In Houston, Demetrius Safford had friends, family and a burgeoning career in real estate. He put it all on hold this year to return to Sacramento, where his ailing grandmother needed help.
For the last five months, the 23-year-old Safford lived with his grandmother. He cooked for her and cleaned and helped her as she learned to walk again. He bought her flowers.
"I couldn't have asked for a better son," said his father, Darrell Safford of Houston. "How many youngsters do you know that leave their work here in Houston to go back and help with their grandmother?"
On Sunday night, a passing motorist found the bodies of Safford and a friend, 22-year-old Navneal Singh of the Sacramento area, just off Highway 101 in Monterey County. They had been fatally shot, and were found on the ground near the rear of a parked car.
The Monterey County Sheriff's Department has released no further information on the case, and there have been no arrests.
Speaking by phone from Houston, Darrell Safford said his family remains stunned by the news. He said he doesn't know why his son and Singh, a friend from their school days, were in Monterey County or how they could have met such a violent end.
The elder Safford said his son was a beloved, compassionate young man who never caused problems for his parents. Demetrius Safford's only brush with the law, his father said, was a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, for which he was scheduled to appear in court this week.
Demetrius Safford grew up in Sacramento, where he went to church with his family and graduated from Natomas High School. He was in the ROTC program there, and played football until a knee injury ended his sports career, his father said. He studied classical piano.
Nearly four years ago, Demetrius moved to be with his father in Houston. He recently finished taking classes to get his real estate license, and was studying for the state's licensing exam, Darrell Safford said. Demetrius and his older brother were poised to take over the family real estate business.
Demetrius was well-loved in Houston and had opportunities for the future, his father said. But when his diabetic grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, he heeded the call.
He loved cooking for her a skill he enjoyed sharing with all of his loved ones, his father said. He was careful to cook according to his grandmother's dietary restrictions he held off on seasoning her tilapia too much but snuck in favorites such as grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp, his father said.
Darrell Safford said he called his mother this week and asked if there was anything he could do.
"She just said, 'Bring Demetrius back,' " he said. "She said he took good care of her. He was a good person. He had a big heart, and everybody knows that."
Darrell Safford said he visited his son in Sacramento about a month ago and nothing seemed amiss.
"We had a good time," he said. "He didn't show any signs that there was any trouble or problems or else I would have taken him back with me then."
Darrell Safford saw Singh that visit, and remembered the young man saying he was working full time and was about to finish his schooling to become a mechanic. The young man seemed polite and didn't give any indication of trouble, the elder Safford said.
Efforts by The Bee to find Singh's family have not been successful.
Darrell Safford said he wants people to know the loss he and his family have suffered as a result of the violence. He hopes for justice.
"There's a lot of people very sad over what has happened, and these people who did this took a big part of our hearts. He had so much love in him," Darrell Safford said of his son. "My heart is literally broken."
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Monterey County sheriff's investigator Al Martinez or Sgt. Terry Kaiser at (831) 755-3772 or a tip line at (888) 833-4847.
Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @kim_minugh.