WANTAGE — A man sneaked into a home in the middle of the night and raped two young children in their bedroom, State Police said.

The nightmare home invasion happened last month and was initially reported by the family as a burglary. But then the children told adults what really happened, police said Sunday.

State troopers responded 2:07 a.m. Sept 18 to the Sussex County home on a report of the burglary. 

Troopers said they attempted to stop a Chevrolet Silverado with New York plates fleeing the scene. The truck's driver, later identified as 33-year-old Craig Lassiter of Middletown, New York, was able to get away by going around a patrol car and over a mailbox.

According to the State Police, the truck, which was later determined to be stolen, was found abandoned a short while later in a field. The driver was nowhere to be seen.

State Police said Lassiter went into the bedroom shared by two children. Once inside, police say he threatened the children, told them he had a gun, and then sexually assaulted them.

After the children told family members what had happened, they found their front door open, police said.

A joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police Fugitive Unit, the New York State Police, the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, and the Middletown City Police Department in New York eventually identified Lassiter as the suspect.

Lassiter was arrested four days later. He was then extradited to New Jersey on Sept. 29 and was taken to the Sussex County Jail. Lassiter faces prosecution on more than a dozen charges including two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault of a minor less than 13-years-old, two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault during the commission of a robbery and burglary, and one count of first-degree robbery while threatening to use a deadly weapon.

In addition to the first-degree counts, Lassiter was also charged with second-degree sexual assault on a minor, second-degree sexual penetration while using physical force, and second-degree burglary.

The state police reported Lassiter was being held in the Sussex County Jail pending a bail hearing.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com