CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A 59-year-old Pinch man is lucky to be alive after fending off two men who he believes also severely injured a woman in his neighborhood.
Kanawha County deputies are investigating the home invasion on Miller Drive, said Cpl. B.D. Humphreys. A family member found a 74-year-old woman lying on the floor of her house unresponsive at 2:39 p.m. Thursday, Humphreys said.
Officers are investigating other recent incidents in the neighborhood that could be connected to Thursday's violent home invasion, he said.
Frank Mace lives alone a few streets away from Miller Drive.
At about 12:15 a.m. Thursday, he experienced a situation he will never forget -- one that has left him scarred emotionally and physically.
"I'm traumatized," Mace said. "My physical wounds will heal but I'll deal with this emotionally for the rest of my life."
Mace, a retired elementary school principal, had returned to the area from a workshop with teachers in Nicholas County Thursday evening, he said. Before heading home to Pinch, he spent the evening with friends in Charleston.
Mace made it to his home around 11:40 p.m., he said. He was reclining on his sofa when he heard a knock at the door.
Mace said he was concerned because it was normally too late for anyone to visit. He peeked through the peephole on his front door to see who it was, he said.
He saw two men standing outside that resembled his grandchildren.
"I thought that was OK because it wouldn't be unusual for them to stop by to check to make sure I made it home and say hi," Mace said.
"As soon as I opened the door, I immediately saw that they weren't my grandchildren," he added. "They were two guys that were intent on getting into my house and doing me harm."
He immediately noticed their faces were wrapped in neck scarves so that only their eyes were showing.
Mace also believes the pair were wearing baggy clothes and hooded sweatshirts. He knows that both were white because he could see the skin around their eyes.
Mace immediately tried to shut the door, he said. The pair began kicking the door in an attempt to gain entry.
"I was pushing on the door with all of my might," Mace said.
The pair of would-be intruders pushed the door in hard enough to hit Mace in the forehead, causing a laceration and blacking his eye, he said.
"I realized that I had to put more leverage on that door or they were going to get in," he said. "I got down on my knees and braced myself against the door."
That's when the two attempted to use a crowbar to force the door open, he said. The crowbar was placed on the door in an attempt to pry it open, Mace said.
"When I saw that crowbar I thought these guys intend to kill me," he said. "I thought about my new grandbabies and I mustered enough strength to hold them off."
Mace kept yelling that he had already called the police and that officers were on their way even though he had not yet had a chance to do so. The crowbar was removed and he was able to close and deadbolt the door.
He called 911, but the two weren't done yet.
They shattered a window in the front of his home. Then, they knocked off the passenger side mirror of his car and scratched the automobile's door, he said.
Officers arrived at the scene quickly but the two were already long gone. He said he was impressed with the prompt response and thankful for the dispatcher who stayed on the phone with him until authorities arrived.
Mace believes these two are the same who invaded his 74-year-old neighbor's home. He added that he could walk to the woman's house in about "five minutes."
"That poor lady," Mace said. "No one discovered her until the afternoon."
Mace was taken to Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital where he received nine stitches in his forehead.
He was checked for other internal injuries, he said, and released from the hospital that night.
Officers say the elderly woman's house was ransacked. Humphreys would not comment on what items were taken.
Humphreys did say police believe more than one person was involved in the invasion of the 74-year-old's home. Officers believe it is possible she opened the door for the invaders, he said.
The woman remains in critical yet stable condition at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital, Humphreys said. She has not been identified.
Police continue to investigate and are collecting evidence, he said.
"We're exploring all leads and developing theories," Humphreys said.
Mace described the two as relatively young men, probably in their mid 20s. One was about 6 feet tall while the other one was shorter and stocky, he said.
"But he wasn't fat or anything," Mace said.
He said the entire incident occurred over a period of "several seconds."
Mace has lived in Pinch all of his life and he is shocked that something like this could occur in the sleepy, quiet community just north of Charleston.
Mace remembers growing up in a neighborhood where families never had to lock their doors.
"Now we have to not only lock our doors, but we might get mugged outside our house," he said.
Mace said he would install some type of security device and he will keep a wary eye open for anything out of the ordinary. He also encouraged his neighbors to remain vigilant.
"Pinch isn't the sleepy little community that it used to be," Mace said.
Mace added that he spent the night at another house after the incident. While drifting off on the couch during the wee hours of the morning, the family dog brushed up against his arm causing him to wake with a start and scream.
"I immediately thought of that door hitting me and I screamed so loud I woke up everyone in the house and scared the dog so badly it hid and wouldn't come back out," Mace said.
Mace credits his "great love" for his grandchildren with giving him the strength to keep the intruders at bay.
Mace went on to say that he did not know the elderly woman who was injured in the home invasion.
Officers believe there may be a connection between the home invasion on Miller Drive and the incident at Mace's house, Humphreys said.
Officers are asking anyone with information to call 304-357-0169. The caller should ask for Detective M. Knapp.