Teens suspected in vicious house attack

Jesse Caplinger was still feeling pretty banged up a week after a Magnolia teenager allegedly attacked and robbed the well-known neighborhood resident in her own home.

Sitting on a couch in her living room, her arm in a blue sling, 91-year-old Caplinger said on Monday morning this week that she was feeling good until just a couple of days ago. "I got so I couldn't move my fingers," Caplinger said in a matter-of-fact way.

The Magnolia girl, 14, and two other 14-year-old girls who allegedly accompanied her to Caplinger's house, were all arraigned on Monday this week on charges of Robbery in the First Degree.

But the Magnolia teen, whom police describe as the "ringleader" in the Caplinger case, is also suspected of robbing or trying to rob three other elderly women in Magnolia - two on the same day Caplinger was attacked.

Police are still investigating those crimes, and charges against the Magnolia girl could be amended, according to Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office.

Crime spree

According to one of three police reports filed on Dec. 8, a girl police believe is the same Magnolia teen who attacked Caplinger also accosted another 91-year-old woman in the 4000 block of 24th Ave. W. at approximately 11 a.m. that Monday. The elderly victim was taking her garbage to the Dumpster at the time.

The Magnolia girl allegedly grabbed the woman by the collar and "shook her violently while demanding money," according to the police report, which adds that the girl punched the victim in the arm and repeatedly tried to kick her in the stomach. The victim also thought she saw another girl hiding behind a pickup truck during the alleged attack.

The woman was able to escape her attacker, and apparently nothing was stolen. But the victim doesn't speak English very well, and didn't report the incident until her son stopped by around 3:30 that afternoon and called the police for her, according to the report.

It may not have been the first time the Magnolia teen had attacked an elderly immigrant woman. Police suspect the girl was also involved in a purse-snatching on the afternoon of Nov. 17, an incident that appeared in the Nov. 26 Police Blotter of the Magnolia News.

In that case, a teenage girl pushed an elderly woman to the ground and stole her purse just after the woman got off of a bus in the 1700 block of Thorndyke Ave. W. The police report about that incident indicated that both the woman and her teenager attacker spoke Russian.

That may have been a mistake, said Seattle Police spokesman Scott Moss. "The suspect we arrested (in the Caplinger case) speaks fluent Greek, and chances are it's the same person," he said of the suspect in the Nov. 17 attack.

Saved by the bus

The same teenager is also a suspect in an incident that occurred Dec. 8 around 2 p.m. - the same Monday Caplinger was attacked and robbed an hour and a quarter earlier. According to the police report about that incident, the girl walked up to a woman in her mid-70s as the woman waited for a bus in the 2600 block of W. Armour St.

The teen allegedly demanded money from the elderly woman and got angry when the woman said she didn't have any. The girl accused the woman of lying, and the woman got angry herself, telling the teenager that it wasn't any of the girl's business whether she had any money.

At that point, according to the report, the suspect said: " 'If you don't give it to me, I'll take it! Who do you think would win if we were to get into a struggle?' (or words to that effect)."

Around that time, the police report adds, the bus showed up at the stop, and the teen tried to mollify the woman by offering to give the woman her own bus pass since the elderly victim didn't have any money.

The woman refused the offer and got on the bus. Unbelievably, the teenager also got on the bus, but she didn't stay long after the woman told the bus driver that the girl had just tried to rob her. According to the report, the girl pounded on the doors until the bus driver let her off, but police by that time had a good idea who she was.

According to the report, a responding officer knew that the teen frequently hung out at the Magnolia Library. He questioned two of the girl's friends there, and they said she'd been at the library earlier but had left.

The friends also gave the cop a description of the clothes the suspect was wearing that day, and they matched the description of the clothes Caplinger's attacker was wearing, according to the police report.

Not only did the beat cop know where the suspect hung out, he knew where she lived on the east side of Magnolia. And the officer arrested her there after she was identified by the woman who was almost robbed at the bus stop a short time earlier.

According to the report, the girl denied trying to rob the woman at the bus stop, but allegedly did confess that she was involved in the attempted robbery of the woman at the Dumpster and the robbery of Caplinger.

The Caplinger robbery was by far the most brutal, and the suspect started off her day by allegedly stealing stereos from two cars before she was joined by her two friends at the Magnolia restaurant where she works as a waitress, according to court documents.

The court documents also indicate that the suspect's brother showed up and told the girl's two teenage friends that his sister had robbed an elderly woman earlier that day. He told the girls that while the suspect was unsuccessfully trying to sell the stolen stereos at a neighborhood store, according to court documents.

The suspect, her brother and the two other girls subsequently hopped onto a bus heading to Magnolia Village, where the brother got off the bus just as Caplinger got on.

Caplinger - who was returning home from doing volunteer work at a University District church - said the three girls were getting off the bus when she got on. But apparently they decided otherwise and stayed on the bus, Caplinger said.

According to court documents, the three girls hatched a plan to rob Caplinger as they rode around on the bus. And they followed the woman to her home on Magnolia Boulevard West, where the girls talked their way into Caplinger's home around 12:45 that afternoon by saying they had to use the bathroom.

Before they got to the woman's house, though, the suspect's two friends stashed their backpacks in a nearby yard, something a suspicious witness saw. After the girls disappeared, the witness grabbed the backpacks, which contained the teens' identification, according to the court documents.

The next day the two girls reported their backpacks had been stolen.

Once inside Caplinger's house, the Magnolia girl demanded that the elderly woman give her money, and the victim did give her $45 from her purse while her friends were searching a bedroom in the house, according to court documents.

Apparently that wasn't enough for the suspect, though, and she allegedly attacked Caplinger, knocking her to the floor in an effort to steal her purse.

The aftermath

Caplinger is a little hazy on the details of the attack, and she wasn't sure what part the suspect's two friends played. But Caplinger said her arm was injured by the Magnolia teen during the struggle.

Caplinger said a nurse at the hospital told her she had never seen an arm that was so black and blue. "I don't know whether she tried to twist it off," Caplinger said, but a "knot the size of a large orange" appeared on her arm a short time after the attacker and her two friends fled the area.

According to court documents, the Magnolia suspect told her two friends that she got $25 from Caplinger, but that "the old lady didn't want to give me her purse." The three used part of the money they'd allegedly stolen to buy lunch at a Magnolia Village restaurant, according to court documents.

Caplinger said there wasn't anything important in her purse at the time of the attack. "So I should have just let them have my purse," she conceded.

That Caplinger resisted isn't surprising, said her daughter, Janet Posenjac: "She's very, very fearless. She always has been," said Posenjac, who is staying with her mother while she recovers.

Caplinger had a feisty attitude when she described the attempt to steal her purse last week. "I made up my mind to keep it," she said. "And I did."

News reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at 461-1309 or rzabel@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]