Two suspects arrested in Cramer home invasion
|Christopher Drescher, 29|
|Michael Gambuzza, 38|
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men May 3 suspected of beating a former Anna Maria commissioner and robbing the home she shares with its owner.
Linda Cramer was attacked at about 4 p.m. April 17 at the door of her Anna Maria residence by two men who pretended to have a delivery, then ransacked kitchen cabinets and bedrooms in search of gold, jewelry and guns.
They stole valuables belonging to Cramer’s boyfriend, Joe Pandolph, the homeowner, who had been lured away from the home by the suspects with a well thought-out ruse.
Michael Gambuzza, 38, and Christopher Drescher, 29, were arrested at the Days Inn, 3506 First St., Bradenton, where they were found along with some of the items stolen from Pandolph and the white van they used to visit Anna Maria and commit the home invasion, according to MCSO.
Sgt. John Kenney, who heads up the MCSO’s Anna Maria substation, called Cramer around 11:30 p.m. Saturday to give her the news of the arrests.
“Obviously, I was extremely happy," said Cramer. "I was totally confident in Kenney and the sheriff's office that they would solve this. John told me they had two suspects in custody and it was such a relief."
Cramer said she and Pandolph went to the MCSO Bradenton office to identify the property taken and make further statements.
"Thank God. I'm just so happy that they stayed on top of this. At this point, there's not much more I can say until after I've talked further with the detectives. I don't want to say anything that will harm the investigation."
Kenney credited some good police work by Sgt. Rick Gerken of MCSO's East Side Violent Crimes Unit that led to the arrests.
"He’s been working the case and received some information about where the two suspects and the white van might be found," Kenney said.
That led to the formation of a search team that included Kenney, and subsequently led to the arrest of the suspects.
"Right now, we've interviewed both of them and neither one is saying a whole lot, but we have recovered some property that we believe was taken during the home invasion," said Kenney.
According to the MCSO report, some of the recovered items have been identified by Pandolph as his.
"I was confident from the start because we had good information, but we still needed good police work by Sgt. Gerken and others," he added.
Kenney told The Islander in the days after the home invasion that the MCSO had good information and forensics - fingerprints and DNA - that would help them solve the crime.
Cramer said shortly after the incident that her instinct to fight back took over when the men pushed her inside and entered the home.
“I started to fight back, but it was two against one. They got in 15 to 20 punches to my face, tied me up and put a blanket over my head. I asked them not to take my medicine and they didn’t, but they wanted drugs, money, gold and jewelry,” she said.
Cramer said the men were inside the house no more than 10 minutes, but she was able to give good a good description of the pair and their vehicle to deputies.
She was beaten about the face, tied up and robbed by the men, who forced their way into her residence. She suffered two black eyes and bruises and abrasions around her face.
After she was subdued, the two men demanded to know where guns, gold, money and drugs were kept.
Cramer said she told the men there was nothing like that in the house, but they ransacked the house and stole some cash, collectible coins and bars, jewelry, credit cards and a handgun.
The two suspects then told Cramer that if she called police after they left, they would come back and kill her and her family.
After the suspects departed, Cramer managed to hobble to the kitchen where she freed herself with a knife and called Pandolph, who called 911, while Cramer called Kenney.
The hoax used by the suspects included phone calls to Cramer and Pandolph at the home and to Pandolph’s cell phone during the days before the robbery.
Pandolph, who is a citrus farmer with groves in the rural areas of Manatee County, said the men had a well-planned scheme to lure him from the house. They asked him to meet them at a grove they were considering for purchase and, under that pretense, lured him to east Manatee County to an abandoned grove on the afternoon of the robbery.
At the time of the appointment, they allegedly called Pandolph to confirm he was waiting for them, and then called Cramer - minutes before the robbery - from the pay phone outside of Jessie’s Island Store in Holmes Beach, asking, “Is Joe home?”
The two men then drove to Pandolph’s home across from the Anna Maria Island Community Center and came to the front door with a large carton that they said contained a cosmetic delivery - and she opened the door. “I thought to myself, ‘Joe could have ordered something. That’s like Joe, to send someone out with a package, while he goes about other business.’”
Cramer said that with the arrest, a weight has been taken off her shoulders.
"We were at a restaurant Saturday evening and I saw two men come in and I just got nervous thinking about what if they were the two men who robbed me. They weren't, of course, but it shows you what can happen."
She again advised people to take precautions. "Something like this can happen anywhere. It's hard to believe it happened in Anna Maria, but it did, so it can happen anywhere to anybody."
Drescher was charged in January with petit theft, felony possession of rock cocaine and possession of paraphernalia. He was convicted of grand theft auto in May 2007.
Gambuzza has a lengthy criminal record that includes arrests for grand theft, fleeing to elude, possession of burglary tools, resisting without violence and other felony burglaries in 2006, and numerous instances of traffic infractions, domestic relations and other crimes in Manatee County.
Both Gambuzza and Drescher were said by MSCO to be “homeless.” Their last known addresses prior to their arrests were in Bradenton.