An 87-year-old Citrus Heights man faces attempted murder and domestic battery charges after he allegedly stabbed and beat up his wife of 30 years early Thursday, authorities said.
Just after 3 a.m., David Wolff chased his wife out of the couple’s condo in a quiet cul-de-sac in the 7000 block of La Cima Court, according to the Citrus Heights Police Department. Neighbor Joel Brantingham, whose bedroom faces the street, awoke moments later to the wife’s high-pitched cries for help. Brantingham said his instincts took over and he dashed downstairs with a fire iron.
“I went up to him with the (iron) in my hand and told him to get away,” said Brantingham, 24. “He started to come after me.”
Only after Brantingham raised the fire iron did Wolff retreat back into his home, Brantingham said. Hours later, Wolff was found naked in a wooded area behind the condo after a lengthy standoff with a dozen police officers.
According to Brantingham, the wife said her husband suffered from mental issues and that he had recently switched to a new medication.
Citrus Heights police could not confirm whether Wolff had a medical condition. The suspect was taken to an area hospital for a health check before being booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail, where he remains without the possibility of bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Neighbors say Wolff was a man of few words and kept to himself. Bill Emmington, 85, lives next door to the Wolffs. He called the suspect intelligent but said he acted in a condescending manner.
“It was hard to talk to him because he would try to educate me,” Emmington said.
Some neighbors said they suspect that Wolff suffers from dementia or another mental condition based on his behavior and advanced age.
“He didn’t even acknowledge me. He was in his own world,” Brantingham said of Wolff, recalling the confrontation.
Brantingham said Wolff had his wife in a chokehold and repeatedly punched her. Police said the victim, whose name was withheld, suffered stab wounds on her torso and defensive wounds on her arms and hands. The woman, in her 60s, has since been released from the hospital.
Officer Anthony Boehle, a Citrus Heights police spokesman, said a weapon was recovered from the scene. He declined to provide details due to the ongoing investigation.
Splattered blood was on the asphalt and the neighborhood mailbox Thursday afternoon, gruesome reminders of the violent episode. A relative who answered the door of the couple’s home declined to comment. No motive has been established, Boehle said.
Thursday’s incident is the latest in a local trend of violent episodes involving octogenarian men attacking their wives. Last week, an 89-year-old Sacramento man was arrested for allegedly killing his 83-year-old wife with a knife. Friends and family of the couple said the suspect, Masaharu Ono, showed signs of early dementia.
A similar incident occurred in February in Elk Grove when police arrested Anh Thai, 85, for allegedly stabbing his wife to death. Thai, who faces a murder charge, remains at the Sacramento County Main Jail. In May, his court-appointed attorney, Norm Dawson, raised concerns about dementia.
As baby boomers age, more cases of elderly violence will emerge, according to Alex Morris, a family care specialist at the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada. Besides the size of the baby boomer generation, more people are living longer lives and reaching the age when degenerative brain diseases are most prevalent.
Statistically, 50 percent of 85-year-olds will be affected by some type of brain disorder, according to the organization.
“Alzheimer’s affects more than just memory,” Morris said. “It affects judgment, reasoning and the ability to focus.”
A simple conversation can escalate into a physical fight, Morris said, noting that an demented person could repeat the same question, causing agitation and distrust. In other cases, a patient could stop recognizing a family member, resulting in an argument and potential violence.
“Unfortunately, if we can’t come up with a solution, we’re going to see more of this,” Morris said.