WAREHAM — Carol Widner was loading her groceries into her car trunk when she felt something dig into her back. The man said that it was a gun and that she should do what he said.
Widner, a 75-year-old who lives just down the street from the market, told the man she had no money on her and had left her cellphone at home. The man then told Widner to drive him to the bank and withdraw $300, according to police. But Widner said she had no bank card.
When she spotted a police cruiser nearby, the woman, whom neighbors describe as sweet but spunky, saw her chance. Calling for help, she slammed on the brakes and jumped from her car, telling the officer she was being robbed.
“Ms. Widner told me that when she saw my cruiser, she knew she had to stop,” the officer wrote in his report, “because she didn’t know if she would have another chance.”
Widner’s account emerged in court records Friday as the suspected robber, Matthew Mullen, was arraigned on charges of kidnapping and carjacking. Authorities allege that Mullen sped off in Widner’s car after she escaped, barreling through stop signs at 70 miles per hour with police in pursuit.
Mullen then abandoned the car and jumped into the backseat of another car, even as that driver tried to get away.
Mullen told the driver, Erica Hall, and her husband, Kevin, that he had a gun, and ordered them to drive. With their 1-year-old girl sitting beside Mullen in the back seat, Erica Hall complied.
“The guy ripped open my back door saying he had a gun,” said Hall, 25. “In a hostile voice, I said, ‘Don’t hurt my kid.’ I tried to drive so he couldn’t get in the car, but he jumped in and slammed the door, yelling he had a gun.”
“He screamed ‘Drive! Drive!” right next to my daughter, shaking her seat,” Kevin Hall, 30, told police.
Police quickly surrounded the car and were able to apprehend Mullen. Neither Widner nor the Hall family were harmed, and police said that Mullen was unarmed, that he had only pretended to have a gun.
When asked by police why he allegedly demanded money from Widner, Mullen responded, “Desperation.” He said he was homeless, police said, and had not eaten in two days.
Mullen pleaded not guilty to the charges and was ordered held on $100,000 bail. Prosecutors said he had a minimal criminal record. A probable cause hearing was scheduled for next month.
Mullen’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Police said that after they arrested Mullen, they took Widner to identify him.
“Without me asking anything, Carol Widner stated: ‘That’s him. That’s definitely him,’ ” a trooper wrote.
Police said their pursuit was aided by several witnesses, who had seen where Mullen was heading and pointed them in the right direction.
The Hall family later told police they had seen Widner escape, not realizing they would later be involved.
Widner could not be reached for comment. But neighbors said she is a nice woman and said they would visit her as soon as she got home. “Poor Carol,” said one woman. “She’s probably still terrified.”