A year after they lost their son, brother, cousin, dad, husband and neighbor, friends and family of Darrell Battee Jr. gathered to keep his memory alive at the spot where he was stabbed and killed outside his apartment building.
"We love you Darrell," said his mother, Mischelle Roberson. "We will never forget you."
The group held a vigil for Battee on Thursday night outside the Royal Palms Apartments on West Columbus Street. They set up a memorial of candles and trinkets, sang a song and shared their memories of him.
A year ago, on Dec. 20, 2011, Battee was stabbed just a week before turning 32 when he tried to break up a domestic fight between a man and a woman, police said at the time. A group of children were walking home from school and saw the man and the woman fighting. One of Battee's daughters tried to intervene, while her sister ran home to get Battee, police said.
When Battee arrived, he too tried to intervene. But the man stabbed him and fled in a pickup truck, police said. A day later, Jacob Kephart, 22, was arrested and charged with first degree murder and possession of a stolen vehicle.
A readiness hearing for Kephart is set for March 8, according to Kern County Superior Court records.
Eric Navarro, Battee's neighbor and friend, ran out to Battee when he heard the commotion that night. He held Battee and tried to talk to him, but Battee was probably already dead, Navarro said.
"I didn't want him to be by himself. No one else here was close with him," Navarro said at the vigil Thursday night.
Navarro's mother, Joann Navarro, said Battee was a model neighbor. When she had knee surgery and she couldn't move around, Battee would run errands for her. If she was looking under the hood of her car, he would stop and ask if she needed any help.
"If anything ever happens, you just blow your whistle," Joann Navarro recalled Battee telling her.
At the vigil, three of Battee's four daughters sang "Really Gonna Miss You" by Smokey Robinson. Battee loved listening to oldies, West Coast rap and gospel music, his family said. He had a radio he kept in his bedroom playing gospel music that nobody was ever allowed to turn off, they said.
Battee's love of music inspired his brother and best friend, Isaiah Roberson, to follow a career in art, he said.
Roberson remembered his brother as a prankster. For example, when people asked for a lighter to light up a cigarette, Battee would hand them a fake one that shocks people when they press on it.
"We would wrestle every morning. Not bad. Like we were big kids," Roberson said.
His mother, Mischelle Roberson, said life is slowly moving on. With the death five days before Christmas, last year the family didn't have a Christmas, she said. But this year, they will have a Christmas that's a celebration of Battee's life.
When one of Battee's daughter questioned if things will get better, Mischelle Roberson told her, "It will. You got to trust and believe."