A Squaw Valley man was sentenced to three years of felony probation Monday for his involvement in the death of his 81-year-old mother last August.
Family members wrote letters on behalf of 59-year-old Steve Minamoto to keep him from further jail time. He had served 158 days with 158 days of good behavior time. His lawyer, Phil Billington, said Minamoto had been the victim of a jail attack.
Billington said his client had pushed his mother, Kaoru “Kay” Minamoto, away from him while she was looking for her keys. She hit her head and later died.
“I loved my mom, I was on good terms with my mother and there weren’t any hostile feelings or anything,” Minamoto told Fresno County Superior Court Judge Brian Alvarez at the sentencing hearing. “That day she was looking for her car keys and we fell together on the ground.”
Billington argued for misdemeanor probation, but prosecutor Tim Donovan sought felony probation without additional time. Since the case involved death, Alvarez said he felt a felony was more appropriate than a misdemeanor. Minamoto has no other criminal history, the judge said.
Minamoto is mentally ill and his family wants to assist him in getting the help he needs, Donovan said.
On Aug. 6, Fresno County deputies were called to the 1000 block of Silver Lane in Squaw Valley after a passerby saw Kay Minamoto on the ground next to her son, Steve Minamoto.
Kay Minamoto had lived 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.
I loved my mom, I was on good terms with my mother and there weren’t any hostile feelings or anything.
Steve Minamoto, man accused in his mother’s death
At a November hearing, a sheriff’s detective testified that Steve Minamoto gave him conflicting accounts of how his mother got hurt. In one account, Minamoto said his mother simply fell.
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. The detective said he didn’t find blood near the car door; it was discovered in front of the car.
In a third account, Minamoto said he got into an argument with his mother and pushed her because he was in a hurry to go to Fresno.
Friends and family testified that they never knew Steve and Kay Minamoto to fight and that people who knew her told detectives she had been having dizzy spells and was taking a lot of naps lately.