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89-year-old woman details night of terror in Falls home invasion

LOCKPORT - An 89-year-old Niagara Falls woman told a judge Friday how Jason S. Markovitz and his girlfriend tied her and her 95-year-old sister together with a cord cut from the older woman's oxygen tank during a home invasion.

"He had a knife at my head and my neck and my thigh and down along my knee," the woman said from her wheelchair. "He slammed me on the side of the face real hard. I said, 'Why are you doing this?' He said, 'I do this for a living. I just got out of prison.'"

That's where Markovitz, 39, is headed again, after Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon sentenced him to 20 years for his part in the April 24 assault and robbery.

He pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery for his part in the crime, which included the theft of cash from the home the sisters shared. His girlfriend, Erika A. Cooper, 38, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree burglary, and is scheduled for sentencing Monday.

"My sister and I were sound asleep," the woman said. The intruders entered through the bathroom window about 3 a.m. and awakened the sisters, who were in separate bedrooms, by turning on the lights.

"I had a dream of my grandson, who had just passed away. I thought he was coming to pay me a visit," the woman told Sheldon.

She said Markovitz kept demanding drugs, and eventually found a collection of prescriptions, but after examining them, "He saw no use for them, so he threw them down."

He and Cooper ransacked both bedrooms, emptying a small safe and "made the bedroom look like a tornado had hit," the woman said. The robbers also stole the older woman's purse.

"When they saw money, they were so happy," the younger woman said. The older woman is now confined to a nursing home.

"He taped our arms together," the victim said. "I did quite a bit of talking and he said to shut up or he'd tape my mouth, which he did anyway."

The women were placed on chairs in the living room and tied up back to back with the oxygen cord and tape. Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said they were bound for four or five hours. "It truly is a miracle that someone didn't die," she said.

The woman said she was finally able to get free and went to a neighbor's home to call 911. "I could barely walk," she said.

Assistant Public Defender Michele G. Bergevin said Markovitz is a heroin addict who was "desperate to get drugs, desperate to get money to buy drugs."

"They also did some shopping," Sheldon cut in. Debit cards were stolen and used for automatic teller machine withdrawals. In all, the sisters lost about $2,000.

The judge, who called the crime "monstrous," accused Markovitz of trying to pass off the responsibility for the crime onto his girlfriend. A probation officer's presentencing report, quoted by Sheldon, said Cooper "has a history of beguiling men and getting them to commit crimes."

"He didn't say Erika was the ringleader," Bergevin said. "He did say Erika knew these women were alone."

Bergevin said Markovitz "is tearful every time he talks about this. ... Not even for a minute did he say he had a defense. He said, 'Tell me what I have to do to plead guilty to this.'"

Markovitz turned to the victim, who was in a wheelchair in court, and said, "I'm sorry."

She shot back, "You better be. You better think twice before you do something like that again, buddy."

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