Md. couple shot, robbed in New York

March 24, 1994|By New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- A Maryland couple helping their daughter pick out a wedding gown at a swanky Madison Avenue boutique were seriously wounded yesterday by two bandits as the bride-to-be watched in horror.

The bandits shot Edith Schaeffer, 47, of Potomac in the chest after she refused to give up her $60,000 diamond ring -- and then broke her finger as they ripped the ring from her hand.

Her husband, Gerald, 48, was wounded twice in the torso after lunging to his wife's aid. The couple were in serious but stable condition last night after several hours of surgery.

Police said they believed the robbers who filled the Vera Wang Bridal House at the regal Carlyle Hotel with gunfire may have stalked their victims, and may be responsible for a spate of upper East Side jewelry robberies.

"I can't believe this," said designer Wang, who wasn't in the shop at the time but rushed to see the couple at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

"It's an insane kind of thing and I'm in shock," said Ms. Wang, who designed Nancy Kerrigan's skating outfit, and has created dresses for Holly Hunter and Sharon Stone.

About 2 p.m., the nattily dressed bandits were buzzed into the salon at East 77th Street and Madison Avenue, where the Schaeffers' daughter, Alissa, 22, was to be fitted for a gown, police said.

Sporting expensive suits, the two told the receptionist they were interested in looking at wedding gowns, then brandished a semiautomatic handgun and forced her upstairs to the showroom.

The Schaeffers and their two daughters -- the bride-to-be and her sister, Jennifer, 15, were then accosted by the gunmen, who demanded Edith Schaeffer's diamond ring.

"Get that ring!" one of the robbers yelled, according to police sources.

As the two young women and several employees looked on in horror, Gerard Schaeffer, a Washington-based businessman, was shot twice after jumping to shield his wife. The bandits then turned the gun on Edith Schaeffer.

One of the daughters was splattered with her parents' blood as the assailants took the ring and fled. No other customers were in the salon at the time.

Last night, teary-eyed Alissa and Jennifer Schaeffer were questioned by police at the East 67th Street stationhouse, then whisked by limousine to their parents' bedside.

"My parents have been shot. It's horrible," a weeping Jennifer Schaeffer, using a cellular phone, told someone from a hospital corridor.

The day started out happily enough for the Schaeffers, who arrived in New York earlier this week.

They lunched at Mad.61, the restaurant at Barney's on Madison Avenue. Then the family shopped at Bergdorf-Goodman on Fifth Avenue before taking a cab to the noted Wang bridal boutique.

Police suspect that the family may have been first spied at the restaurant or the department store by the robbers, who were apparently eyeing Edith Schaeffer's ring.

Detectives believe the suspects are responsible for at least four stickups last year in which well-heeled victims were followed from posh East Side restaurants and robbed of their jewelry.

The gunmen, said to sit at restaurant bars and sip Cokes while scoping out their targets, have netted about $500,000 in gems.

They last struck on Dec. 7, when they robbed a woman of her Rolex watch and two rings in a bathroom at an E. 59th St. eatery.

Five days earlier, another man was shot in both legs after stopping the pair from snatching his wife's ring.

On Aug. 17 a woman was robbed of her ring while getting a manicure at a Lexington Ave. beauty salon, and on April 28 a woman was followed to a private bridge club and robbed of her 18-carat diamond ring.

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