and Watertown Plank as "nothing short of awful." Prosecutors say it all started when one of the suspects, a hotel worker, overheard the family talking about how they were traveling with a large amount of money -- and needed a hotel room with a safe. From there, these three suspects are accused of hatching a plan to commit a brutal crime less than a half-mile from the police department.
"It's too close to home. Crime of that nature is really surprising in this area," said Roy Mowbray, neighbor.
"There's no way to sugar coat the violent and brutal nature of the crime," said Captain Brian Zalewski, Wauwatosa Police Department
The accused are 36-year-old Antwuan Hardy, 34-year-old Brandon Lane and 36-year-old Nicole Kauper. Prosecutors say Kauper worked at the front desk at a Days Inn hotel where the family requested the safe, and Hardy (Kauper's boyfriend) and Lane committed the home invasion.
"They decided to put a plan in place to get the money from this family," said Lt. Jim Mastrocola, Wauwatosa Police Department.
The three face the following criminal charges:
- Robbery, armed (use of force) - as a party to a crime (Hardy, Lane) - four counts
- First degree reckless injury, as a party to a crime (Hardy, Lane)
- Second degree recklessly endangering safety, as a party to a crime (Hardy, Lane)
- Burglary (home invasion), as a party to a crime (Hardy, Lane)
- False imprisonment, as a party to a crime (Hardy, Lane) - five counts
- Conspiracy to commit burglary (home invasion) - (Kauper)
- Harboring or aiding a felon (Kauper) - two counts
Prosecutors say the family was surveilled at the Days Inn, and followed to their home near 116th and Watertown Plank. That's when Kauper allegedly told police she got cold feet.
"They came here with the intent to steal from these people, did some horrific things -- then left," said Lt. Mastrocola.
Authorities said around 8:30 p.m. on July 12, Hardy and Lane, armed with handguns, went inside the duplex and used a very aggressive, high level of force against the occupants in an attempt to commit the robbery.
Prosecutors say they threatened the downstairs tenant and tied him up before going after a family on a different floor -- tying up the family, assaulting them and telling them they were going to die because they thought the family had a large sum of money.
One woman was grabbed by the hair, pushed up against the wall and a gun was pressed up against her neck, the complaint says. A 5-year-old boy was among the family members bound and gagged, and he suffered brain bleeds as a result. Both have since been released.
"The horrific ordeal that they went through for three-plus hours -- being physically restrained, literally being held hostage in their own home, their faces covered, hearing their family member screaming, a 5-year-old child being assaulted, a 62-year-old woman being assaulted, horrific crime -- and as I said earlier, it truly speaks to not only the mindset, but it says a lot about these suspects," said Captain Brian Zalewski of the Wauwatosa Police Department.
"It's brazen. I don't know what it is, but made me uncomfortable because it's half a block away from the police station and a couple blocks away from where I live," said Mowbray.
The downstairs victim told police a suspect pointed a rifle and handgun at him. Both had their faces partially covered, exposing their eyes. According to a criminal complaint, one of the victims was pushed to the ground, his wrists were tied together and a piece of clothing was placed over his face.
In all, four adults and the 5-year-old child were held against their will.
Authorities said in a Monday news conference that "good ol' fashioned police work" led to a quick apprehension of these suspects.
"The actions of the suspects in this case were nothing short of awful. They showed utter disregard for human life. The fact that they violently assaulted, gagged, bound and threatened to kill victims speaks to the disgusting nature of this crime and the character of the suspects," said Captain Zalewski.
Prosecutors say they made off with far less money than they thought was inside the duplex.
Hardy waived his preliminary hearing on July 29. Cash bond has been set at $30,000 and he has pleaded not guilty.
Kauper made her initial appearance in court on July 29. Cash bond was set at $10,000. A preliminary hearing was set for Aug. 6. She is no longer an employee at the Days Inn.
Online court records show an arrest warrant was issued for Lane on July 28. He is in custody, but online court records don't indicate when an initial court appearance might happen.