An elderly California woman was charged with murder in the first degree on Tuesday. Her age makes the case an oddity among oddities.
While violent crime–including murder–has ticked up significantly since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020, the overall national crime rate is at a 20-year low. But the alleged murderer in this case (and her alleged victim) are both in defiance of a different set of statistics due to their ages.
Sandra Jeannett Bonertz, 76, stands accused of shooting and killing her roommate at the Pinewood Glen Retirement Community in Bakersfield, Calif. on Jul. 10.
“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of a resident at Pinewood Glen on Sunday,” a statement issued by the Kern County Housing Authority–which operates the group home–reads. “According to police, this was an instance of domestic violence. Pinewood Glen has a strict policy prohibiting weapons at the property.”
Authorities, however, told The Bakersfield Californian that the alleged murder was never categorized as domestic violence by them.
According to the Bakersfield Police Department, officers responded to a call on July 11th and found the roommate with major injuries lying dead on the floor. Bonertz allegedly confessed to the crime, believed to have occurred the night before, as police arrived and had a gun in her hand–which police say was surrendered without incident.
But that alleged confession didn’t translate into formally accepting culpability for the late Saturday slaying. During a Tuesday morning arraignment, Bonertz pleaded not guilty before Superior Court of Kern County Judge Michael G. Bush. She was ordered to be detained without bail “due to the nature of” the allegations.
The killing has shocked the relatively small and conservative California community–but one person who has long known both the defendant and the deceased, identified by her as Winnie, suggested that the alleged murder was actually a mercy killing (the two have been described as lifelong friends).
“I came here today to support Sandy and to let her know somebody was on her side,” Cheryl Sperry told the Californian outside the courtroom. “I’ve known both of them for eight years and they were the purest of friends. They did everything for each other. They never fought.”
“I don’t think there was any malice, or anything like that,” she added.
Sperry elaborated in comments to local ABC affiliate KBAK:
I do believe that Winnie begged her to kill her. She had said that on many occasions in front of me if I ever can’t walk please kill me. And Winnie was in a car accident a month ago, Winnie and Sandy both, and Winnie broke her ankle and she was unable to walk and she was unable to get into a doctor. It takes three months to get into a doctor these days and she was completely miserable. I talked to them Thursday, she was depressed and distraught, just down in the dumps. I don’t believe there was any malice or anything like that.
Bonertz next court appearance is currently slated for Aug. 9.
[image via screengrab/KBAK]
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