A former San Jose reserve police officer accused of strangling her mother was arraigned in Los Banos today on a murder charge. Denise Lai, 47, has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and one count of willful cruelty to an elder or a dependent adult, according to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. Lai was arrested on Aug. 4, one day after Los Banos police officers discovered the body of her mother, 65-year-old Carolyn Ninomiya, at her Auction Street home. An investigation revealed Ninomiya had been strangled and was dead for several hours before she was found, police said. On the morning of Aug. 3, Lai was found suffering from self-inflicted stab wounds in the parking lot of a business, police said. She told officers she had stabbed herself earlier that day and wanted to die, according to police. She was airlifted to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto to receive treatment for her injuries. Relatives later said Lai lived with her mother, and Ninomiya’s body was found later that afternoon. In an interview with police, Lai allegedly admitted to killing her mother the previous night before attempting to kill herself. Lai is being held at Merced County’s main jail in lieu of $1 million bail.
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