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Police: Santa Rosa man admitted to strangling wife

  • Santa Rosa police investigate a homicide at the Rincon Valley Mobile Estates in east Santa Rosa in July 2013. (PD FILE, 2013)

A Santa Rosa man charged with strangling his wife told emergency dispatchers that she was teasing him about his depression before he wrapped a radio cord around her neck and killed her, according to testimony Wednesday at a preliminary hearing.

Dean “Sonny” Eliason Jr. made the confession in a 911 call placed in July, just after police said he killed his wife of 40 years, Virginia Caetano, 64, in their Cardinal Way home.

The recording of his more than six-minute conversation with dispatchers was not played in court but lawyers and a police officer in the case quoted from a transcript.

Santa Rosa Homicide Investigation

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Santa Rosa police Detective Andrew Riley said Eliason admitted using the cord to kill his wife. Eliason's lawyer, Kristine Burk, said he told 911 it happened after he “just blanked out.”

“He said, 'I suffered from depression and she was making fun of me,'” Burk told Riley on cross-examination.

Riley confirmed the statements.

At one point, Eliason, 66, said, “Don't ask me why I called. We've been married 40 years,” Burk said, citing the 911 recording.

Judge Dana Simonds said the conversation was enough evidence for murder and corporal injury charges. She did not set a trial date but asked both sides to return to court Dec. 16.

Eliason showed no emotion during the brief hearing, in which prosecutor Tania Partida called Riley as the only witness. The white-bearded man clad in a blue jail uniform was taken back to jail, where he is being held without bond.

Friends or relatives of Caetano would not comment on the proceedings outside of court. Previously, family members said the couple had a rocky relationship leading up to the killing that was fueled by Caetano's prescription pill addiction.

Eliason was convicted of misdemeanor spousal battery in 2008, according to court records.

The couple lived in Rincon Valley Mobile Estates. Family members said Caetano, a former psych tech at Sonoma Developmental Center, met Eliason four decades ago in a Sonoma Valley restaurant he owned called The Hatchery.

On July 24, police dispatchers received a noontime call from a man identifying himself as Eliason who said he had just killed his wife. Police found Caetano on the floor with a radio cord wrapped twice around her neck, Riley testified.

A radio was nearby but Riley could not say if the cord was removed from it.

An autopsy the next day concluded Caetano died of strangulation. Riley said other injuries and existing medical conditions did not contribute to the death.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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