Nurseryman Stabbed to Death While Taking Stroll : Thousand Oaks: A 49-year-old man 'everybody loved' dies after being attacked on the street. A neighbor is arrested based on witnesses' descriptions.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Thousand Oaks nurseryman described as a good neighbor "everybody loved" was stabbed to death Thursday night when he went out for a late evening stroll.

Jose Narvaze, 49, was stabbed in the abdomen and back three times about a block from his apartment in the 850 block of Warwick Avenue in Thousand Oaks, said Lt. Joe Harwell of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies arrested 18-year-old Ramon Castellanos of Thousand Oaks about five blocks from the scene of the stabbing shortly after they responded to the call at 10:30 p.m.

The stabbing is the year's first homicide in Thousand Oaks and the fourth in the county.

Witnesses called police when they discovered Narvaze lying on his back in a pool of blood across the street from the Church of the Oaks, the Sheriff's Department reported.

Narvaze, described by neighbors and family members as a mild man who said hello to everyone, had apparently stumbled about half a block toward his apartment building before he fell backward into a flower bed.

A blood-soaked patch of dirt near roses and daisies marked the scene.

Narvaze was taken by ambulance to Las Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, where he died a short time later, Harwell said.

Witnesses, who saw a man flee the area, gave deputies a description that led to the arrest of Castellanos.

As a sheriff's helicopter flooded the upscale neighborhood of well-tended houses and manicured lawns with bright lights, deputies arrested Castellanos, who also lives on Warwick Avenue, a sheriff's official said.

Castellanos is being held in the Main Jail in Ventura. Bail was set at $250,000.

Unable to find the weapon used for the stabbing in the dark, deputies combed the area with metal detectors Friday morning.

They recovered a large kitchen knife with blood on it about 30 yards away from the murder scene. The Sheriff's Department has not established a motive for the murder, Harwell said.

Friends said Narvaze was carrying between $850 and $1,000 in cash when he was stabbed. Narvaze intended to send the money, which he had jammed in his pants pocket, to his wife and five children who live in Mexico, said his cousin Rodolfo Casanova, 48, of Thousand Oaks.

However, the money was found on Narvaze's body and authorities have ruled out robbery as a motive, Harwell said. Harwell refused to say how much money was found.

Friends and family members in the apartment complex where Narvaze had lived for eight years said they could not understand why anyone would want to kill him.

"Everybody loved him. He didn't have an enemy," said Lee Knight, 57, who manages the 50-unit apartment complex. "He was my best friend."

Knight said it was Narvaze's nightly custom to go out for a breath of fresh air before retiring.

Narvaze worked five days a week watering and tending plants in the nursery department at Lumber City in Thousand Oaks.

Employees there took the news of his death hard, Assistant Manager Nicki Bowman said.

"He was very well-loved," Bowman said. "He always had a smile on his face."

Bowman said Narvaze was a perfect employee, never calling in sick or coming in late.

On his two days off, Narvaze did odd jobs at the apartment complex, such as cleaning the laundry room and tending the roses and rhododendrons that surrounded the building.

Narvaze moved to Thousand Oaks in 1982 and lived with Rodolfo Casanova and Casanova's wife, Juanita, for three years before moving into an apartment next door.

He shared that apartment with seven other men and boys from Mexico. Narvaze routinely cooked meals for his housemates. They slept on mattresses on the living-room floor in the two-bedroom apartment, which had no phone.

Narvaze was trying to scrape together money to bring his wife of 27 years and five of his seven children from Mexico to Thousand Oaks next year, his cousin Casanova said.

Narvaze's oldest son, Jorje, 23, lived with him. His daughter Asuncion, 20, had an apartment nearby.

Jorje Narvaze had given his father about $650 to send to Mexico the evening Narvaze was killed, Casanova said. Narvaze was carrying additional money but would not tell anyone how much.

Narvaze last saw his family in January when he went home for a month. His widow does not yet know of her husband's death, Juanita Casanova said.

The Casanovas said they plan to fly to Mexico for the funeral.

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