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Santa Rosa Man Allegedly Strangles Wife of 38 Years

It is unfortunate when a long-term relationship starts to go south. Often times, couples who have been married for decades have become accustomed to each other and married life, and cannot fathom the idea of filing for a divorce. Even if one spouse takes the steps of filing for divorce, things can take a turn for the worse if the couple continues to live together. The situation can become more severe when issues like drug addiction and abuse come into play, further straining an already tense relationship. Tragically, the combination of frustration, drugs, and a failed marriage can sometimes turn violent and deadly.

Such was the case in late July of this year for a Santa Rosa, California, couple. According to KTVU.com, Dean Howard Eliason, also known as “Sonny,” allegedly strangled his wife, Virginia Mary Caetano, in their double-wide trailer at the Rincon Valley Mobile Estates. 64-year-old Virginia Mary Caetano was found by police with a radio cord around her neck after her 65-year-old husband called the police to report that he had just killed her. According to reports, Mr. Eliason had been suffering from chronic depression, while Ms. Caetano had been abusing prescription drugs. Ms. Caetano is said to have at one point taken 30 Soma pills and then took a drive in a car. Just a few days before the alleged murder, Mr. Eliason had called an ambulance because Ms. Caetano had overdosed on drugs and had had a stroke. Mr. Eliason’s sister said that her brother had become mentally and physically tired of the situation.

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Mr. Eliason and Ms. Caetano had been married for almost 40 years when Mr. Eliason filed for divorce. Even though he had filed, Mr. Eliason was still living in the couple’s trailer when the alleged murder occurred. While family members speculate that Mr. Eliason may have been helping his wife end her suffering after she overdosed on pills again, the reason for the strangling has yet to be determined. Mr. Eliason was ultimately charged with first-degree murder and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. He pleaded not guilty to those charges in late July.

The case of Mr. Eliason and Ms. Caetano demonstrates that even after decades of marriage, a relationship can turn sour. Many long-term married couples may hesitate to get a divorce even if their relationship becomes destructive. Family expectations, tradition, financial stability, confusion over dividing property and force of habit may dissuade long-term married couples from separating and filing for divorce. However, it may be a necessary step to take if the two parties just simply cannot live together.

Experienced family law attorneys have seen the nearly every situation when it comes to divorce cases. Long-term married couples who feel the need to file for divorce should not be embarrassed to seek out the assistance of an attorney. If there are drug abuse or mental health issues involved, an experienced attorney can help a couple navigate these complicated problems.


If you are thinking of filing for divorce, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. A family law attorney can help counsel you in moving forward with your life, and can advise you on how to best protect your rights.

Photo Credit: skedonk via Compfight cc

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