Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
A 71-year-old Pasadena man with Alzheimer’s disease was found dead on Monday in Los Angeles, two days after he was reported missing.
According to the Pasadena Police Department, there “does not appear to be any obvious signs of foul play” in the death of Gerald Masao Sakamoto, a husband, father and grandfather, who was last seen alive near Downtown Los Angeles.
The department and Sakamoto’s family circulated his photo over the weekend, seeking the public’s help to find him. The story was carried by local media, including The Pasadena Star News and ABC7 Eyewitness News, and was widely shared on Facebook.
Sakamoto was arrested by the California Highway Patrol in the San Gabriel Valley on Friday around 3 a.m. on suspicion of DUI following a crash. He was booked at the Inmate Reception Center (IRC), 450 Bauchet St. near Union Station in Los Angeles, at 8:02 a.m., and released at 7:36 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
His family said he had no money and no phone at the time.
His body was found by an LAPD officer in a nearby maintenance yard in the 500 block of Ramirez Street, less than half a mile from the IRC.
“I don’t think that he was drunk,” daughter Mindy told ABC7 on Sunday. “I believe that the reason that he had such impaired judgment is because he hadn’t had his medication.”
His wife of 49 years, Jane, said the family was concerned about his safety. “I know there’s good people out there, but there’s also people that you shouldn’t trust. I don’t think he’d know the difference at this time,” she told ABC7.
The family said that they were not notified of Sakamoto’s release, but the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement, “All persons being released from our custody are offered the opportunity to stay in custody up to 16 hours, or until daylight hours, to arrange transportation or to contact service providers. Mr. Sakamoto declined the accommodation. In addition, any individual requesting or showing signs of needing special assistance are contacted and addressed by IRC’s Special Needs Desk. Our records indicate that Mr. Sakamoto was not identified as requiring special needs or assistance during his time at IRC.”
Jason Sakamoto, the septuagenarian’s son, told reporters his father would “still be alive if they would have taken it seriously.”
Sheriff Jim McDonnell told CBS Los Angeles that Sakamoto showed no signs of “distress or disorientation” in security footage reviewed by the department.
In a Facebook post, Jason Sakamoto wrote, “What happened to my father was simply wrong. The system needs to change. While I am filled with bitterness over all that happened, Dad was a kind man who would want me to let my anger go and to have fun with my kids and give them a kiss for him…
“Jerry (Gerald) Sakamoto was a good man who loved his family and his country. He was always willing to give a helping hand and never made you feel bad about asking for it. Dad was an honest, caring, and fair man who never tried to take advantage of another. He was generous and thoughtful like his parents before him.
“Though he was introverted, if you knew him you couldn’t help but like him. Dad had a cute wit about him and saw the humor in things. He was a jack of all trades and one hell of a bowler. Though he may have been but a flicker of light in this world, to us he was our Northern Star.”
On Monday morning, the family was working with the IRC to get images of Sakamoto at the facility so that flyers could show what he was wearing when he went missing.
Early Monday afternoon, the family received the bad news. An autopsy was pending.
The fatality was reminiscent of the death of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson, whose skeletal remains were found in a remote canyon in August 2010 nearly a year after she had been released from the sheriff’s Lost Hills/Malibu station.
She had been arrested at a Malibu restaurant the night of Sept. 16, 2009, for failing to pay her bill. She was released from the sheriff’s station early the next morning without her car, telephone or purse.
Her parents sued the county, claiming deputies should not have released their daughter into the night, given her mental state.
The young woman may have been manic at the time of her arrest. A diary recovered from her car, which had been seized because deputies found some marijuana in it, suggested that she may have gone without sleep for as many as five days before her arrest.