The octogenarian accused of murdering his wife last week in their south Sacramento mobile home was known as a devoted husband who loved to take walks around the neighborhood, friends and family said Monday.
Yuki Maruyama is the niece of Hiroko Ono, 83, who authorities say was killed by her husband, Masaharu Ono, 89, on Friday. Maruyama said her uncle is not a violent person. In an exclusive interview with The Sacramento Bee, Maruyama wondered how her uncle could possibly have killed his longtime spouse, given his poor state of health.
“He’s very weak. He has backaches,” Maruyama said in Japanese by phone from Kanagawa prefecture, just outside of Tokyo.
Calling the death an “accident,” Maruyama, 49, said she believes something else happened, but said her uncle is not the culprit.
“If they fight, he goes out of the house. He is never violent,” she said. “He is very gentle.”
Masaharu Ono initially struggled to process the death of his wife inside the white mobile home the couple shared, friends said. On Friday morning, he tried in vain to call 911, but his phone wasn’t working, according to Steve Janssen, the mobile park manager.
Masaharu Ono went to the management office seeking help, and Janssen called 911. Firefighters and paramedics arrived, followed by the coroner. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department was called out after coroner’s officials deemed the death suspicious, according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Lisa Bowman.
“The cuts to the body were not consistent with a natural death,” Bowman said, adding that the wounds were “fresh.”
Masaharu Ono allegedly used a “sharp instrument” to kill his wife, according to investigators.
He was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail late Friday on a single charge of murder and is being held without bail. He declined an interview request and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
Outside the Onos’ mobile home Monday, neighbor Linda Krantz, 69, said she never heard any fighting from the couple. Krantz said both were showing signs of early dementia.
“He’s just not the type” to carry out a murder, Krantz said. “I have no clue what happened.”
The Onos moved to Sacramento several years ago in search of a quiet life, after retiring from the Bay Area, Maruyama said. She said they emigrated from Japan to California about 40 years ago. They have no children.
Friends and family suggested the entire case was a misunderstanding and that Hiroko Ono could have inflicted the wounds by herself. They noted that the suspect is not fluent in English.
Asked to respond to those theories, Bowman said, “It would be very easy to hope for that. We have probable cause with enough evidence to book him for the charge of murder.”
She added that detectives asked questions such as, “Who is the president?” to make sure that Masaharu Ono is “aware of the environment.”
“We use those types of questions to determine if they are gravely disabled or unable to take care of themselves,” Bowman said.
Masaharu Ono is being held on the medical floor of the jail and has his own cell, Bowman said. The floor includes access to nurses, doctors and special food.
Maruyama, the niece, said the tragedy is painful for her family. The couple has no relatives in the United States. She hopes to travel to Sacramento to vouch for her uncle. Masaharu Ono will turn 90 at the end of this month.