A day after the news broke that Jose Arredondo, the rags-to-riches Kern County auto dealer, had been killed in an apparent homicide in Baja California Sur, Mexico, Bakersfield was still trying to sort the facts from the speculation.
We know this: Authorities in Baja California Sur, the Mexican state that includes La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, told The Associated Press that Arredondo — age 58 in some reports but 60 in county voter records — had died from blunt-force trauma. Arredondo had been beaten to death, local investigators told AP.
Reports that Arredondo had also suffered stab wounds in the home invasion attack, as reported by The Californian and others, could not be confirmed by authorities Wednesday.
A U.S. State Department official who withheld his name would say little more, other than confirming Arredondo's death in Cabo San Lucas, a popular fishing and tourism village on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula.
"We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death," the official told The Californian. "We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance."
The date and time of the attack that killed Arredondo have not been specified, although some media reported it as Tuesday, and it's not clear whether there were other victims or witnesses.
No suspects have been named and no possible motives released.
A Bakersfield police spokeswoman said the agency had not been contacted by officials in Mexico regarding the case.
Baja Sur’s murder rate ranked third in Mexico in 2017, behind only the coastal states of Colima and Guerrero. Despite that, Los Cabos set new tourism records that year with 2 million visitors, up about 20 percent from 2016.
Gossip about alleged drug connections had followed Arredondo for years, but he was never charged. Arredondo addressed the rumors in a 2006 interview with The Californian.
"I don't understand why people have so much focus on me instead of worrying about their stuff," he said at that time. "People think, 'Hey, wait a minute. This cannot be real. He must be dealing or doing things. How can he be so generous?'"
Billy Faeth, a former professional golfer who worked for Arredondo, told The Californian in that 2006 article that when he took the job, friends and family asked if he'd be laundering money for Arredondo.
"Everything I've heard is completely unfounded and, to be honest, it gets me very upset — not because I work for him, but because he's a friend," Faeth said.
Arredondo's pastor, the Rev. James Ranger, told The Californian on Tuesday he'd had long conversations with Arredondo about the gossip and the businessman strongly believed the rumors were started by people jealous of his professional success.
Arredondo bought and sold a number of local dealerships over the years. In 1999 alone he said he earned $1.35 million. His Family Motors brand owned lots in Bakersfield and Delano.
Arredondo was born in the village of Cualcoman, in the Mexican state of Michoacan, according to the Family Motors website. He was the fourth child of 11. When he was 12, one night in the winter of 1971, Arredondo crossed the border illegally with his sister Laura. Their mother was already working as a housekeeper in Valencia; their father had died, according to heavy.com.
He eventually found work washing cars in Los Angeles, was promoted to salesman and was on his way to a successful career in the auto sales business.
Arredondo was the reported owner of Fresno Buick-GMC, Hanford Hyundai and the Family Motors Group in Bakersfield, Santa Maria and Lompoc, The Fresno Bee reported. He also owned KTIP Radio in Porterville and Tulare-based KGEN-AM/FM Radio.
Arredondo's survivors include his wife, Laura, as well daughter Mariana and son Samuel, whose mother is Kim Kyung-ju. A complete list of survivors was not available Wednesday.
Samuel is a star of so-called K-Pop, or South Korean pop music, having performed with the duo 1Punch and in season two of the reality TV series "Produce 101" in 2017. That same year, according to the website heavy.com, he had a solo hit record, "Sixteen," that had some comparing him to Justin Bieber.
Samuel Arredondo Kim, aka Punch, as he is known professionally, got his start making commercials for his father's Family Motors. His social media accounts were disabled Wednesday and he has not commented, according to heavy.com. Kim, 17, was receiving messages of condolence from fans via Twitter, Yahoo Entertainment reported Wednesday.
Calls to Family Motors were not immediately returned.