A man armed with a knife sneaked into a 7-year-old girl’s bedroom in Cold Spring Harbor on Thanksgiving night, beating her great-aunt before being subdued by the girl’s father, authorities said Friday.
Suffolk police said the apparently random attack began at about 11 p.m., shortly after the last holiday guests left the two-story home on Fox Hunt Lane.
Police said Jeffrey Rice, 45, of Huntington Station, took off his shoes and entered the home through an unlocked side door. He grabbed a kitchen knife before heading upstairs.
The intruder entered a bedroom where the girl and her 85-year-old great-aunt were tucked in for the night, police said.
Suddenly screams rang out, the girl’s parents recalled Friday in an interview outside their home.
The girl escaped the room — urging family members to call 911 — before Rice attacked her great-aunt. He hit her “numerous times with a closed fist,” according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
The girl’s mother, 35, said she rushed upstairs and encountered Rice in the hallway outside the bedroom. He was incoherent, she said, speaking “nonsense.”
Her husband, 40, immediately began scuffling with the intruder.
“He attacked me,” the homeowner said. “I fought him off.”
His face covered in scratches Friday, he said he and other family members managed to subdue Rice and hold him outside the house until police arrived. “I said, ‘You’re not going anywhere — sit down,’” he said.
He and his wife, still stunned by the bizarre break-in, asked that their names not be published.
Rice was charged with first-degree burglary. He said nothing during his arraignment Friday afternoon in First District Court in Central Islip. Bail was set at $100,000 cash bail or $300,000 bond.
According to the complaint, Rice said of the victim: “I can’t tell you why I hit her, but we’re all responsible for our actions.”
The great-aunt was taken to Huntington Hospital, where she was treated for “extreme swelling and bruising,” police said.
The couple said their daughter and 1 1/2-year-old son were not harmed.
“We’re all OK,” the mother said. “He didn’t touch any of the kids.”
She credited her husband with protecting the family.
“You saved the day,” she told him. “I don’t know what he would have done.”
“There’s really no connectivity at this time between the homeowners and the suspect,” Suffolk police Sgt. Jeffrey Walker said. “We’ve found nothing that indicates Rice knew the family or the family knew him at all.”
Police did not provide a motive for the break-in.
Less than an hour before the incident, Rice attacked his landlord and her son at their home in Huntington Station, the landlord said.
She said they returned home around 10 p.m. to find that Rice had broken into her locked bedroom. Rice, who had trashed the room, threw a table at them before running out, she said.
“He definitely came after me like a nutjob,” said the landlord, who asked not to be identified. “There was no reasoning with him at that point. I’m lucky.”
She said Rice rented a room and moved in about 10 days ago after they contacted each other on Craigslist. But she said he started acting strange — playing chanting music and rearranging furniture in the middle of the night.
She said she went into his room after the incident and saw a basket full of drugs, including antidepressants and Adderall, used to treat hyperactivity disorders.
The landlord called police, but Rice was already en route to Cold Spring Harbor, about five miles away.
Rice has prior felony convictions for grand larceny, attempted robbery and other charges, records show.
He also has pleaded guilty to several misdemeanors, including criminal possession of a controlled substance, according to court documents.
If found guilty of burglary, Judge Pierce Cohalan said in court it could result in a “significant” sentence due to the prior convictions.
Rice’s legal aid attorney declined to comment.
With Candice Ferrette