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Rincon Valley husband charged with first-degree murder of wife

  • Victim Virginia Caetano, 64 (left) and suspect Dean 'Sonny' Eliason, 65 (right).

Prosecutors charged a Santa Rosa man with first-degree murder Friday for allegedly strangling his 64-year-old wife with a radio cord in their Rincon Valley mobile home.

Dean “Sonny” Eliason Jr., 65, also was charged with a count of felony spousal abuse in the Wednesday slaying of Virginia Caetano as well as an enhancement related to a prior domestic violence-related conviction in 2008.

The retired Sonoma County employee appeared before Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite, his hands shackled to a chain around his waist. The gray-bearded man acknowledged the complaint and was ordered to return to a different courtroom Monday morning for a possible plea.

Santa Rosa Homicide Investigation


Chief Deputy District Attorney Diana Gomez said the allegations imply premeditation and deliberation. She wouldn't discuss other details or say whether Caetano was the victim five years ago.

“Victims of spousal abuse usually are referred to as Jane Doe,” she said outside court.

Eliason talked quietly to his his lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Kristine Burk, before he was led away by deputies. He was being held in the mental health unit of the Sonoma County jail, Burk said.

Burk said Eliason may be suffering from depression or other mental health issues.

Pension records show he retired in 2003 from his job as a building mechanic at the Sonoma County fairgrounds. He was a county employee for more than a dozen years.

“There is much work to do to understand what happened here,” she said.

Because of a conflict, he will appear before Judge Dana Simonds on Monday.

Little was known about Caetano. A woman who attended Friday's court hearing said she worked with Caetano decades ago at Sonoma Developmental Center.

Kelly McClelland of Cotati said she and Caetano were psychiatric technicians. She lost touch with her over the years and was shocked to read in the newspaper that she had been killed. She said she didn't know anything about her relationship with Eliason.

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