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Woman, 78, Is Badly Beaten; Man Arrested

Police cite a property dispute. Dana Point victim is a condo association official.

March 15, 2004|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Charles Mineo befriended his elderly neighbor after her 95-year-old husband died. She said he was a caring man who could make her laugh when few others could. He clipped recipes and urged her to try new things.

But police and other neighbors paint a different picture of Mineo, 47, as a man in a long-simmering fight with his Dana Point homeowners association over an allegedly unauthorized add-on to his weekend getaway condominium.

On Saturday, authorities said, that dispute led Mineo to choke a neighbor and association official, 78-year-old Lucy Deabreu, knock out her teeth and leave her bloody and battered.

He was arrested hours after the attack at his principal residence in Riverside and booked into Orange County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder.

"She was beaten pretty bad," Sheriff's Lt. Larry Abbott said. "She had multiple head and facial injuries. She was inside her home crying for help when her neighbor discovered her."

Deabreu remained hospitalized Sunday.

Mineo remained jailed Sunday with his bail set at $800,000. Another neighbor, his widowed friend Vera Oblatt, said, "That poor boy. He just lost everything. I think he just cracked."

She doesn't know what else to believe. Mineo, she said, "is the last person I could ever believe could do such a thing."

He lives in Riverside, but spends summers and occasional weekends in Dana Point to escape the heat. He is an accountant, with an eye for architecture and design, Oblatt said.

The night before the attack, they cooked dinner together.

She had urged him to drive to the coast for the weekend, because he was despondent over the recent death of his cat.

"He adored this cat, and the cat adored him," Oblatt said.

"I think he loved that cat more than any human being.... I'm to blame because I asked him to come here. I told him we could go and watch the sailboats and watch the sunset to save us from crying."

She last saw Mineo on Saturday afternoon, hours before the assault.

He was on his patio soaking in the sun, reading an architecture magazine.

When she returned, she heard detectives banging on his door, looking for him. They searched his home and seized some clothing. They said they found an apparent bloodstain on the spiral staircase that leads from the garage into his modern, neatly kept condominium.

Abbott said the dispute was over a room addition in violation of the association's rules.

Neighbors said he had added about five feet onto a back room -- work that may have been done without a permit. There was also a long-standing argument over drainage issues from his property.

The condo association is loosely organized and oversees about 15 units on Amber Lantern. Oblatt said it has no formal board or meetings, and elections have not been held in at least two years.

The neighbor who found Deabreu said she does not know Mineo well.

"He always talked pleasant to me," said the neighbor, Mary, who asked that her last name not be used. "But I have heard from the grapevine that there was an ongoing problem. Any time anybody questioned him, he would verbally go off."

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