Napa Police arrested a 71-year-old man Sunday morning on suspicion of homicide in connection with the death of the restaurateur Eiko Nakamura in her home, the department and restaurant staff have announced.
Officers went to a single-family house in the 2900 block of Pinewood Drive, in the Hidden Valley area of the city, in response to a call at 9:31 a.m. from a man reporting he had not been able to contact the 78-year-old female resident since Friday, Napa Police said in a statement .
Napa Police did not release the victim’s name. However, the house is listed in the online White Pages as the residence of Eiko O. Nakamura. Later Sunday, Allison Hallum, general manager of Eiko’s restaurant on First Street, confirmed the owner’s death.
Police visiting the home knocked on the door and spoke to Shozaburo Nakamura, who said he and his former wife lived together on Pinewood despite their divorce, the department said.
The man admitted the officers into the home, then immediately admitted to killing his ex-spouse at about 9 a.m. Saturday during a domestic dispute, according to police. Shozaburo Nakamura was booked into the Napa County jail at 4:20 p.m., according to online jail records.
Officers found the victim’s body in a bathroom, with signs of several stab wounds and blunt force trauma, the police statement said.
As of late Sunday afternoon, the home remained an active crime scene, blocked by yellow police tape. Forensic investigators were processing evidence inside, and the case remained under investigation.
A tow truck driver removed an Acura RL sedan, which a neighbor, Carol Whichard, said was driven by Shozaburo Nakamura, from the house’s garage at about 6:30 p.m. As sunset neared, forensics workers from Napa Police searched the interior, including a tidy, shelf-lined garage with no obvious signs of blood or damage.
A longtime restaurant owner in the city, Eiko Nakamura ran Fujiya Restaurant at the Napa Premium Outlets center for 24 years. In 2011, she partnered with the brothers Rick and Mike Zaslove to open the Asia-themed downtown eatery and sushi house bearing her name, which remains in business on First Street in front of the former Napa Town Center outdoor mall.
Eiko’s restaurant closed its booth it had set up at the Napa Valley Expo for the BottleRock music festival, and announced it would not open its main eatery Sunday. A handwritten sign in front of the restaurant’s stand at the fairgrounds announced the owner’s passing.
“Eiko was truly an amazing person,” Hallum, the restaurant manager, said in a statement issued at the Expo. “She was one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met, and her honor and her memory will live on at her restaurant. We will honor her memory in every way.”
Back in Eiko Nakamura’s neighborhood, Whichard, who lived across the street from the restaurateur for 11 years, recalled pleasant conversations with her neighbor — and could not remember hearing any arguments, noises or other signs of distress issuing from the house that Nakamura and her onetime spouse shared.
“I’ll remember her laugh, her sense of humor, that silly little sun hat she used to wear when she walked her dog Fuku every day,” Whichard said Sunday evening.
The former couple had lived together on Pinewood Drive for about six years, according to Whichard, but it was unclear when their marriage had ended. Shozaburo Nakamura kept a far lower profile than his former wife, she added, never speaking and usually emerging outside only to wash his car.
“It’s a complete shock,” she said. “Deb (Stallings, Whichard’s wife) is very upset about this, because bad things shouldn’t happen to good people like Eiko. We’re just saddened.”
As police detectives combed through the home that once was the Nakamuras’, one member of the wrecked household remained: the couple’s dog, now a ward of their neighbor.
“Deb and I told an officer to put Fuku inside of our gate,” said Whichard. “Fuku’s in the backyard now, still scared to death.”