Police arrest suspect in guitar maker's death

February 15, 2010 8:29:17 PM PST
Police today arrested a suspect in the killing of well-known guitar maker Taku Sakashta outside his Rohnert Park workshop last week.

Joshua Rhea Begley, 28, was taken into custody shortly after 1 a.m. today in the area of 905 Civic Center Drive after a car chase and a foot pursuit, police said.

Sakashta's body was found shortly before 4 a.m. Friday outside his workshop in the 600 block of Martin Avenue, a horseshoe-shaped street in an industrial area off of Labath Avenue.

Sakashta's wife had called police to report that her husband had failed to return home; when she went to his workshop to check on him, she found it in a "suspicious" state, police said.

Officers searched the area and found the body of 43-year-old Sakashta outside in some bushes, police Lt. Jeff Taylor said.

Evidence pointed police toward Begley, who had made headlines earlier that week for briefly escaping police custody during an arrest in Petaluma by using a key hidden in his mouth to unlock his handcuffs. He was eventually arrested in that case but apparently was out of custody when the murder occurred.

When police tried to arrest Begley for Sakashta's murder, he sped off in his car, sparking a chase. He exited the vehicle at the corner of Camino Colegio and Southwest Boulevard and ran.

Rohnert Park police searched the neighborhood with the help of Sonoma State University police, Cotati police, Petaluma police and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office. Begley was eventually tracked to an apartment at 905 Civic Center Drive and was arrested at 1:10 a.m. today.

He was booked into Sonoma County jail on charges of murder, robbery and evading police.

Taylor today declined to discuss how Sakashta was killed but said an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. He would not yet confirm the motive was robbery.

Begley had charges pending from several drug-related arrests in recent months, including two in Cotati: a Sept. 26 arrest for possession of paraphernalia and a Jan. 3 arrest for possession of paraphernalia and a controlled substance, Taylor said.

Separately, on Feb. 8, Begley escaped custody using his hidden key during an arrest in Petaluma for being under the influence of a controlled substance.

He is being held without bail in Sonoma County jail.

Guitarist Mike Oria was crushed to hear what had happened to his friend.

Oria, 40, who makes up half of the local musical duet the Miller/Oria Duo, had known Sakashta since 2004 and had spent many days at his workshop, learning the art of guitar making.

"I used to bring my guitar to him for repairs and modifications and so forth, and over time we got a little closer and I would come up to his shop and observe him and ask a bunch of questions," Oria said.

The two bonded over a love of Robert Benedetto guitars. Over time, Sakashta got to know Oria's taste in sound, so when Oria finally asked Sakashta to make him a custom guitar - which can go for $20,000 and up - the craftsman was ready.

Sakashta's workshop was in Petaluma at the time, and Oria would drive there from his home in Antioch on weekends to watch the guitar take shape.

The project was put on hold in 2007 when Sakashta was inundated with new orders after a guitar he had created was featured on the cover of an album by blues/rock musician Robben Ford.

"About six months or a year passed and then finally he called and said, 'I've got the exact woods,'" Oria said. "I ran up there to Petaluma. He had found some beautiful pieces."

Oria said Sakashta had high standards for the wood he used in his craft, both aesthetically and functionally. "The best pieces of wood have a very nice ringing tone when you tap them," he said.

Finally, last summer, the guitar was finished. Sakashta called and told Oria he would deliver it to his house. He and his wife Kazuko were in a bad mood by the time they arrived because they had gotten lost on their way to Antioch but Sakashta went straight to work, he said.

"He showed up with his tools. I pulled it out of the case and for the next hour, I played guitar and he would make adjustments," Oria said. When Sakashta left the room, his wife leaned over and told Oria in broken English that her husband was especially proud of that guitar.

Oria's voice broke several times when he talked of his friend, and said he couldn't imagine why anyone would hurt him. He described him as polite, respectful, "even-keeled" and "an all-around peaceful person." He called his friend a true artist.

"He could do anything that he wanted to do in regard with the sounds that he heard in his head ... it was just how to make that tangible," Oria said.

"His guitar work was magical," he said.


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