Widow blames authorities in beating death in Orangevale

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 - 8:12 am

An untimely response by the Sacramento Sheriff's Department is to blame for the beating death of a Rancho Cordova war veteran, the victim's grief-stricken widow claimed Monday.

"If they'd have responded, my husband wouldn't be dead," said Sandy Marlow, whose husband, James Marlow, died last week. They had been married for 40 years.

The incident began at 6:24 p.m. Thursday with a 911 call from Sandy Marlow reporting that a man was refusing to leave her friend's Orangevale residence, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Jason Ramos.

She made a second 911 call at 6:55 p.m. – reporting that her 62-year-old husband, who had come to her aid, was bleeding from the head after being struck by a man in the garage.

James Marlow was coherent when several units arrived within minutes of the second call.

But Marlow, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, died several hours after being taken to the hospital, officials said.

Brandon J. Biagioni, 32, a house guest on occasion in Marlow's friend's home, now faces counts of homicide, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary, the department announced Monday.

James Marlow "had sustained head injuries from the attack, but was able to provide a statement to deputies in which he identified Biagioni as his assailant," said a Sheriff's Department press release.

Sandy Marlow said she had expected to drive her friend, who owned the home, back from a local hospital after a surgical procedure.

But after her friend's doctors decided they needed to keep her overnight, Marlow offered to check in on her pets.

When she arrived at the home in the 9200 block of Pershing Avenue in Orangevale, she said she was surprised to find Biagioni in the garage.

She said he was a handyman who stayed in the garage until a falling out with the homeowner, who is in her 60s. Her understanding was that Biagioni stored some stuff there, but was not welcome to stay in the garage.

"I went in to tell him to get out," she said. "He was telling me, 'I'm not getting out, you get out.' "

There was shouting, but Sandy Marlow said she felt safe enough because she called the authorities and went back into the main house.

"I told them he was an intruder," she said of her 911 call. She added that he was a former tenant.

Biagioni also called 911 to say he wasn't trespassing and that the homeowner could sort everything out, Ramos said.

The call was triaged by dispatchers as a possible trespassing, Ramos said.

"It was a dispute call," Ramos said. "It was a disturbance call. … Obviously, that changed when she called and said her husband was hit by a bat."

Sandy Marlow, who met her husband when he was stationed in her native England, said the wait was terrible.

"I thought it was going to be OK because I called the cops," she said.

"I looked for them and nobody came and nobody came and nobody came," she said in an emotional telephone interview Monday. "I was scared and I called my husband. And I said Brandon was here and I'm starting to get scared."

James Marlow arrived and apparently entered the garage via the side door to confront Biagioni. Marlow was carrying a baseball bat, officials said.

Marlow said she heard Biagioni scream, at which point, she said she ran out of the home clutching her cellphone. To her surprise, her husband walked out of the garage. "Blood is coming from his head and from his ear," she said.

James Marlow told officers and his wife that he didn't physically threaten Biagioni with the bat, she said.

"He said, 'All I said to him was you get out now,' " his widow said he told her.

Biagioni never left the home and was taken into custody without incident, authorities said.

Ramos wondered what would have happened if Marlow had not brought that bat, and the spokesman stood by the initial handling of the call.

"A half-hour is not an inordinate response time for a call of that nature. It was sort of a he-said, she-said at that point," Ramos said. "It just wasn't a high enough priority at that time."

Sandy Marlow thanked the officers who did respond, but was critical of the dispatch decision.

"If they would have responded to the first call, my husband would be with me now," she said.

She called him the perfect husband and father to two boys.

"He gave his life to save me," she said. "Can you ask for a more loving husband? He gave his life for me."

Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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