Friends say LoDo stab­bing vic­tim was ac­com­plished chef

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kirk Mitchell

Friends of a 35-year-old man who died af­ter be­ing stabbed 14 times by a home­less man say the con­fessed killer’s story can’t be true.

There is no way the slain man, Mar­lon Casanova, would have fought any­one over a porch to sleep on be­cause he was a tal­ented chef who had his own apart­ment, sev­eral ac­quain­tances said in in­ter­views Wed­nes­day.

In­stead, they spec­u­late he died dur­ing a rob­bery.

“None of that is true,” Casanova’s friend Daniel Borer said of the story told by Raoul So­lis La­nius, 53, who was ar­rested for in­ves­ti­ga­tion of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der in Casanova’s stab­bing early Mon­day. “It couldn’t be more wrong. He’s to­tally not home­less. His life was to­tally taken.”

La­nius told Den­ver po­lice of­fi­cers that he stabbed Casanova in self-de­fense af­ter Casanova tried to run him and his girl­friend off a porch in front of a bi­cy­cle shop near 15th and Wynkoop streets that La­nius claimed as his own sleep­ing spot. But a half-dozen friends say Casanova was walk­ing to his apart­ment only a few blocks away.

La­nius ac­knowl­edged that he called Casanova a racial ep­i­thet. When Casanova charged him, La­nius claims he stabbed Casanova 10 times. An au­topsy showed Casanova was stabbed 14 times in the face, heart and lungs.

But friends say Casanova was a soft-spo­ken per­son who never raised his voice. They be­lieve he was robbed.

“That guy is ly­ing through his teeth,” said Con­ner Good­ing, 34, a ge­ol­o­gist who knew Casanova. “He’s just a happy guy. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”

Friends said Casanova was easy-go­ing, friendly and hard­work­ing.

Good­ing said Casanova was only an ac­quain­tance when he agreed to take care of Good­ing’s dog while he went on a three-week vol­un­teer trip. Good­ing gave Casanova a bi­cy­cle be­cause he didn’t have a car so that he could ride to Good­ing’s house every day and care for his dog.

“That’s the ex­tent he would go to help a friend of a friend,” Good­ing said. “Not too many peo­ple are like that.”

Borer said Casanova worked as a chef six or seven days a week at two up­scale LoDo restau­rants, the Truf­fle Ta­ble, 2556 15th St., and Jax Fish House and Oys­ter Bar, 1539 17th St. Jax was closed Tues­day to honor Casanova.

Casanova would vol­un­teer to work ex­tra shifts, his friends said, be­cause he dreamed of mov­ing to Australia to open a Mex­i­can restau­rant.

“My friend Mar­lon was just the nicest, qui­etest hu­man be­ing any­where,” said Borer, who is con­fi­dent the killer’s mo­tive in killing Casanova isn’t what he con­fessed to po­lice.

Casanova al­ways car­ried a book bag, which hasn’t been found, Borer said. “Where is his back­pack? Where is his wal­let?” Oth­ers say he also al­ways had an ex­pen­sive pair of ear­phones and a cell­phone. Those, too, are miss­ing.

“That tells us he was most likely robbed,” said Diedre Borer, the chief chef at the Truf­fle Ta­ble and the wife of Daniel Borer.

Friends say Casanova’s goal was to see the world, adding that he had al­ready trav­eled to places such as New Zealand and Australia. A visa prob- lem led to his re­turn to the U.S. from New Zealand about a year ago, said Austin Hornsby, the sous-chef at Jax.

“He’s done stuff I can only dream of do­ing,” said Hornsby, who used to joke with Casanova that he was the Dos Equis guy, “the most in­ter­est­ing man in the world.”

Hornsby said when Casanova was sent to Los An­ge­les from New Zealand, he took a bus to Den­ver “and started a new life all over again.”

The quick learner did so well that he was placed at a work sta­tion out­side the kitchen where he con­versed with pa­trons while pre­par­ing mussels or clam chow­der in front of them.

“He was great at it be­cause he was such a peo­ple per­son,” Hornsby said.

When Diedre Borer was hired as the chief chef at Truf­fle Ta­ble af­ter work­ing with Casanova at Jax, she re­cruited him to join her staff.

“He worked nearly every day. He was a solid em­ployee,” Diedre Borer said. “Never once did I hear him com­plain. When a shift needed fill­ing, he’d be the first to vol­un­teer.”

Karen Lawler, who owns the Truf­fle Ta­ble along with her hus­band, said Casanova was so in­tel­li­gent he picked up things very quickly. She said he was known for telling dad jokes, could mag­i­cally fix some­thing and was a great ad­ven­turer.

“It’s been re­ally hard. It’s a huge loss for our fam­ily and the Den­ver restau­rant scene. We’re a close com­mu­nity,” Lawler said.

Good­ing said he be­lieves the home­less issue is out of con­trol in Den­ver.

“I think more should be done about the prob­lem,” he said. “You can’t just have home­less peo­ple stab­bing some­one as they walk home from work.”

Photo cour­tesy of Karin Lawler

Friends say Mar­lon Casanova was a soft-spo­ken per­son who never raised his voice.

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