COLONIE — Brian M. Hyra recalled not so much the women’s words as they rushed toward traffic outside the Beauty & Bliss salon on Central Avenue in Colonie Aug. 30, as their faces.
Their faces, Hyra told police later, were those of panic.
The women relayed the cause of their panic as quickly as they could: A man was inside the salon, attacking a woman.
Hyra, and a second passing driver identified this week as Rotterdam resident Michael R. Gilmore, immediately got out of their vehicles and rushed inside.
“I jumped out of my car not even sure if I turned the car off and ran toward the front door of the hair salon,” Hyra told police in a written statement obtained this week by The Daily Gazette. “As I was approaching the front door someone screamed ‘He’s got a knife.'”
Inside the salon, police say, Thomas J. Caulfield, a man with recent addresses in Niskayuna and Glenville, was using a 5-inch-long knife to try and stab the life out of his estranged wife, salon worker Denise Caulfield.
Denise Caulfield survived the attack, but was seriously injured. Police would later commend all involved — staff, patrons and the two passersby, for their actions in preventing more serious injuries and even saving Denise’s life.
“They have our utmost respect and gratitude for their heroic actions,” police said in a press release then.
Through statements of those involved, the fuller account of what happened inside the Beauty & Bliss Salon is coming to light. It’s an account of horror, but more importantly, of heroism.
Hyra, the first into the room, subdued the attacker and Gilmore, a former EMT, followed and quickly used his skills to aid Denise.
Denise’s client, a woman identified as Elizabeth L. Joy, was there to get her nails done as Caulfield rushed in to attack. She yelled, grabbed what she could to hit the assailant and even pushed a desk into him. She ultimately led the efforts to get bigger, stronger passersby to help.
Others played roles, too.
Hyra and Joy could not be reached for comment, but Gilmore reluctantly spoke to The Daily Gazette when contacted at his workplace Thursday.
Gilmore, a 43-year-old family man from Rotterdam, put the entire focus on the victim, Denise Caulfield. Despite her many wounds, she has since been released from the hospital as friends and family have rallied to support her.
“It’s not about me, none of this is about me,” Gilmore, who works in insurance, told The Gazette by phone. “It’s about her and what she went through. It has nothing to do with me or the other guy. We stopped like anybody would have stopped.”
He also put the focus on domestic violence and what Denise has gone through.
Denise Caulfield had a full stay-away order of protection against her husband, related to an earlier June attack where he allegedly rammed her car with his and threatened her by text message. He was charged, but posted $20,000 bond and gained his release.
Also see: County-by-county resources for domestic violence victims, July 12, 2018
His online behavior had grown concerning in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 30 attack, according to statements, as he posted unfounded accusations, “crazy stuff,” by one account.
On the afternoon of the attack, Denise Caulfield worked in the salon’s nail room as other employees tended to their own clients. The salon was packed.
Around 4:30, attention turned to a man in a gray shirt, blue jeans and a hat, whom Joy described as grubby, disheveled and dazed.
One salon worker told of the man storming the salon. That worker also saw the knife.
Thomas Caulfield attacked Denise almost immediately, witnesses said.
Joy, 50, was seated, her back to the door. Thomas Caulfield approached from behind and to Joy’s left. He grabbed Denise and almost immediately began to attack, her statement says.
“I went out of the room to grab the nearest thing that I could find to help defend her,” Joy told police. She came back with a manikin. She hit Caulfield with it, she recalled. It broke apart, but she still hooked his shirt.
Caulfield continued the attack, but he also had to fight off Joy.
“I just kept yelling ‘Stop it! What are you doing? Get away from her!'” Joy recounted to police.
Others called the police and yelled, too.
Other witnesses described Joy’s actions.
Joy fell, shoved the desk and he shoved it back. A salon co-owner, Mary Ann DeMarco, then picked up one of the broken pieces of manikin, a dress form, and hit Caulfield, too.
Joy, however, told police she knew they needed more.
“At that point, I realized I needed to go out and get a bigger man to help,” she told police.
Hrya’s path to the Beauty & Bliss Salon that afternoon winded from Amsterdam, where he’d spent the day at a job at Tecler Elementary School, to Scotia and then through Colonie en route to home.
But then he slowed for a red light and saw the women.
As Hyra, described by one witness as a big, tall guy, entered the nail room as Caulfield continued the attack.
“The first thing I did was grabbed the right hand of the male who was stabbing the female with my right hand and immediately wrapped my left arm around the male’s neck,” Hyra told police.
Caulfield immediately let go of the knife and Hyra pushed him against a window and into a full choke hold. Police would soon arrive and take him into custody. He remains held on charges that include attempted murder.
In the salon, blood was everywhere.
Another person, salon property manager Tracey Collins, who was nearby but not inside at the time of the attack, also rushed in and helped hold Caulfield for police.
As soon as Hyra pulled Caulfield off his wife, Gilmore determined Hyra had a good handle on the attacker and turned his attention to Denise, putting his EMT skills to work.
In an almost clinical account, he recounted in his statement how he checked her airway and assessed her many wounds. He asked women who had returned to the room for towels to help control the bleeding. He maintained slight pressure on her midsection and wrist area where he knew she needed it.
DeMarco, in her statement, recounted Gilmore’s words: “Stay with us, Denise.”
By that point, Joy had returned to the room. She recalled getting Gilmore the towels he requested. As police arrived and took Caulfield into custody, Joy recalled Denise as unresponsive.
“I prayed over her for a moment and then the paramedics got there and I got out of the way,” Joy told police.
In the weeks since the attack, Denise has steadily improved. Friends, family and strangers have worked to raise money for her recovery through a GoFundMe account. They also held a fundraiser for her this week at a local restaurant. As of Thursday, the GoFundMe had raised more than $25,000. DeMarco is listed as the contact for the account. She did not respond to a message this week through the site.
An update on the page, however, includes a photo of two women, one identified as Denise. Both wore shirts connected to the fundraiser that bore a quote: “The empowered woman is powerful beyond measure and beautiful beyond description.”