From the Night Factory
31. A Burglary at Harper’s Crossing,
Last year, Anne Bambino drove her Nissan Altima off the road into a telephone pole, the car coming to rest on its roof in a ditch. She was stuck in the car for over an hour because live wires kept the emergency crew from reaching her quickly. This is the woman who, possibly with her accomplice, Jessica Analore, burglarized my apartment back in August. I don’t know which of the two actually entered our apartment while the other stood guard, or possibly they both were inside our rooms. The accident suggests to me, this woman has been lacking self-control.
An article appeared in the local newspaper, Bucks County Courier Times:
It wasn’t long thereafter that I received an email from Detective Patrick Nicastro: “The preliminary hearing for Anne Bambino is scheduled for November 21st at 9:00am. The hearing will take place at Judge Kelly’s court which is located at 2661 Trenton Road in Levittown. I will need you and your wife to attend as the credit card was in her name.”
It was a crisp morning the day of Anne Bambino’s hearing. The bright sky looked warmer than it was, which was below freezing. I was not feeling it. Perhaps it was the excitement, anticipating the hearing. I even thought about riding my motorcycle to the courthouse, but for the trouble of uncovering it. I took the car.
On the way to Anne Bambino’s hearing, I drove past the Oxford Valley Chapel. They have a signboard with changeable letters, like the marquee of a theater. On this particular day it read, “It is not about one’s religion but about one’s relationship with Christ.” This offended me. It offended my intellect; it offended my Jewish heritage; it offended my Atheist philosophy. It launched me into contemplating and contrasting Ms Bambino’s morality with my own.
Ms Bambino's police mugshot.
I mused over Anne Bambino’s name. I thought of Il Bambino. I wondered if Anne Bambino was of Italian extraction, or married to an Italian, or if she had children. I wondered if she was Catholic. Then I thought of Babe Ruth. I knew then that whenever “Bambino” occurred in conversation or in print, for the rest of my life I would be associating it to Anne Bambino and not the great slugger. It would always remind me of the burglary and of the missing fountain pens and journal.
The courthouse was unimpressive, a one-story white stucco building. It looked insignificant, as if the law did not merit any special honor, held no particular virtue. The building could have contained an industrial machine shop or an array of actuaries seated at desks. It was crowded, the parking lot nearly full. I had arrived first. Ms Keogh and I took separate cars because she had errands to do first.
When Ms Keogh entered the stark lobby of the building, I pointed to the window in the wall where she needed to sign in. We then sat together and waited, wondering if we would recognize Ms Bambino when she arrived.
I expected to recognize her. After all, I had seen her photograph. I had seen the pictures taken by surveillance cameras. I had seen her mug shots. There are several, as she has been arrested multiple times. I had seen her Facebook portrait. She would not have recognized me or Ms Keogh, whether it was she or her associate who rifled our apartment. We had no photographs of ourselves on the walls. And there she was. She was easy to recognize. She arrived under guard and in chains.
She wore a maroon prison suit under a winter jacket. A chain dragged between her ankles. Her wrists were also chained and it extended to a steel loop on a thick leather belt. Even in this sad state, she was more attractive than I expected. It was disconcerting to see this small, pleasant-appearing woman in such determined restraints. I bet she had lost some unwanted weight while in prison. She and another prisoner concerning a different case were quickly marched into a back room.
Ms Keogh and I took a seat in the last row of the small courtroom. I looked at Magisterial District Court Judge John J. Kelly, Jr. Was I to call the kid I wrestled back in our Neshaminy High School gym class “Your Honor”?
It hardly mattered that we came to the hearing. There was no confrontation. We were not called to speak. Ms Bambino was offered to sign a waiver. It wasn’t that she was pleading guilty, but she was not contesting the charges and was having the case combined with other charges that would involve other courtrooms.
They placed the waiver on the judge’s bench for her to sign. It was too high for the small Ms Bambino, only 5’3” and her arms restricted by chains. She rose on her tiptoes to sign. One of the officers of the court said she was looking well. It caused a charming smile to arise across her face and I heard her pleasant voice. She spoke clearly and gave the sense that she was educated. It was hard to hear, but as I made it out, she was admitting that despite prison life she felt she was doing well. Maybe prison had improved her health by keeping her off drugs. Then it was over and they led her away.
We left the courtroom and Detective Nicastro discussed the matter with us. I didn’t expect our detective to be so young. He was slender and sported a trim beard. He told us we might be called upon again and at some point given the chance to tell the court how the burglary affected us, but not this day. He told us about Ms Bambino. She had been married, but it wasn’t known if she was separated or divorced. I asked if she had any children, but he didn’t know. I asked about my stolen pens. Detective Nicastro said that when the burglars realized they were just some pens in those little sacks, they probably threw them out.
How different my reaction would be if the stolen items had been lost to the indifferent forces of nature, such as fire or flood, earthquake or tornado. The construct of society is to assure the survival for all its individual members despite constant undermining forces. Where do Ms Bambino and her accomplice Ms Analore fit in? How is greed and self-interest different from natural disasters? Humans are not supposed to lack the capacity for empathy. Something has gone very wrong when they do.
It was hard to be indifferent to whatever happened to Ms Bambino. I was angry with her, but with all the years she will be incarcerated, it would be terrible enough; I could not bring myself to wish her more punishment. What is the value of my pens compared to several years of her life wasted in prison? That day at the hearing, seeing this meek blonde incongruously shackled and fettered, I felt sorry for Ms Bambino. I am relieved the decision isn't mine to make.
People can change. I would like to believe if Ms Bambino behaves, if she comes to her senses, if she evolves a kind heart, someone in a position of authority might recognize it and intervene on her behalf for an early release. On the other hand, if she is an unremorseful and nasty bitch, then let her flub her parole.
I looked at Bambino’s Facebook page. Born April 1, 1982; Graduated Nazareth Academy 2000; went to Temple University, Class of 2005 – Journalism, Public Relations & Advertising; was a Pharmaceutical Sales Specialist working out of Princeton, NJ since May of 2007. Pharmaceutical sales, for a woman with drug problems. The irony.
Ms Bambino's Facebook photograph.
Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about the events and concerns of his life. If you've any comments or suggestions, he would be pleased to hear from you.
Selected Suburban Soliloquies, the best of Mr Bentzman's earlier series of Snakeskin essays, is available as a book or as an ebook, from Amazon and elsewhere.