SAN JOSE – A 77-year-old woman whose family told police she had shown signs of dementia for a long time and a decline in mental health was charged with setting the house on fire with her husband’s death, according to authorities and court records has gone.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office charged Rebecca Makino with a count each of murder and arson, which caused major bodily injury in connection with a fire at her Amapola Drive home in West San Jose early Saturday.
Mackino was presented Wednesday in a San Jose courtroom before Judge Johnny Gogo, who continued the hearing Thursday morning. Along with a handful of relatives in the court gallery, she appeared in court, but did not plead or make a statement, as a Korean interpreter was not available in court.
Gogo sent her back to Elmwood Women’s Jail without bail, but she did so without prejudice, meaning the county public defender’s office has an opportunity to argue for cheaper bail or supervised release at a later date.
Makino was held in lieu of $100,000 bail after his arrest on Saturday, and prosecutors have filed a motion arguing against his pretended release. Deputy public defender Miguel Rodriguez, a supervisor in his office’s homicide division, told the court he would have to consult with Makino’s family and gather more information about the case before presenting an argument for bail or release.
Rodriguez pointed to a police investigative summary that accompanies the criminal complaint for Makino, which reported San Jose police officers speaking with her son, who told him they believed his mother was Did not have dementia and “his mental health had been deteriorating over the past 20 years.”
“From the statement of facts it seems very clear that my client is extremely mentally ill,” Rodriguez said.
In an interview after Wednesday’s hearing, Rodriguez said Makino’s family was trying in vain to get his help.
“They were worried about him for some time now,” he said. “They were trying to preserve him. They wanted him to be treated.”
When asked by this news organization, the district attorney’s office declined to elaborate on its charging decisions for Makino and instead offered general commentary on its process for similar cases.
“We will reserve our discussion of the facts of the case and the status of the defendant’s custody for the court. However, in general there are situations where there is a risk that someone will do the same or other similar act again and for the safety of the public.” We advocate for detention or an alternative, higher bail,” the office wrote in a statement.
The office said the procedure for assessing the mental state of a person in the course of an alleged offence is for the court to decide.
“The law also allows for the court, if the defense requests or pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, to appoint experts to assess the mental state of the defendant at the time of the offense or to assess the mental state of the defendant.” This now allows to determine the ability of the respondent at this time to evaluate,” the statement reads.
According to the fire department, the fire was reported at 3:48 a.m. Saturday, and San Jose firefighters arrived at the scene within six minutes. Firefighters rescued a man from a fire that started in a bedroom of a two-storey residence.
Makino’s husband Hiroshi, who was 73, was taken to a local hospital due to the smoke, where he died Tuesday afternoon, officials said. It was San Jose’s 18th murder of the year.
The police summary states that as the fire was burning, firefighters saw Makino walking away from the house. Firefighters and an arson investigator stopped and talked to him, and he reportedly told them that he had started the fire with a lighter.
Makino reportedly told firefighters that “someone was behind him,” and “he started the fire because he believed someone had killed him and they wanted to take him home. He also reportedly said that “she was not trying to hurt the victim and indicated that she did not know where the victim was.”
Police summarize that nearby home surveillance video confirmed she was moving in and out of the burning house, and officers recovered a lighter that Makino allegedly said was used to light the fire.
Rodriguez said he expected all circumstances to be considered by prosecutors and the court.
“Based on his age and the fact that he is suffering from dementia and the specific facts of the case, he should be in hospital, not jail,” he said. “Hopefully we can work with the DA to achieve that result.”