Marple Township police believe there could be a connection between two strong-armed home invasions in 72 hours, both of which targeted Asian homeowners who operate businesses outside the community.

For a quiet township that marked just two robberies in all of last year, this week's events are disturbing.

"We don't have crimes like this," Police Chief Thomas Murray Jr. said. "In my 30 years we've only had a couple that even come close to this."

About 11 p.m. Wednesday, a 51-year-old South Korean woman who had just closed her shop on West Chester Pike, in Upper Darby, was entering her home on Ferguson Avenue near Anthony when two men approached her and prevented her from closing the door, Murray said.

One of the men brandished a silver handgun and a struggle ensued, Murray said. The woman's 15-year-old son, who tried to step forward and help his mother, was pushed down by the men and suffered a minor cut, according to police.

The robbers made off with a briefcase filled with about $1,500 in cash that the woman had brought from her business to her house, Murray said.

Police said that after the confrontation, which lasted less than a minute, the two thugs fled to a car driven by a third man.

On Monday, about a mile away on Hampshire Drive near South Central Boulevard, three armed intruders used an unlocked door to enter a house owned by a South Korean couple.

The break-in occurred about 9 p.m., a half-hour after the wife had returned home from the shop she owns in Southwest Philadelphia, police said.

The men restrained the couple, both in their mid-60s, with duct tape and beat them on the head with their silver handguns, Marple Township Detective Barry Williams said.

The trio ransacked the house for more than an hour, robbing the couple of $2,000 in cash, furs, handbags, jewelry and two family heirlooms - antique Korean teapots from the early 1900s.

"The premise that we're going on is that these are businesspeople that are leaving their business after closing shop and likely to have their proceeds with them," Murray said.

He believes that both women were followed from their stores, but he declined to speculate on how long they may have been watched.

Murray said the crimes could have been committed by the same group of men, even though the victims' descriptions differ slightly.

"We're treating them as if they are somehow connected," he said. "However, we don't know what that connection is yet and whether it is all or some of the same people." *