Crime - Sacto 911

Friends and neighbors mourn social advocate killed in South Land Park homicide

Susan Roberts, 61, was a longtime South Land Park resident and social advocate. She was found dead Sunday by police, according to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office.
Susan Roberts, 61, was a longtime South Land Park resident and social advocate. She was found dead Sunday by police, according to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. Courtesy of the Roberts family

As loved ones sought answers two days after police arrived to her South Land Park home, they remembered Susan Roberts as a devoted friend and a strong advocate for the disadvantaged.

“She was a very unusual person in that she probably has one of the longest lists of lifelong friends of anyone you would ever find,” said longtime friend Karen Sanders. “She was just a very funny, quick-witted, sharp-minded person.”’

Roberts, 61, was identified Tuesday morning by the Sacramento County coroner as the victim in an alleged South Land Park murder that has prompted more questions than answers as police continue their tight-lipped investigation.

Her husband of two years, Mark Herbert Long, 59, was arrested and booked Monday morning on suspicion of murder, based on Sacramento County jail records. He is being held without bail and has a court appearance scheduled for Wednesday. Sacramento police withheld his identity until late Tuesday afternoon.

But friends and neighbors openly discussed Roberts in an outpouring of grief, describing her as as a smart, dynamic person.

“It’s extraordinary how many people were touched by her,” said Robin Abcarian, a friend from her college years at UC Berkeley. “I always felt like her best, most important, special friend and I think she really made everyone feel that way.”

Abcarian is now a columnist with the Los Angeles Times, but when she and Roberts were in school, it was Roberts who first went to work for the college newspaper, the Daily Californian. Roberts wrote a profile that sparked Abcarian’s interest.

“I was so amazed and inspired by that that I thought ‘Hey, I can do this, too,’” said Abcarian, the maid of honor in Roberts’ first wedding.

Roberts was the kind of person who would stand out in your memory long after your last conversation with her, Sanders said. When they first met in 1986 while working at the same law firm, Roberts went out of her way to make friends with Sanders.

“When Susan decides she wants to be friends with someone, she makes sure she always stays in contact,” she said. “She doesn’t let people forget her.”

Her brother, Bill Roberts, described her as a devoted “Jeopardy” fan with an outstanding sense of humor.

“She always got the joke, you never had to explain,” he said. She didn’t suffer fools gladly, opting to tell people exactly what she thought.

She was an attorney who last week reactivated her legal license at her Nevis Court home address, according to State Bar records. But Bill Roberts said practicing law wasn’t her dream. Instead, she worked for the state Department of Social Services, overseeing foster homes and critical care facilities.

“She had a very strong sense of social justice,” he said. “Teenagers and adults who had no voice – she very much wanted to be their advocate.”

She had two other brothers, one still alive. The family was close growing up, he said, often traveling to Anacortes, Wash., to sail with their father, Charles.

The elder Roberts just celebrated his 99th birthday, and Susan had already begun planning his 100th birthday bash, Bill Roberts said.

She has been a longtime South Land Park resident and purchased her Nevis Court home in 2001, according to property records.

Sacramento police said in a statement Monday evening that they had arrested a man on suspicion of murder after they found a woman’s body inside the home. Officers originally went to the house to conduct a welfare check after Roberts had not been heard from in several days.

Bill Roberts said she didn’t show up to a dinner with a friend over the weekend and wasn’t responding to phone calls, prompting the call to the police.

When officers arrived, they were unable to contact the residents, police said Monday. They closed the street and brought in the SWAT team for the safety of neighboring residents. Police also called out their crisis negotiators. They said they talked to and detained a resident, later identified as Long, and they found a dead woman inside.

Abcarian described Roberts as a “truly avid Facebook user,” who used social media to connect with friends she’d grown up with. That’s how she met Long – they were both part of a Facebook group for people from the Palos Verdes Peninsula. They lived in the area at the same time in the 1970s, but they didn’t meet until a couple of years ago.

They married in September 2015 at the Sterling Hotel in Sacramento, an event chronicled in photos on her Facebook page. He was her third husband, Abcarian said.

It was the second apparent domestic homicide in the quiet city neighborhood within a year. In March 2017, a woman, her two teenage children and her 21-year-old niece were brutally killed inside their home on 35th Avenue, just a few blocks away. Salvador Vasquez-Oliva, the woman’s husband, stands accused of the quadruple homicide in a case that has not yet gone to trial.

Joe Flores, a board member for the South Land Park Neighborhood Association, said for him and many in his neighborhood, the Nevis Court homicide felt like deja vu. He said last year’s incident left residents feeling powerless, and he remembers police saying at the time that it was just one house, an isolated incident.

“Normally, it’s a quiet neighborhood but domestic violence has no boundaries,” said Flores, adding that it’s making people anxious because it is happening again.

But Flores also noted that what happened last year brought the community together and the people living there have become more attuned to what’s going on around them and who their neighbors are. As soon as residents saw the police activity Sunday, they took to the internet to find out what was going on in their neighborhood and to share updates.

A neighborhood vigil for Roberts is being planned.

“Even though another tragedy has happened, we are coming together like before,” Flores said.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison