Missing woman found dead in neighborhood

Authorities say no foul play suspected
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
An Auburn woman’s daughter says it was an “unfortunate accident” that led to her mother’s death. The cause of death of 71-year-old Karen Domingues, who was reported missing and later found dead Saturday, remains under investigation. Placer County Sheriff’s Office deputies were searching for Domingues, who may have suffered from dementia, soon after her disappearance was reported early Saturday morning. Domingues, who lived on Ladd Lane, located off New Airport Road, was found at about 1 p.m. Saturday in a koi pond in the neighborhood, according to Jeff Ausnow, Placer County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. Ausnow said the search began soon after her disappearance was reported at about 7 a.m. Saturday. Deputies used search dogs to canvass the area on foot. The Sheriff’s Office helicopter surveyed the area while announcing Domingues’ description over its public announcement system. Ausnow said the helicopter is used whenever possible for missing person searches. Area residents were also notified by telephone via the Wide Area Rapid Notification system. Phyllis Petras, who lives next door to the care home, said sheriff’s patrol cars lined Ladd Lane Saturday. “When people say the police don’t do anything, they’re wrong,” Petras said. “They had dogs and lots and lots of sheriff’s deputies. They really worked hard.” Ausnow said while the official cause of death is pending an autopsy report, it appears as though Domingues fell into the pond and was unable to get herself out. He said there were no visible signs of struggle and no foul play is suspected at this time. “It is very common for someone with dementia to hide from the people searching for them because they are very scared,” Ausnow said. “It’s speculation at this time that may be what Karen had done.” Domingues’ daughter, Lenore Domingues, said her mother was very happy at the licensed residential care home where she had lived for almost 40 years. “That’s probably a record,” Domingues said. “She’s never been asked to move.” Domingues said her mother had never walked out of the care facility before. “It’s never happened before or I wouldn’t have had her there for 39 years,” Domingues said. Ausnow said it is suspected that Karen Domingues may have been suffering from the early stages of dementia, which may be the reason why she left the facility in the early morning hours. A fellow resident was reportedly the last to see Domingues in her room at about 4 a.m. Saturday. Ausnow said the caretaker discovered Domingues missing at about 7 a.m. and immediately notified the Sheriff’s Office. Ausnow said there is no suspicion of neglect or wrongdoing on the part of the care facility. He added that facility was for people with disabilities. It was not required to take the extra precautions of a facility intended for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s such as placing monitors on residents or locking doors from the inside. “They were providing proper care for Karen and were very diligent in trying to locate her,” Ausnow said. Lenore Domingues agreed, saying the care home was a wonderful place for her mother. In the late 1960s, Karen Domingues suffered a brain injury after a head-on collision, Lenore Domingues said. Lenore Domingues said she was 4 years old at the time of the accident. Her grandparents made the decision to house Karen Domingues at the Auburn care home. Prior to the collision that altered Karen Domingues’ life, she was a wife, mother and high school teacher, Lenore Domingues said. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, and taught business courses. Since living in the care home, Lenore Domingues said her mother was active in Pride Industries and had many friends. When she collected stuff from her mother’s room Monday, she found several photo albums and cards from friends. Lenore Domingues described her mother as a “wonderful woman” who enjoyed being in the sun and also liked to read magazines and put together puzzles before her vision began deteriorating. “She will be missed, but I know she’s in a better place,” Lenore Domingues said. Lenore Domingues said her brother is coming home from Iraq to attend his mother’s memorial service, which will be held in Karen Domingues’ hometown of Placerville. “She was raised in Placerville and now she’s come home to Placerville,” Lenore Domingues said. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Westwood Hills Memorial Park in Placerville. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment.