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California suspects accused of murdering 96-year-old widow who was baking cookies for her birthday: police

Ricardo MartinDelCampo, Pauline Macareno and Henry Rostomyan were all named as suspects in Violet Alberts' murder case, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office in California announced.

California authorities recently identified four suspects allegedly involved in the 2022 murder of a 96-year-old woman in Santa Barbara County.

Porter Ranch resident Pauline Macareno, 48, and Van Nuys resident Harry Basmadjian, 58, were both named as suspects in the murder of Monecito resident Violet Alberts, 96, on Thursday. 

Los Angeles resident Ricardo MartinDelCampo, 41, and Tujunga local Henry Rostomyan, 33, were also listed as suspects.


According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, Macareno was charged with elder abuse, fraud and manipulation of legal documents. The other three suspects face charges ranging from murder to conspiracy and solicitation of murder.

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Basmadjian and Rostomyan were arrested in January and February, respectively, while MartinDelCampo was arrested most recently on March 5. According to Sheriff Bill Brown, Macareno targeted Alberts for her wealth.

“Through deceptive means, Macareno orchestrated a series of transactions, including forging documents and establishing fraudulent entities to gain control over Alberts’ assets unlawfully,” he detailed.

Macareno reportedly tricked the victim by offering her a reverse mortgage in 2020. Authorities believe that Macareno was motivated by Alberts’ advanced age.

“In the eyes of Pauline Macareno, Miss Alberts was living too long…She would probably die quickly, and then [Macareno] would have obtained this home through fraudulent means,” Brown said. “And so the acceleration of her death is is presumably what was, what was behind the murder.”

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Alberts was found dead in her bed by her caretaker on May 24, 2022. Officials later determined that she died of asphyxiation, and her death was ruled a homicide. 

Ingredients for cookies were found on her kitchen table when authorities investigated the scene. The cookies were for her then-upcoming birthday.

Police found a shattered window in Alberts’ bedroom, which Sheriff Bill Brown said indicated “sinister intent behind her tragic death.” In a press release, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said that it has worked 10,424 hours “unraveling the complex web surrounding Violet Alberts’s tragic murder.”

The mugshots of all the suspects were released except for Basmadjian. The sheriff’s office said that he “subsequently suffered a life-threatening medical emergency that left him totally incapacitated with a grim prognosis.”

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During a Thursday press conference, Alberts was fondly remembered as a beloved resident of her community. 

“She was a vibrant 96-year-old widow, a cherished figure in the Montecito community,” Sheriff Bill Brown said at the podium. “Despite her age, she had remained active and engaged, and she was known for her warm demeanor and social nature.”

“Her love for her home, complete with a pond filled with cherished koi fish that she brought from Beverly Hills, reflected her appreciation for life’s simpler pleasures. Despite facing challenges with her memory and cognition, Violet’s spirit remained undaunted. This was evident in her plans to celebrate her upcoming birthday by baking fresh cookies.”

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Authorities are still investigating the incident. Anyone with information relevant to the case is encouraged to call (805) 681-4150.

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