Manzanita Canyon trailhead, site of Sonny Gonzalez's murder
“I’m done — [Sonny] just died in our canyon [and] everybody liked him a lot,” Jane said, “and his girlfriend is expecting — he was going to be a father.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Sonny Gonzalez was stabbed to death at the 4100 block of Manzanita Drive at about 9:30 p.m. on September 25, near the entrance of Manzanita Canyon (Jamie’s Way trailhead).
Memorial at trailhead
Jane, 50 (who requested that her name be changed for this story) lives a few houses away from the entrance to the canyon where Sonny and an unidentified woman were stabbed last week. Sources say the woman survived.
On Friday, September 29, Jane met with Sonny’s family, including his mother and sister, his friends, Azalea Park neighbors, pastor James George from Grace Church, and a Channel 10 cameraman.
Sandra is a homeowner in the area who organized the candlelight vigil at the trailhead.
“Property owners, neighbors and homeless residents gathered [that] night to meet in a neutral area to pay tribute and to share loss and grief, as well as unity and peace,” she said. “[The homeless people] needed to know that we indeed care for and respect them [and] we just want respect in return. I think it was a ‘crossover’ to bring peace and resolution.”
Sandra spoke with Sonny’s friend who went to Hoover High School with him. “She said that ‘Sonny is what I would call a modern-day hippie. He loved to live a free life [and] he was an artist and loved music.’”
Linda Pennington knows the area where the stabbing happened well because she led the 2016–2017 Manzanita Canyon cleanup. She didn’t know Sonny, though. “I was there out of respect for him and because I am truly grief-stricken about this senseless tragedy and all the horrors that the homeless and our community are experiencing due to this ever-worsening crisis,” she said.
Pennington is a good friend and neighbor of Pastor George, who led the vigil and prayer circle of about 20 people. After the prayer, Sonny’s mother and his friend spoke about Sonny’s life. They were interrupted by a homeless man who walked by the vigil yelling at them, and then he walked into the canyon.
“The mother of Sonny wanted to talk,” Jane said, “[so] we asked [Sonny’s friend] to talk to the guy, because he knew him.”
Pennington said, “Finally [Sonny’s friend] followed him to the street [and] was asking him to be respectful, and apparently I did not see this because they were on the other side of the Channel 10 van [and] they got into a physical fight and were rolling around on the street.”
Jane said, “Then [the guy who came from the canyon] pulled a box-cutter and, like, sliced him right here [on the chest] and they were on the ground rolling around.”
Pennington said that the guy with the box-cutter ran away, then, “Two cop cars arrived and took some information [while] people continued to talk to each other about Sonny.”
Jane called 911 and followed the guy on foot while she remained on the phone with the dispatcher. “He’s going up Poplar Street and then going up Fairmount Avenue,” she said, “[and then] they caught him up there and arrested him.”
Sonny's friend will be okay said Pennington and Jane.
“[His mother said] that Sonny was a good person and he was turning his life around,” Pennington said. She also noted that the police department hasn’t put out an official statement regarding whether Sonny’s killer or killers have been caught.
Sandra said that they will be holding a memorial service for Sonny at Grace Church, this Thursday (October 5) at 11 a.m.