Thieves break into Emerald Street home known for cystic fibrosis yard sales

Published 7:15 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

The home of Ralph and Helen Brown, longtime organizers of cystic fibrosis yard sales, was robbed Monday after the couple returned home.

The Browns had seen two males walking in the neighborhood not long before the robbery, but didn’t think much of it until the same two males were inside their Emerald Street home.

A friend who had gone to dinner with the couple believed she left her cell phone in Helen Brown’s purse. She didn’t but Ralph Brown checked the basement area to see if the phone was there while the two women were upstairs.

He noticed the door leading to the basement and out toward the garage was locked. He walked back upstairs and got into an elevator inside the house that leads into the basement where he unlocked the door. As he was unlocking the door two men came from behind him, one of them pointing a gun above Brown’s head.

“He said, ‘where’s the money, where’s the money?” Brown said.

Brown told the gunman they didn’t have any money and the other robber told the first to look for money on a mantle. The robber found what the Browns believed was anywhere between $100 to $300 in cash, which they’d already collected from a previous yard sale.

The men took money from Ralph Brown’s wallet and his cell phone. Brown said while the gunman had the gun in air above his head he did raise his arm instinctively. Everything else happened so quickly, but Brown believes he grabbed the gunman’s wrist.

The gunman grabbed Ralph’s arm with his free hand and the two robbers quickly shoved past Brown and out the garage door. Brown was not injured in the incident. He said the gun appeared to be a semi-automatic, but it could’ve been a toy for all he knew.

The couple have been hosting and organizing yard sales twice a year for the last 12 years. It began as a way to raise money for cystic fibrosis after two of their grandchildren were diagnosed with the disease, which affects the lungs and digestive system. Ralph is a former school administrator.

No arrests have been made, but police say the suspects are both black, one with a stocky build, who was wearing who a red hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, and tennis shoes with gold trim. The second suspect was described as skinny and wearing the same outfit, but with camouflage shorts.

The Browns’ basement and garage are filled with items donated by people in the community. It appeared nothing else was taken in the robbery.

The couple believe they were targeted, saying they found it odd the robbers knew there was a possibility they had money in the house. The two said they usually only have change in the house for the yard sale.

Their friend’s vehicle, which was parked in their driveway, was broken into, Brown said. He said thieves took her cell, some checks that were made out to her and money.

The couple still plan to hold their spring cystic fibrosis yard sale, scheduled for May 22 and May 23.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Salisbury Police at 704-638-5333 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.