Trial begins for man accused of killing wife in Sonoma County

SANTA ROSA (BCN) — Testimony began Friday afternoon in Sonoma County Superior Court at the trial of a Santa Rosa man accused of the strangulation death of his wife two years ago.

Deputy District Attorney Tania Partida is seeking a first-degree murder conviction against Dean Howard Eliason Jr., 67, whose wife, Virginia Mary Caetano, 64, was found dead in the couple’s mobile home on Cardinal Way in the Rincon Valley Mobile Home Estates in Santa Rosa on July 24, 2013.

Partida played a recording of the 911 call Eliason made to Santa Rosa police.

“I killed my wife with an extension cord from a radio,” Eliason told dispatcher Janel Mahas, later adding “there are no weapons in the house” and “you won’t need an ambulance.”

Eliason tells Mahas he suffers from depression and he and his wife have been married 40 years and have two sons. He also tells Mahas his wife “made fun of me.”

Santa Rosa police officers testified they found Caetano’s body face down on the floor with a cord around her neck near a portable radio, and that Eliason was calm and cooperative.

Deputy Public Defender Lynne Stark-Slater told the jury in her opening statement that Eliason, a former firefighter and carpenter, suffered for years from debilitating acute psychotic depression that made him “gravely disabled and suicidal” and that he had been hospitalized four times.

Stark-Slater said despite medication and electric shock therapy Eliason’s symptoms persisted. She said Eliason told police officers on July 24, 2013, he had not taken his medication for one to two weeks.

She said the night before the murder, Eliason was ranting and trying to get to his bedroom, but Caetano was “crazy and incessantly taunting his behavior.” Eliason said Caetano swung an electrical cord at him and she fell over a chair, Stark-Slater told the jury.

She said the jury must ask whether Eliason caused Caetano’s death and what was his mental state. “We will argue against malice and against first-degree murder,”
she said.

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