FRESNO — Fresno County sheriff’s detectives have booked Steve Minamoto, 59, of Squaw Valley into the Fresno County Jail. He faces a felony count of elder abuse.

Kay Minamoto
Kay Minamoto

On Aug. 6 at 9 a.m., deputies responded to a home on the 1000 block of Silver Lane in Squaw Valley for a report of an injured person. A 911 call was made after a person passing through the area saw 81-year-old Kaoru (a.k.a. Kay) Minamoto lying on the ground near her son, Steve Minamoto. The elderly woman was unconscious and had visible signs of injury.

Paramedics transported Kay Minamoto to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where she later died.

Detectives began an investigation to try and determine what led to Kay’s injuries and ultimately her death. They later learned that Steve and Kay were involved in an argument in the driveway of her home; both lived at this residence. The two got into a physical altercation, at which time Steve pushed Kay, causing her to fall down and strike her head on the ground.

Detectives established they had enough evidence to arrest Steve Minamoto. On Oct. 5, a judge issued an arrest warrant. On Oct. 6, detectives arrested him. Bail was set at $525,000.

The victim was an active member of the Squaw Valley community, where she lived for 14 years.

“She was just amazing and we’re very privileged to share her in our lives,” neighbor Shantel Gomez told KFSN.

Steve Minamoto
Steve Minamoto

Neighbors built a shrine to Kay Minamoto but her son dismantled it, said Gomez, who described Steve Minamoto as “evil” and “horrible.”

Neighbor Angela Splettsoesser, who said she witnessed the incident, told KFSN, “She was afraid of him. I saw her many times sleeping on the other property in her car because she was afraid to be there in the house with him.”

Minamoto has been booked under Penal Code 368(b)(3)(B). The criteria for this charge is as follows:

(b) Any person who knows or reasonably should know that a person is an elder or dependent adult and who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any elder or dependent adult, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured, or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not to exceed $6,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.

(3) If in the commission of an offense described in Paragraph 1, the defendant proximately causes the death of the victim, the defendant shall receive an additional term in the state prison as follows:

(B) Seven years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.

Anyone with additional information on Steve Minamoto is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (559) 600-3111 or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-STOP (7867).

Born on Sept. 24, 1934, Kay Minamoto was seven years old when World War II started. She attended McKinley Elementary School until her family was incarcerated at Fresno County Assembly Center and the War Relocation Authority camps in Jerome, Ark. and Gila, Ariz. for a total of 3 1/2 years before returning to Fresno in August 1945. She lived in Fresno and Kingsburg most of her life.

She graduated from Central Union High School in Fresno in 1952 and attended 4C’s Business College, where she met Minoru Minamoto, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They married on Jan. 15, 1953. In 2012, she accepted a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of her husband.

After raising her children, she worked for 20 years at The Kingsburg Recorder and Selma Enterprise as a typesetter. She enjoyed ballroom dancing and traveling with her husband. In Squaw Valley, she enjoyed living in the quiet of the foothills with her many friends and animals.

She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents, Kazuso and Teruko Sunada; and her brother, Nobuo Sunada.

In addition to her son, she is survived by daughter Jerri Ann and son-in-law Chris Gong; daughter Debbie Lynn and son-in-law David Yamasaki; grandson Donald Gong; grandson Michael Gong and his wife Grace; great-granddaughters Kate and Olivia Gong; sister Midori Tani and brother-in-law Yukio of Sanger; brother Katsumi Sunada and sister-in-law Chie of Santa Clarita; sister Lily Sunada of Los Angeles; and many nephews, nieces and cousins.

A celebration of life was held at Lisle Funeral Home in Fresno on Sept. 12.

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