Suspect's Mother, Grandmother Slain : Man Held in 2 Killings at Family Home

Times Staff Writer

A 20-year-old San Diego man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murdering his mother and grandmother in the family's home, San Diego police said.

Mario Aaron Newsome surrendered to police just before 8 a.m. at the Eastern Division Station, only a block from the house where Marsha A. Newsome, 49, and Mamie Newsome, 68, were strangled 15 hours earlier, police spokesman Bill Robinson said.

An eyewitness to the slayings led police to the Newsome house in the 200 block of Sychar Road at 7 p.m. Tuesday and accused Mario Newsome of the crime, Robinson said. The officers found the elder woman's body sprawled on a staircase inside the house, and her daughter's body on the dining room floor, Robinson said. Police believe the two were murdered at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The eyewitness has alleged that Mario Newsome first strangled his grandmother in the midst of an argument, and then his mother when she discovered the body. Police refused to reveal the identity of the witness, and said robbery was the motive for the slayings.

Reached by telephone at the family residence, Mario's brother Mark Newsome, 24, said he believed the eyewitness account. He declined further comment.

A friend of Mario Newsome said Wednesday that the man had threatened to kill his family a week ago after he was caught misusing Mamie Newsome's credit card. The friend, who talked on the condition of anonymity, said Mario Newsome was terrified that his mother and grandmother would follow through on their threats to turn him in to the police.

"I told him not to, but I didn't think he was serious," the friend said. "I think he just cracked. Mario told me that he would kill his mother and grandmother before he went to jail." The credit card incident involved $2,000 to $3,000, the friend added.

Newsome's closest friend, Tory Dedmon, also described him as an emotionally disturbed young man alienated from his family, one prone to mood swings and overstatements. "You really learned not to take Mario seriously," he said.

But Dedmon said Newsome, who worked along with his brother as a guard for a San Diego security company, never showed a violent streak. "He was really fragile. I always thought of Mario as somebody who would commit suicide before he ever hurt anyone else," Dedmon said.

Dedmon said Newsome spent Tuesday night at his house, as he had done for the last week, and seemed no more disturbed than usual. But Wednesday morning, when Dedmon's mother heard media reports identifying him as a suspect in the slayings, the two drove Newsome to the police station, Tory Dedmon said.

"I knew it was the right thing to do. Even if he didn't do it, (surrendering) was still better than running," Dedmon explained. "I was in shock, I'm probably still in shock, but I knew what had to be done."

Tory Dedmon and his mother did not tell Newsome where they were taking him, and he did not ask. Only when they reached the still-closed police sub-station did Newsome begin denying his guilt, Dedmon said.

Dedmon used an outside pay phone to call 911, and minutes later his friend was led away in handcuffs.

Although Newsome had earlier told Dedmon that he was using his grandmother's credit card with her permission, the strain between him and his family was apparent, Dedmon said. Last month, according to Dedmon, Newsome moved out of the house after a domestic dispute that required police intervention. Robinson confirmed that police responded to a domestic dispute at the Newsome residence earlier this year.

Newsome's friends said that while Newsome had gotten into minor trouble as a juvenile, he had never used alcohol or illegal drugs. "That wasn't his problem--he was just disturbed," Dedmon said.

Neighbors and relatives said Wednesday they were shocked by the violence that visited a prosperous family in a middle-class neighborhood. "The only advantage they never had was being disadvantaged," said Bea Martin, who identified herself as a Mamie Newsome's cousin.

Another relative who stood nearby refused to identify herself. "Sick, sick, sick, sick," she repeated as she fought for self-control.

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