Family details Santa Rosa couple's rocky relationship

  • Santa Rosa police are investigating a possible homicide Wednesday at the Rincon Valley Mobile Estates in east Santa Rosa on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

A Santa Rosa man charged with strangling his wife of 38 years had a contentious relationship with her that was complicated by her longtime drug use, family members said Monday.

Dean "Sonny" Eliason Jr., 65, and Virginia Caetano, 64, had been physically violent with each other and once threw pots and pans at each other in front of a babysitter, said her brother, Tony Caetano of Santa Rosa.

"It was not a good relationship," the brother said. "She was a pill popper."

Santa Rosa Homicide Investigation


Eliason's sister, Mary Eliason of Redding, echoed the rocky nature of the marriage, saying Caetano's addiction was a source of tension.

Caetano overdosed on sleeping pills five or six years ago, Mary Eliason said, and she was taken to a hospital with symptoms of another overdose two days before she died.

But doctors released Caetano the same day, sending her home to Rincon Valley Mobile Estates, her sister-in-law said.

On Wednesday, Sonny Eliason called 911 dispatchers, saying he had strangled her, police said.

Officers arrived and found a radio cord wrapped around Caetano's neck.

A day earlier, Sonny Eliason spoke to his older sister by phone and gave no indication he was angry with his wife or planning to kill her, his sister said.

She guessed Eliason may be confused about what actually happened because he is taking prescription pills himself — or chronic depression, she said.

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