A Squaw Valley man will stand trial on a felony charge of elder abuse in connection with the death of his 81-year-old mother, Kaoru “Kay” Minamoto, a judge ruled Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.
Judge Brian Alvarez made his decision after a sheriff’s detective testified that Steven Minamoto, 59, gave conflicting accounts about how his mother fell and hit her head, causing brain and skull injuries.
If convicted, he faces up to 11 years in prison, prosecutor Tim Donovan said.
On Aug. 6, sheriff’s deputies were called to the victim’s home in the 1000 block of Silver Lane after a passer-by saw Kay Minamoto on the ground next to her son. Paramedics took her to Community Regional Medical Center, where she died of her injuries. Her son was arrested two months later.
Minamoto resided in Fresno and Kingsburg most of her life, but for the past 14 years she lived in Squaw Valley. She worked 30 years at the Kingsburg Recorder and Selma Enterprise as a typesetter.
At Thursday’s hearing, Steven Minamoto wore a red jail jumpsuit and shackles and nervously tapped his right foot as the evidence against him was presented.
It was revealed that Kay Minamoto died of blunt force trauma to her head.
Sheriff’s detective Larry “Skip” Swain testified that Steven Minamoto gave him conflicting accounts of how his mother got hurt.
In one account, Minamoto said his mother simply fell, Swain testified.
In another account, the defendant said he and his mother were near a car door, and when he opened it, the door nudged her and she fell. But Swain didn’t find blood near the car door; it was discovered in front of the car.
In another account, Minamoto said he got into an argument with his mother and pushed her because he was in a hurry to go to Fresno, Swain testified.
On cross-examination, Swain told defense attorney Philip Billington that the Minamoto family was surprised by the elder abuse allegations because they said Minamoto was not a violent person and described him as passive.
The family also told him that Minamoto was diagnosed years ago with paranoid schizophrenia, a condition that has been left untreated.
In questioning Swain, Billington noted that people who knew Steven and Kay Minamoto said they had never seen mother and son fight before, and that Kay Minamoto never complained about her son being mean to her. Billington also said that people who knew Kay Minamoto told Swain she had been having dizzy spells and was taking a lot of naps lately.
Steven Minamoto is being held in jail in lieu of $525,000 bail. His next court hearing is Dec. 8.