Crime - Sacto 911

Murder charge for man, 89, in wife’s death

Masaharu Ono, 89, speaks with Erin Minoura, a court appointed interpreter, during his arraignment on Tuesday. Ono was arraigned for the death of his wife, Hiroko Ono, 83, who died Friday.
Masaharu Ono, 89, speaks with Erin Minoura, a court appointed interpreter, during his arraignment on Tuesday. Ono was arraigned for the death of his wife, Hiroko Ono, 83, who died Friday. aseng@sacbee.com

Masaharu Ono leaned on the bars of the courtroom’s holding cell and listened as an interpreter told him him he was being charged with murder.

Ono, who will turn 90 at the end of the month, was arraigned Tuesday on suspicion of murder in Sacramento Superior Court, accused of killing his 83-year-old wife Friday in their south Sacramento mobile home. The proceeding was the first step in a case that his attorney called the saddest of his career.

Prosecutors in their complaint say Ono used a knife to kill wife Hiroko Ono. Sacramento County Sheriff’s officials said Masaharu Ono tried to call 911 Friday morning before going to the mobile home park’s manager, who called dispatchers. First responders, then a medical examiner arrived at the couple’s home to find Hiroko Ono’s body.

By the end of the day Friday, Masaharu Ono was jailed in his wife’s killing. He remains held on the jail’s medical floor without bail.

Slightly stooped and appearing frail at the brief afternoon hearing, Ono searched out through the cell’s Plexiglas for a small group of friends in the gallery, offering a smile and a quick wave as he spoke in a hoarse whisper to attorney John Perkins through an interpreter. The Onos, who emigrated to United States from Japan 40 years ago, say friends, have no family in America.

Perkins asked Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette for time to discuss Ono’s case with prosecutors and gather more evidence. Ono and Perkins will return to court June 19.

A friend of the couple at the mobile home park where the Onos lived after retiring from the Bay Area several years ago said both suffered from an early form of dementia. A somber Perkins seemed to fear as much after Tuesday’s hearing.

“I’ve been doing this over 30 years and this is the saddest (case) I’ve seen,” Perkins said. “His memory, thought recognition – he’s disoriented. It’s a really sad case.”

Meantime, Hiroko Ono’s violent death leaves the family with questions.

Masaharu Ono was a devoted husband, a gentle man not prone to violence, said his wife’s niece, Yuki Maruyama, who spoke exclusively to The Sacramento Bee from Japan earlier this week. Friends at the mobile home park interviewed by The Bee for an earlier story were as baffled, saying they never heard the couple fight and that the octogenarian Ono, frail and showing early signs of dementia, was “just not the type” to commit murder.

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