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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2009

At boiling point, judge's wife hits would-be robber with saucepan

BY MICHAEL SANGIACOMO
(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER
Ellen Basinski, 70, is upset she had to give up her favorite saucepan - the one she used to conk a would-be robber who invaded her home in Elyria on the head - to the police as evidence. Ellen Basinski, 70, is upset she had to give up her favorite saucepan - the one she used to conk a would-be robber who invaded her home in Elyria on the head - to the police as evidence.
LISA DEJONG / THE PLAIN DEALER Enlarge

ELYRIA, Ohio - The 70-year-old wife of a Lorain County judge meted out a little domestic justice of her own when she fought off four robbers with her favorite saucepan.

Ellen Basinski refused to be intimidated by a man and three boys who forced their way into her house on Columbus Street and demanded money.

"One of them picked up my purse and just dumped it out," she said yesterday. "Now, my purse is like Fibber McGee's closet, it's got everything in there. I got very angry."

Before she gave much thought about what she should do, she acted.

"I picked up the saucepan and smacked him right on the head," she said. "He looked at me and said, 'Lady, why did you do that?' And I hit him again."

The robber's friend threw a bottle of whiskey at the woman, striking her on the foot. He told police he was trying to distract the woman so his friend could get away from her.

The intruders realized Mrs. Basinski was no easy prey and ran. They didn't get far.

Police, with the help of neighbors, caught the four.

Police arrested Patrick Kostal, 18, and three juveniles, ages 17, 16, and 15 after Tuesday's inci-dent. All four are from Elyria and were charged with a felony count of aggravated burglary.

"We have a great neighborhood watch group," Mrs. Basinski said. "They helped the police, who were also fantastic, and they caught them."

Mrs. Basinski was on the phone with her husband, Judge David Basinski of Lorain County Family Court, when the robbers broke in.

"We talk every day around 3 p.m.," he said yesterday. "We tell each other about our day. While we were talking, my wife said, 'David, what are those four boys doing in our driveway?' The next thing I heard was the door being pushed open and someone yelling, 'Give me your money.'•"

The judge told his secretary to call 9-1-1 and he and his bailiff, Tony Piwinski, jumped in a car and drove toward the house.

The courthouse is just a few miles from his home, but they got stuck in traffic.

"Elyria High School had just let out and there were people and cars everywhere," he said. "We saw police cars and an ambulance rushing by, and that's when I was really frightened. We got there about 12 minutes later and my wife was standing on the front lawn with police. She was upset that she had to turn over her favorite saucepan as evidence."

Later, they realized that they had hired one of the suspects to shovel their driveway several weeks ago.

"My wife gave them a big tip, so they thought we had money," he said. "It's sad when that's what you get for trying to help someone."

He is grateful things ended well, but he said he had a long talk with his wife.

"She did all the things I told her never to do in that kind of situation," he said. "We've been married 47 years and she raised our five sons. She's not afraid of anything."



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