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Death on Gold Line platform began as shopping trip

Betty Sugiyama, 84, had taken up shopping since she retired from a career in Little Tokyo bookstores, her sister Mary says. Then a stranger shoved her onto the train tracks.

November 16, 2010|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
  • Betty Sugiyama, 84, was hurrying for a train when she was pushed onto the tracks at the Gold Line station in Little Tokyo, cracking her skull. She died hours later.
Betty Sugiyama, 84, was hurrying for a train when she was pushed onto the…

Their train had just whirred into the Little Tokyo station and stopped about 100 feet out ahead.

Sisters Mary and Betty Sugiyama had a day of shopping planned. Both in their 80s, they weren't equipped to run like they did as youngsters, but they started to walk quickly.

"I didn't think we could make it," Mary said. "But we decided to try."

They were almost there when Mary spotted a heavyset woman, dressed entirely in black, sitting alone on a bench near the tracks. As the sisters passed, the stranger suddenly leaped to her feet and shouted, then extended both arms and shoved Betty onto the tracks, police said.

Mary heard her sister's skull crack. The woman in black sat down on the bench.

Hours later, Betty, 84, died of her injuries at a nearby hospital. Homicide detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are still investigating the attack, but have not been able to determine a motive to explain why the woman allegedly lashed out without being provoked. Authorities discovered Jackkqueline Pogue, 44, still on the platform. She was booked on charges of attempted murder, with bail set at $1 million.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Capt. Mike Parker said. "I feel bad for her and her whole family."

A day after the attack, Mary Sugiyama said she could not believe what happened to her sister. The trip to Long Beach started much like many others, by boarding the Gold Line, with several transfers planned before they arrived at their destination. In Long Beach, they expected to pick up household items and whatever else caught their eye at Walmart and Nordstrom Rack. Betty loved to shop, so she was eager to make the train when it arrived, her sister said.

The sisters grew up in Seattle, and during World War II the family was held in a Wyoming internment camp for Japanese Americans, Mary said. After being freed, Betty returned to the West Coast, where she worked at one Little Tokyo bookstore after another for decades until she retired.

Her command of Japanese set her apart when it came to selling foreign-language books and magazines. At one point, she even ran her own bookstore.

Betty never had children, but her sister said the book business kept her busy. After retirement, her interests became decidedly less earnest.

"She loved to shop," Mary said. "We made all the malls I think."

The attack took place at the train station near Alameda and 1st Streets about 8:30 a.m. After Betty died, sheriff's officials said they expected to eventually charge Pogue with murder.

When asked if Pogue may have been mentally unstable, Parker said it was unclear. He noted that all jail inmates receive mental health evaluations.

Mary said that after Pogue's initial shout, she "never said another word."

"After she did that she was very quiet."

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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