NEW PORT RICHEY — Leonard Kornfield remembers his wife told him not to go to Walmart that day. She had a bad hunch about it.
It was just before 1 p.m. Jan. 9. He needed topsoil for his garden. The 73-year-old did his shopping at the Walmart on State Road 54. Kornfield was wheeling his shopping cart back to the cart coral when he saw the other man.
He said the man wore a black T-shirt and stood about 15 feet away, smoking a cigarette, watching Kornfield. The man began walking toward him, then broke into a run. Kornfield said the man was on him before he could react.
The man grabbed him, then used his other hand to grab Kornfield's 14-karat gold necklace and yank it off of him, breaking the clasp. Kornfield said the man shoved him to the ground, where the pavement tore open his elbow, knuckles and knees.
The man, who deputies say was Justin Edward Herc, 22, dashed away to a nearby Hess gas station where his brother, Jacob Alan Herc, waited.
As he lay in the parking lot, Kornfield said he yelled the only thing he could think of: "I hope you die this year!"
The Gucci necklace had been a gift from his wife on their 30th anniversary. He recently had it appraised at $3,375. Deputies say it turned up in a pawn shop's database 50 minutes later.
• • •
On Feb. 12, Richard Parkin had just arrived home from shopping at the Publix on Sunray Drive in Holiday.
The 89-year-old was unloading groceries from the trunk of his car, parked in his garage with the door open. He was easing the bags into his walker to take them inside when he felt a whap on the back of his neck, then a yank. Another sharp yank on his wrist. He caught a glimpse of the man — who deputies say was Jacob Herc, 25 — as he ran away.
Parkin went inside to call 911. It wasn't until he was looking at the phone in his right hand that he noticed his 18-karat gold bracelet was missing from that wrist. He felt where his gold crucifix necklace should have been tucked under his shirt. It was gone too.
Deputies say Jacob Herc ran to a red Ford Explorer. His brother picked him up and they drove away.
• • •
Parkin and Kornfield identified the Herc brothers in photo lineups. The brothers were arrested Monday. Jacob Herc was charged with robbery, battery on a person 65 or older, burglary with assault, robbery by sudden snatching and dealing in stolen property. He remained in jail Tuesday on $175,000 bail.
Justin Herc was charged with robbery by sudden snatching, battery on a person 65 or older and possession of a controlled substance after, reports state, a deputy found hydromorphone on him. He remained in jail Tuesday on $12,000 bail.
Deputies believe the Herc brothers followed at least one other senior citizen home to rob that person and are still working on the investigation.
Kornfield never got his necklace back. He said pawn shop employees melted the gold before deputies were able to contact them. A retired school teacher from Brooklyn, he said he had never been robbed until this year.
Parkin, whose necklace was a Christmas gift from his granddaughter and bracelet was a gift from his girlfriend, said his jewelry is still being held as evidence.
"Why me?" he said he would ask his assailant. "I made it through four campaigns in Europe in WWII, and I've lived for 90 years, and I get mugged by a punk."
Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.