A burglary of a northeast Fresno home belonging to a former Fresno County director of environmental health turned into a kidnapping on Monday morning when the suspect took the homeowner on a ride through the city.
After the nearly four-hour ordeal, homeowner Tim Casagrande, 58, was left in a west Fresno alley with scratches to his face and arm, police Chief Jerry Dyer said during a late afternoon news conference.
Police are still looking for the suspect. Dyer gave this report of what happened:
Casagrande was taken from his home sometime after 8 a.m. when the suspect entered the East Portland Avenue home, near Clovis West High School, possibly through an unlocked door, Dyer said.
The suspect, who was armed with a handgun, startled Casagrande in an upstairs bedroom and tackled him onto a bed. He then tied Casagrande's hands behind his back and searched the bedroom, where he found a safe and demanded the combination.
Casagrande did not know the combination, Dyer said. After searching the rest of the house and finding three shotguns, the suspect took the victim's black 2013 Toyota Camry, with Casagrande lying face down in the back seat, to two banks in downtown Fresno.
Around 9:25 a.m., the man successfully used Casagrande's debit card to withdraw an undisclosed amount of money from one automated teller machine and was unsuccessful at a second.
Casagrande's son alerted police to the ransacked house around 9:45 a.m. when he drove to the home to check on his father, who did not show up to a scheduled golf outing.
Meanwhile, the suspect made two more stops at what Dyer said may have been apartment complexes to talk to some people with Casagrande still tied up in the back.
"At some point, the suspect drove into west Fresno, parked in an alley and then told the victim, Tim Casagrande, to count to 99 then he could leave," Dyer said.
Casagrande did as he was told and was able to untie himself and take off the shirt covering his face. He then drove away and found someone with a phone who alerted police around 11:45 a.m. to the burglary and kidnapping.
"This is truly an incident that could have a much different outcome," said Dyer, who is friends with Casagrande. "He is an individual who is obviously shaken up. Fortunately he cooperated with the suspect and ultimately was released."
Anyone with information about the crime or the suspect is asked to call detective Ben Barnes at (559) 621-2424 or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-STOP.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, firstname.lastname@example.org or @bonhialee on Twitter.