ESCONDIDO, Calif. — The medical examiner's office has positively identified a body found near Lake Henshaw as that of a missing man from Escondido.
The remains of Stanley Stephens, 71, were found earlier this month off Highway 76 and East Grade Road.
A former roommate of the victim has been arrested and charged with Stephens’ murder.
“He was a wonderful guy and neighbor of mine for two and a half years. He became a really good friend,” said Stefan Rudolph, who lived next door to the victim in the 3000 block of North Broadway in Escondido.
Stephens was a retired librarian. He loved taking long hikes and went to church every Sunday in Oceanside, said Rudolph.
“It’s sad because his life was about his church. And he was involved so much in the community, that when it came down to it, he is sorely missed by many people,” said Rudolph.
Stephens went missing in mid-August. Escondido police detectives soon zeroed in on a former roommate. Eduardo Zamora, 32, had moved out of the house four months earlier, Rudolph said.
Zamora was a recovering addict who relapsed and started living out of his Honda Civic, according to Rudolph.
“I’ve been sober 10 years myself, and I help people now in my program. I know that the person that did it lost his mind, literally,” Rudolph said.
The neighbor said nobody witnessed the murder. Stephens went missing on August 10. Deputies found the victim's wallet, cell phone, keys, and his Toyota Corolla still at the house.
The two roommates did argue on occasion, according to Rudolph.
“During the time that (Zamora) lived here, I know there was some bad roommate stuff going on about dishes, about cleaning, and you know the basic stuff you have with roommates,” Rudolph recalled.
It remains a mystery why Zamora would have returned to the house four months after he moved out, and why he might have targeted Stephens. A cause of death has not been released.
“It was premeditated. Everything was just insanely against Stan, the most innocent person in the world, I can tell you,” said Rudolph.
On the morning of September 6, officers found the body off Highway 76. Zamora was already in custody at that point. It took the medical examiner two weeks to positively identify the body as Stephens.
“Stan wouldn't harm a fly. There's no way he would hurt anybody. He was a nicest guy when it came to dealing with nature, walking around, getting out there and interacting with people,” said Rudolph.
Stephens was not married and had no children, according to Rudolph, who has set up a GoFundMe page to try and raise money for funeral services.
Zamora remains in custody at the George Bailey Detention Facility. He has pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder.
He's due back in North County court on December 13.
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