SOUTH SACRAMENTO -- Police say someone violently assaulted a South Sacramento man, killing him and leaving his body inside his home.
Loved ones say the killer stole away a fun-loving free spirit who loved fashion.
"You know, I wanted to run into the room. I wanted to hold him or something," said the victim's mother, Carol Bernard.
Demian Michael's heartbroken mother was held back from going inside his house on Peevey Court by a nephew who stopped by with her and other relatives Sunday. They were checking on the 49-year-old after not hearing from him since early last Tuesday.
Yvette Joseph-Tillis and Michael were high school sweethearts. They were married for eight years and had three kids.
They were still good friends and lived right down the street from each other after Michael traded New York City for Sacramento less than a year ago so he could be closer to his mother.
"It's unfair because you just stole this man from my sons and my kids and my grandkids. You ripped my granddaughter's heart apart," she told FOX40. "I'm just so numb and it's hard for me to just maneuver right now."
Since Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies rolled out the crime scene tape Sunday, relatives have been trying to figure out who would want to harm a proud Army veteran, father and grandfather, as well as a former model who frequented New York Fashion Week.
Without any signs of forced entry at his home, Bernard, her son's neighbors and police believe the homicide was not random.
"Maybe it was someone he knew. That's the only thing I can figure because nothing like that has ever happened over here, ever," said neighbor Wanda Goodspeed.
Investigators haven't revealed how Michael was killed or if they have identified any suspects.
His killing brings even more strain to a family already in grief. Michael's oldest brother, Brett, died 17 months ago on Thanksgiving.