Death in Yuba City: 'The city that she loved killed her'

By Ryan McCarthy/Appeal-Democrat
Jun. 08, 2010

It's 15 steps from the bedroom to the front door of the Yuba City home where Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin lived and where she died when police shot and killed her.

The 67-year-old woman, unclothed, took those final steps from her bedroom to the front door the night of May 20.

Her sons, Christian and Matthew Biscotti, say she didn't have to die.

Police, told that a census worker faced a firearm when going to the home in the upscale Mariner Loop neighborhood earlier that evening, could have done many things, they said.

They could have called the phone that was in their mother's bedroom, the sons said. Officers could have used a bullhorn to alert Roger-Vasselin and her fiance, Lionel Craig Patterson, 51, that police wanted to ask them about the events of that evening, they said. Law enforcement could have lit up the house so that their mother would have known police were at her front door that night, the two men said.

"There are 1,000 things Yuba City police could have done to bring life," Christian Biscotti, 41, said last week in an interview. "They chose the one decision to bring death."

"Mom was gunned down in her home," Biscotti said. "These cops made a mistake."

Police parked their cars down the street and then attacked the home, he said. Matthew Biscotti, 43, likened what the police did to a military action.

"It's unbelievable," he said.

"The city that she loved killed her," Matthew Biscotti said.

And then, the sons said, police took hours to tell the family what had happened after the shooting. Christian and Matthew Biscotti said they believed their mother might still be alive when they arrived at her home after learning of the shooting.

Police, when first talking to family members, didn't tell them law enforcement had shot and killed Roger-Vasselin, the sons said.

Christian Biscotti, a military chaplain stationed at Beale Air Force Base, said of his concerns about the Yuba City police: "I'm speaking as a son, not as a chaplain."

He added that he works with law enforcement and respects police.

"They're awesome people," Christian Biscotti said. "I love them."

Good police officers, he added, can make bad decisions. Events were mishandled May 20 on Mariner Loop, he believes.

Police have said a man, since identified as Patterson, armed with a handgun answered the door and while they were dealing with him, the woman approached the door with a shotgun, ignored orders to release the weapon, advanced on officers and continued to point the shotgun at them in a threatening manner.

Officers fired at Roger-Vasselin, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Police Department.

Matthew Biscotti spoke about entering the three-bedroom, two-bath 3,300-square-foot home after the police left, discovering a pool of blood in the hallway in front of the door and how he had to clean up his mother's blood.

He asks: How did his mother, who had seven grandchildren, end up dead in her own home? Both Biscottis believe she may have thought intruders were at the front door when police came to the home.

"Some police," Matthew Biscotti said, "can't wait to fire their weapons for the first time."

Patterson, who allegedly pointed a gun at a census worker after she tried to gain information from him earlier that evening, was freed on bail Thursday from the Sutter County Jail. Patterson faces felony counts of assault with a firearm and assault with a firearm on police officers.

"He is part of the family and he is 100 percent innocent," Matthew Biscotti said.

He spoke about Roger-Vasselin as a smart and beautiful woman who had written two novels, held real estate licenses, was a gourmet cook and expert skier.

"We are all lost," he said of her death, calling his mother the matriarch of the family.

"I've never met anybody so passionate about life," Christian Biscotti said.

The family roots in the Mid-Valley community run deep. Her father was a probation officer the Thomas E. Mathews Community School in Marysville is named after him. Roger-Vasselin's brother Thomas Mathews Jr. was the district attorney and a Superior Court judge in Yuba County.

"My mom grew up with the law," Christian Biscotti said.

The family wants the Yuba City Police Department to admit it made a mistake in the shooting and apologize.

Christian Biscotti said a private, independent investigation is under way.

"We are retaining one of the largest law firms in the United States to go after the truth," Matthew Biscotti said.

"Justice will be done," Christian Biscotti said. "We're not going to give up."

CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at749-4707 or [email protected] .

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