MILLBURN — Perched on the mantel, a nanny cam quietly records a young mother and her 3-year-old daughter watching cartoons in the living room of their Millburn home.
A crash breaks over the sound of the television and the mother casually walks out of the edge of the frame to investigate. Suddenly, a man bursts into view, lunging and swinging at her head. He punches her in the face over and over again. He kicks her in the head, throws her to the floor, puts her in a headlock. Then he throws her like a rag doll down the basement stairs.
Millburn police Tuesday released the graphic video captured from a hidden surveillance camera, in hopes of identifying the suspect in a violent home invasion last Friday morning that has traumatized a family and put a town on edge.
A $5,000 reward was offered by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office for information leading to an arrest. At the same time, the Essex County Prosecutor’s major crimes task force is assisting Millburn with the investigation, said Thomas Fennelly, the county’s chief assistant prosecutor.
Police were shocked by the brutality of the crime.
"People come here because it’s a safe town," said Capt. Michael Palardy, a veteran officer on the Millburn Police Department, who said he can’t even remember the last home invasion.
MillburnSuspect.JPGSuspect in a brutal home invasion and beating in Millburn.Courtesy of Essex County Sheriff's Office
The video shows the intruder making three trips upstairs to rifle through the family’s belongings, while repeatedly assaulting the woman, kicking her, punching her and yanking her by the hair.
Throughout the attack, which occurred at about 10:30 a.m., there is an eery quiet. The mother silently takes the blows, screaming only once. She later told police she didn’t want to traumatize her daughter who sat on the living room couch during the attack, quietly clutching her blanket. Her 18-month-old son slept upstairs, unaware.
The mother allowed the release of the video to make sure the man is caught before he attacks anyone else, police said. Her name has been withheld to protect her identity.
Neighbors in the leafy, affluent Essex County suburb said the violence of the attack stunned them.
"We always felt safe here," said Jeanne Mixon, who has lived across the street from the victim’s house for 14 years. "My kids walked around at night. We didn’t worry."
"I’m so scared now," said Luz Albarado, who’s lived in the neighborhood since 2001. "I never saw anything like that."
Shirley Lukawitz has lived in Millburn for 13 years and said she’s never heard of neighbors being robbed — let alone being victims of such a vicious attack — until now.
"It’s a little scary," said Lukawitz, 81, who lives on Cedar Street, the next street over from the victim.
John Bushman, who lives next door to the victim, was taking a shower upstairs at the time of the home invasion — and he had left his back door open and unlocked at the time. He applauded his neighbor for releasing the video.
"That’s the kind of person she is – she doesn’t want it to happen to anybody else," he said. "I hope they catch this guy. I canceled my vacation. I was supposed to leave Thursday."
The victim is recovering from a number of injuries – a concussion, chipped teeth, an injured lip, facial swelling and leg injuries. But she somehow didn’t break any bones, and has been released from the hospital in the days since the attack.
Police are confident they are working the right leads, and that they’ll soon arrest the home invader, Palardy said.
"We’re not going to rest until we do," he said.
Star-Ledger staff writers James Queally, Eunice Lee and Victoria St. Martin contributed to this report.