A 33-year-old man confessed Saturday that he killed his mother at the Northridge house where they were both employed as caretakers of an elderly man with Alzheimer's disease, police said.
Maria Carlotta Brown, 49, was struck with a vase early Saturday and died in the maid's quarters of her employer's house in the 9000 block of Oak Park Avenue, said Detective Terry Richardson of the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire division. The cause of Brown's death is under investigation, Richardson said.
"She may have died of a heart attack," he said.
When officers arrived at the house at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, they were greeted by Brown's son, Rino Suarino, who emerged from the garage and announced he had killed his mother, Lt. Mike Hooper said.
The officers were dispatched to the blue-and-white ranch house after an unidentified caller dialed 911 but hung up without speaking, Hooper said.
"We'll frequently send a unit when someone calls and the phone disconnects because that's often a sign of danger," Hooper said.
The dead woman and her son had been employed for 2 1/2 years providing 24-hour care to an 80-year-old bed-ridden man with Alzheimer's disease, said the man's son, Steve Schroeder, 37, of Canoga Park.
Brown lived at the house and her son, who lived in a San Fernando Valley apartment, would work the night shift, Schroeder said.
"They had some kind of argument, but no one knows what it was about," Schroeder said.
Schroeder said his father slept through all the commotion. The crime was particularly surprising because Brown and Suarino appeared to get along well, he said.
"They were very religious people," he said. "They'd go to church on Saturday and there were Bibles all over her room."
Suarino was a good worker, Schroeder said.
"I wouldn't have let him work here if there had been any problems at all," Schroeder said. "He helped out a lot, as a matter of fact. When my father would have a bad night and get some crazy idea of going to work in the middle of the night or something, he'd sit with him.
"But he was from El Salvador and didn't really speak English, so I didn't get to know him."
Suarino was being held without bail at the Devonshire police station jail, Richardson said. His arraignment is set for Tuesday, he said.