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EX-HANDYMAN CHARGED IN HOME INVASION

A 25-year-old man who formerly worked as a handyman for an elderly Town of Tonawanda couple surrendered Monday evening after being accused of pushing his way into their home and critically injuring one of them over the weekend.

Benjamin Kozak, of Burns Court, Town of Tonawanda, turned himself in at about 6 p.m. Monday. He is accused of pushing the 78-year-old man down the basement stairs of the Grosvenor Road home on Sunday.

Town of Tonawanda detectives are not releasing the couple's names. The elderly man, who suffered rib and internal injuries, was listed in critical condition today in Erie County Medical Center. His 76-year-old wife suffered an anxiety attack during the robbery and assault Sunday.

Kozak previously had done some yard work and some odds-and-ends around the home for the couple, police said.

"I would characterize it as a brutal act," Detective Todd Ciehomski said. "We have a case of this man preying on elderly people who had some level of trust with him."

The incident began about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, police said, when Kozak knocked on the door and asked the woman if he could borrow some money.

She said no, but he already had his foot in the door. He forced his way into the home, and then ripped the telephone out of her hand and the telephone cord out of the receiver.

After the elderly man came halfway up the basement stairs, Kozak is accused of confronting him and pushing him down the stairs, leaving him with fractured ribs and internal injuries. The man's wallet and a credit card were taken in the incident.

Detectives said attempts were made to use the credit card at several stores in the Town of Tonawanda and Buffalo. Two of those attempts were successful, police said.

Kozak was charged with assault, robbery and burglary, all in the first degree.

Grosvenor Road is a winding street that runs north from Deerhurst Park Boulevard, east of Colvin Boulevard.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com