Philanthropist Anne H. Bass said Tuesday she was certain she would die during a home invasion at her Connecticut estate in 2007, describing "war cries" from three masked men dressed in black who threw her to the floor, tied her up and talked about whether to kidnap her 3-year-old grandson.
At one point, the men taunted Bass when she requested water, asking if she would prefer wine or Champagne instead, she testified at her former butler's trial.
Authorities say the men broke into the house on April 15, 2007, injected Bass and a guest with what they claimed was a deadly virus and refused to provide an antidote unless they turned over $8.5 million. The substance turned out to be harmless.
Bass testified at the trial of Emanuel Nicolescu, the former butler who is charged with attempted extortion. His attorney says he did not participate in the crime.
"I heard these war cries, very terrifying sounds, and saw three men wearing black hoods, black clothes, completely covered, storming up the steps," Bass said, crying briefly during her testimony.
Bass said that initially she froze, and then she ran into the kitchen screaming for her longtime companion, Julian Lethbridge, a New York artist who was inside the home with Bass and Bass' grandson.
Bass said she tried to pull a door closed, but the intruders grabbed her, dragged her to the living room and threw her to the floor and tied her wrists.
"I kept asking them what they wanted and I would just give it to them," she testified.
She said the intruders told her to shut up.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about my children and how horrible it was going to be for them because I was sure I was going to die," Bass said.
When she asked the men for water, Bass said one of them said, "Or would you rather have wine or Champagne?"
Bass said she heard the intruders talking about whether to kidnap her grandson. She said she told the men the boy would be terrified to see them dressed in black.
The boy was not harmed.
She described waking up at dawn to a quiet house, realizing the invaders had left and freeing herself with scissors. After freeing Lethbridge, she asked him to go check on the child, fearing he would be missing.
She said Lethbridge returned a moment later, carrying the boy, who apparently had slept through the entire event. "Obviously that was a huge amount of relief," she said.
Lethbridge testified last week that the six-hour ordeal began when he was falling asleep in a sitting room when he was startled by a crashing sound. Then he heard the sound of heavy feet rushing up the stairs and what sounded like a "war cry sound."
Prosecutors say Nicolescu's DNA was found in a Jeep stolen from the property during the crime.
Bass, former wife of Texas billionaire Sid Bass, also has homes in New York City and Fort Worth, Texas.