The grandiose, arched entrance into the Cabo Real Golf Club resort community has no gates.
The guard in the security shack is marginally attentive, so much so that drivers simply wave as they enter. If that.
Jose Arredondo didn't often lock the doors of his 2,000-square foot condo, situated on the second hole, but even when he did, the patio entry leading out back to the golf course was usually unsecured.
Sufficiently motivated and practiced killers presumably cast aside trivialities such as gates, guards and locks with ruthless efficiency, but the ones who murdered Arredondo on the southern coast of Baja California Sur sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning probably didn't even face those obstacles. Arredondo might even have opened the door for them.
Arredondo, whose Family Motors TV commercials made him a familiar face to hundreds of thousands of Kern County residents over 20 years, was killed sometime after 5:20 p.m. Monday.
No arrests have been made, no suspects identified, no possible motives released.
Baja California Sur authorities say Arredondo was beaten to death. Other disturbing characterizations of the homicide persist in rumor but investigators have not released any other details. Two media outlets, including The Californian, have reported that he was also stabbed.
Cabo Real, a 2,800-acre resort and residential community with 3 miles of beachfront, is roughly halfway between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo and right across the coastal highway from an expansive Hilton Hotel.
Tim Jalving, a retired automotive salesman and longtime friend, stayed at Arredondo's three-bedroom, four-bath condo "a handful of times," he said Thursday by phone from his home in Florida, and he had discussed with Arredondo the possibility of visiting this week.
"What's really odd is I could have been there," said Jalving, who last visited the condo about six months ago. "If I were there, the chain of events could have happened entirely different."
Arredondo, 60, had owned the Cabo Real condo for probably 15 to 20 years, according to Jalving, and he would visit the resort for perhaps 10 days at a time every three months or so.
"He considered himself a Mexican, and he liked Cabo," he said. "We'd go to brunch at the Hilton. He'd say, 'Things down here just taste better. You can't get coffee like this in the States.' Everything was better in Mexico."
Jalving didn't hold the same feelings.
"You can't trust anything in Mexico," Jalving said. "As many times as I've been in Mexico I've never felt safe. He'd pooh-pooh that. But the fact is, there's people down there who would kill you for a couple hundred bucks. And he carried around a lot of cash."
Indeed, Los Cabos, the twin resort cities at the southernmost tip of the long Baja peninsula, has been called the most violent place on earth. It had 365 homicides in 2017, an astounding rate of 111 murders per 100,000 population — proportionally, the highest per capita murder rate on the planet. And, across Mexico, things continue to worsen: The national murder rate jumped by 15 percent in 2018 – although the central state of Guanajuato surpassed Baja Sur — and, in the first three months of 2019, by an additional 9.6 percent.
Authorities say the violence, typically directed at Mexican nationals, not tourists, is most likely the result of rival factions seeking to fill the void left by the drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who was captured in 2016 and sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. judge just this past week.
During his 25-year reign, prosecutors at his 11-week trial said, El Chapo's “army of sicarios” was under orders to kidnap, torture and murder anyone who got in the cartel's way.
Jalving had heard the rumors about Arredondo, too: That he was somehow involved in drugs, in money laundering — something. In all their time together, however, he never saw any evidence of it.
"I knew him," Jalving said. "When you're a golf buddy — you're out on the course together for hours at a time — you get to know somebody. He would have had to be pretty good (to hide such activity).
"There are a lot of things that could have happened to him (Monday night). I can't even conjecture."
Neither can Krista Holleman of Bakersfield, for whom Arredono had been a mentor, sharing with her motivational and leadership books and lectures. She texted him late Monday afternoon with a message she thought might brighten his day.
"Jose I thought you'd appreciate this," she wrote. "I was given an assignment in my college English class to talk about someone we admire (and) I chose you ..." And she texted him a shot of a page from the essay, written in February, that she had just come across.
His response startled her.
"It was pretty jumbled," Holleman said. "He was either intoxicated or distracted. My mom said she wondered if it might have been someone else texting (on his phone). It definitely caught me off guard."
One thing particularly surprised her.
"He used profanity, and he had never used profanity in front of me before, talking or texting," she said.
"I'm still in shock. The last text I got from him was 5:20 p.m. Monday."
It might have been Arredondo's last communication with the world outside Cabo Real. The next morning Holleman learned he'd been killed.
Addressing the rumors that Arredondo may have been involved in drugs, she said: "I never saw anything of that nature."
That speculation had dogged Arredondo for decades, though.
"The Hispanic community loved him," said Jalving, who said he witnessed many instances of incredible largesse on Arredondo's part, both in the U.S. and Baja. He'd observed countless acts of generosity: paying medical bills, covering tuition, financing dreams.
"But the people in the car business, that was a different story. I was at a convention of dealers in Las Vegas 20 years ago, within earshot of some local guys who didn't know me, and one was saying, 'This new Mexican guy in town that's dealing drugs ...' He was spewing all kinds of things he had no idea about. Jose was rocking the good old boy network."
Jalving worked for Arredondo for 24 years, putting in stints mostly as finance director at several of his dealerships including, just before he retired two years ago at age 67, Arredondo's Porsche dealership, where Jalving served as general manager.
That long association put Jalving in a position to learn two important things about Arredondo, a naturalized U.S. citizen who entered the country illegally as a 13-year-old in 1971: He had nerves of steel and boundless confidence in himself.
"He is the best money player I've ever seen," said Jalving, who taught Arredondo to golf a year after first going to work for him. Eventually, Jalving said, the student surpassed the teacher.
"He had no nerves, absolutely steely resolve. If there was money on the putt, he would drain it. He played some big money games. ... And he didn't care if the other player was way better. When the money was there, I've seen him beat better players."
That cool audacity reaped rewards on the automotive lot.
"He considered himself the best closer alive," Jalving said. "In sales meetings he'd say, 'Pay attention, folks, you can't learn this in college.'"
Arredondo was certainly right about that.
"When he was just getting started he was the perennial salesman of the month," Jalving said. "He was phenomenal in sales. He's the best I've ever seen."
Did that brash, almost reckless assuredness eventually get Arredondo into a jam he couldn't escape?
"What really happened?" Jalving said. "That's what everyone wants to know."
We may never find out. Only 1 in 100 reported homicides in Mexico goes to sentencing.
Efforts to speak with Arredondo's senior employees have not been successful, and no information about a possible memorial has been announced.