When the stranded couple whom Joanne H. Webb and her husband, Harold, welcomed into their rural Baltimore County home to use the telephone last November turned out to be armed robbers, the 66-year-old woman fought back.
"He got the gun about halfway out when I took the phone and clobbered him as hard as I could," Mrs. Webb testified yesterday in the trial of a Gardenville man charged in the Nov.16 murder of her husband.
Mrs. Webb said she chased the man from the house, hurling objects at him and dodging bullets from his gun, one of which pierced her nightgown.
Only afterward did she realize that she was lucky to be alive -- and that her 75-year-old husband had been fatally shot.
Thomas E. Crawford, 31, of the 500 block of Ardmore Way is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mr. Webb, the attempted murder of Mrs. Webb, andburglary and handgun violations.
His live-in girlfriend, Cynthia L.Levering, 28, faces similar charges in a trial scheduled to begin next week.
She is accused of shooting Mr. Webb five times.
Mrs. Webb said she heard gunshots from her living room as she chased the gunman through the kitchen, throwing a sewing basket and a stool at him as he struggled to flee through a back door.
"I heard my husband cry out, but it seemed like a healthy cry so I thought he was in good shape," she said.
Mr. Crawford and Ms. Levering were arrested two days later after a friend tipped off police.
According to the prosecutors, S. Ann Brobst and Louis C. Carrico, the friend said Mr. Crawford had pleaded for money, saying a plot to rob the elderly Sparks couple had gone awry.
The friend told police that Mr. Crawford confessed to the robbery, saying, "The old man bucked, and Cindy shot him," according to theprosecutors.
In opening statements yesterday, Mr. Carrico contended that Mr. Crawford and Ms. Levering had learned of the elderly couple from a relative who had been hired to paint the Webb house and who suspected that they were wealthy.
But Mrs. Webb said that she didn't have any good jewelry and that the only valuables she and her husband owned were some antique guns and furniture.
She told the prosecutor that she did not think twice about letting strangers into her home in the middle of the night because "usually when someone comes to the house, they've had a breakdown and they need to call a garage."
The man at the door that night had started to leave when she rapped on the window and beckoned him to come in -- a fatal act of kindness, prosecutors contend.