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Cupertino homicide: Naked suspect admits to hammer killing, authorities say

CUPERTINO — A Los Gatos real estate agent has been charged with murder after authorities say she randomly entered a Cupertino woman’s home and killed her with a hammer during an apparent mental breakdown.

Suzanne Hernandez, 39, was arraigned in a Palo Alto courthouse Wednesday on a single murder count. She did not enter a plea and was sent back to the Santa Clara County Main Jail where she is being held without bail.

Suzanne Hernandez, 39, of Los Gatos, was arrested June 10, 2017, on suspicion of killing a 74-year-old Cupertino woman at the victim’s home during an apparent manic episode, authorities said.

A police statement of facts authored by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Josh Singleton asserts that Hernandez killed Mary Willson at her home on South Tantau Avenue. Willson’s body was discovered Saturday morning by friends visiting her home, and authorities say she showed signs of severe head injuries.

An examination of the scene by responding deputies quickly led to a homicide investigation, and by the end of the day, physical evidence linked the slaying to Hernandez, the Sheriff’s Office said. When they made the connection, Hernandez was already in custody of sorts, being held at Valley Medical Center’s psychiatric emergency room.

She had been there since Friday, after she was placed on a mental-health hold by deputies responding to reports of her running naked down a busy commercial center off Stevens Creek Boulevard, not far from Willson’s home.

She was “wielding a hammer,” investigators said. A law-enforcement source described her as talking unintelligibly to herself. It would be several hours before Willson’s body was discovered and the alleged crime linked to Hernandez.

When investigators finally caught up to Hernandez, they reportedly got a “confession from her where she admitted to killing the victim using a hammer,” according to the statement of facts.

The killing evoked heartache from Willson’s family. A niece who contacted this news organization described Willson as a second mother, who “was so caring, she loved everyone.” The niece lamented that she and her family were supposed to celebrate Willson’s 75th birthday with her this month.

Meanwhile, details Hernandez’s background began to emerge in the wake of the killing. She apparently had worked as a real estate agent in Los Gatos, and could easily be found online through her agent profile page. When a reporter visited the associated real estate agency Wednesday, a representative did not formally confirm her employment but offered condolences.

“We’re very saddened,” the representative said. “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family.”

In South San Jose, a man who said he was Hernandez’s father and identified himself only as George told this news organization he could not believe the allegations against her.

“She wouldn’t do something like this,” he said. “Never ever.”

Staff writer Scott Herhold contributed to this report.

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