ORINDA -- Police say a 62-year-old man with a history of domestic violence killed his longtime girlfriend Tuesday and then ran to a neighbor's house to summon police, dropping the weapon in a yard between the two homes.
The death of the 51-year-old woman, whose name has not been released pending notification of her family, is the first killing in the suburban city of Orinda in a decade. Police would not say how she was killed, but officers found her on the kitchen floor not long after she was slain, said Orinda police Chief Jeff Jennings. The suspect was arrested without incident at the scene, Jennings said.
Police also declined to release the type of weapon that was used.
The name of the man has not been released, but property records show the sprawling ranch-style home in the 600 block of Moraga Way, three miles from Orinda Village, is owned by James Collin, 62.
Jennings said the couple had a "fight" Tuesday sometime before the call came into police at 12:18 p.m. Once in custody, the suspect made "spontaneous statements" that he "killed her," Jennings said.
Police said the suspect went to his 90-year-old neighbor's home and told the man a murder had occurred.
"The (neighbor) was confused," Jennings said. "But there was a voice behind him (on the phone) giving him more information. (Dispatchers) heard in the background, 'It's at my house.'"
Jennings said the voice in the background was that of the suspect.
When police arrived, officers found the suspect outside the neighbor's home and the woman dead inside the house the two shared. No one else was in the home and no one else was injured, police said. The neighbor was transported to John Muir Medical Center for a medical evaluation, police said.
Asked about the suspect's demeanor and whether he had blood on him when he was arrested, Jennings said he was "lucid and calm" and "had stuff on him that looked like he was in a tussle." He declined to elaborate.
Jennings also said the suspect has "a history of domestic violence."
"We've been called to this house before," he said.
The couple had been living together for 10 years, police said.
Steve Stahle, who has rented the home next door to the couple for two years, said the couple often squabbled.
"They fought all the time," he said. "It seemed like it was something that could escalate."
Stahle described the suspect as a "nice guy, and a nice neighbor," one that seemed to play peacemaker more than the woman. "Most of the time, it was her ranting at him," Stahle said. "It's a real tragedy. They just were never able to get along. It's just a really sad thing."
Another neighbor, Whitney Quin, said dogs in the area were "going crazy" about 11 a.m. Tuesday, though she did not hear any screaming or fighting coming from the couple's home.
Quin said she had never spoken to the couple. She added that in the last few weeks she had noticed a lot of people and vehicles coming and going from the home. There were three cars and a truck parked in the circular driveway and on the brown grass Tuesday afternoon.
The Orinda Police Department contracts with the Contra Costa County's Sheriff's Office, and detectives with that agency are handling the investigation, spokesman Jimmy Lee said.
Homicides are rare in Orinda, a quiet and affluent community just east of the Caldecott Tunnel. The last slaying was in 2002, when Susan Polk fatally stabbed her 70-year-old husband, Felix. Polk was convicted of murder in 2006.
Staff writer Rick Hurd contributed to this story.