“Whoever did this, it’s evil, it’s evil in their heart,” said I.C. Serapio, a neighbor, in tears. “They are in their last days. It is not fair, you just took this man’s life.” Ms. Thompson received minor injuries, the police said, and was taken to a hospital .
The couple was a fixture in the small concrete patio at the foot of their brownstone, which Ms. Thompson had packed with flowers and shrubs in makeshift planters to beautify the stoop. They were Seventh-day Adventists. Ms. Thompson regularly attended Saturday worship at the Hanson Place Church and turned her husband into a man of faith, neighbors said.
They had long since retired. Mr. Thompson had worked as a machinist and his wife was a nurse. They whiled away days soaking up the sun and wishing blessings on anyone who walked past the three-story brownstone.
Together, always together.
“All they had was each other,” said Anil Lopez, 34, their top-floor tenant. To him, they were not landlords, but “Mom” and “Pops.” To each other, he said, they were only “Honey.”
Mr. Thompson was from Jamaica, and loved to spin yarns in front of the building about his island-hopping days, Mr. Lopez said. Every morning, his wife would carry out a chair for her husband, said May Chandler, who lived across the street, so he could sit and shake hands with neighbors as they left for work. They tidied around the building as a team, until last year, when Mr. Thompson began to rely heavily on a cane. So Ms. Thompson, who turned 100 on March 8, did the sweeping.
“I would see her in the morning in front of the building, cleaning,” said Dennis Jackson, 59, a neighbor.
Ms. Thompson was born in Costa Rica and worked there as a teacher, according to a biography written for a church celebration of her birthday. In New York, she ran a group home for disabled men out of her home, according to the biography. She taught Bible study and helped perform baptisms.
Photographs around the Thompsons’ home showed her civic inclination. There, on the wall was President Barack Obama, whom Ms. Thompson adored, Mr. Lopez said. It was next to pictures of her with city officials and activists, recognition of her goodness that her husband would often brag about to anyone who would listen, neighbors and friends said.
But sometimes, the couple had told friends, their openheartedness left them feeling vulnerable.
“A lot of people pestered her because she’s old,” Mr. Lopez said. People would try to get one over on her, he said. She once confided in him that the couple had been woken up more than once by men at their door, demanding entrance. “A lot of people banged on the door all through the night, drunks, crackheads,” Mr. Lopez said.
And Ms. Thompson still kept helping those in need, Mr. Lopez said. “She doesn’t have that kind of heart to turn people away,” Mr. Lopez said. “She’s just so kind, thinking people were there to help her.”
On Wednesday, Ms. Thompson was sitting on her bed next to her husband, who was lying awake, putting on her shoes to go out and pay bills, said Margaret Babb, a clerk at the Hanson Place Church who visited her in the hospital. Ms. Thompson told Ms. Babb she was ambushed from behind and someone tried to choke and muzzle her simultaneously.
“She said, ‘I fought and I fought, they tied me, they bound my hands, they bound my feet, but eventually I was able to break free and call 911,’” Ms. Babb said. “I’m sure they didn’t expect her to be so feisty.”
On Thursday, neighbors passed by their home and the potted plant garden, where, for what seemed like the first time, the couple was not there.