Regina Butler
Regina Butler ( San Jose Police Department )

SAN JOSE -- A missing man had been stabbed to death and stashed beneath a pile of bedding in his cluttered apartment for about a month -- overlooked by relatives, neighbors and police alike -- until Stanley Jacobson's granddaughter found his body on Thursday while his accused killer milled about mere feet away.

"I don't know what her reaction was -- I could only imagine," said San Jose police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer, who revealed the chilling details Friday.

Regina Butler, a 46-year-old woman neighbors described as Jacobson's girlfriend, was the suspect taken into custody the day before.

Jacobson, 69, was last seen Feb. 5 at the Hilltop Manor retirement community where he lived and was reported missing Feb. 18. At that time, police said they were also looking for Butler, who was believed to be with him. Jacobson was considered at risk because of the onset of dementia, and police opened an elder abuse case because they believed the man may have been exploited by Butler for financial gain, possibly through insurance fraud.

Missing persons detectives visited the apartment on Feb. 22, about two weeks after police believe Jacobson was killed, and found a disheveled apartment. They took photographs of the scene, including the pile of bedding that concealed Jacobson.


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"The officers went in and noticed clutter everywhere," Dwyer said. "It blended in with the rest. Nothing really stood out about it."

Dwyer said that the pile was large enough to have masked the odor of the decomposing victim.

The victim's granddaughter and neighbors had also visited the scene numerous times since Jacobson was reported missing. But Dwyer said the mystery came to a head on Thursday, after a neighbor saw Butler at Hilltop Manor and called the granddaughter, who has not been named.

She went to the complex and talked to Butler, police said, convincing her to go inside the apartment to chat while -- unbeknown to the suspect -- the police were notified.

It was while the granddaughter was stalling, "trying to busy herself," that she picked items off the pile and discovered Jacobson.

"The call was upgraded to a homicide," Dwyer said. "She was a cool customer, to invite (Butler) inside, not knowing what she was dealing with, until police arrived."

At the retirement community behind the Church on the Hill, Jacobson was known as "The Magician" due to the various magic tricks and handcuff-escape acts he would demonstrate to the delight of his neighbors.

However, they said he became more distant since Butler came into his life, and friends thought she was behind Jacobson's disappearance but didn't know in what capacity.

"I suspected that myself after I talked to her," said Benjamin Ramos, who approached Butler on Thursday when he saw her at the apartment. "I told her she is the person who knows more than anyone, and she said she couldn't remember what happened the last time she saw him."

Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.