Fusako Petrus stood just 4-feet, 7-inches tall, but she was “pretty feisty for her tiny size,” friend Vicki Butler remembered Saturday.
Butler has stepped in to help handle media requests and make arrangements to memorialize Petrus, 86, who was sexually assaulted and beaten to death early Wednesday morning as she walked with a friend on the track of Highlands High School.
The sheriff’s department said the assailant attacked Petrus’ 61-year-old friend first, but turned on her when she rushed to help. Neighbors said she used her walking stick to try to fend the man off.
An 18-year-old named Neven Butler – no relation to Vicki – has been arrested in the case and also charged with an assault on a 92-year-old woman in another part of town just hours later.
Butler, who said her wife is the daughter of Petrus’ best friend, said she had spoken with Petrus’ niece in Japan to tell her what happened. Petrus was a widow and did not have children of her own.
Petrus, 86, walked regularly, and in the past 10 years had lost a significant amount of weight through exercise, Butler said. The regular exercise allowed her to stay trim and still eat her favorite snack, Japanese rice crackers called senbei.
Petrus had lived for many years in the North Highlands neighborhood near the former McClellan Air Force Base, where her late husband Alfred “Pete” Petrus had been stationed, Butler said. Fusako Petrus met her future husband in her home country of Japan, where he was stationed after World War II, and came back with him to the United States.
Butler said Petrus worked in sales at the McClellan Air Force Base exchange for about 20 years.