Friends say LoDo stabbing victim was accomplished chef
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.”
Friends say Marlon Casanova was a soft-spoken person who never raised his voice.