LIHU‘E — Those close to John Diaz Jr. agreed that he had been turning his life around before his tragic death last month.
Diaz, who had lived on Kaua‘i for about a year, was found by the Kaua‘i Police Department near Kealia Beach with a severe head injury on Feb. 24, 2023. He was transported to Wilcox Medical Center, where he died the next day.
Police have been investigating the death as a possible homicide, and two individuals were arrested on charges of murder in the second degree in connection with the death. But both were released pending investigation, leaving the family to piece together what might have happened.
“I’ll be processing it for the rest of my life,” said Princeville resident Logan Edwards, the mother of Diaz’s child and his close friend, in an interview with The Garden Island. “I just want to know what happened to him.”
The pair met in 1992 in San Diego, when John was a pre-med student, and their child John Gabriel Diaz was born in 1995. Several years later, John fell into drug use, and he spent years in and out of California prisons on nonviolent, drug-related charges.
Last year, Logan — who remained close to John though they were no longer together — invited him to join her on Kaua‘i, where she had been living since the early 2000s.
“He got lost for a lot of years,” said Edwards. “I said, this is the place for you to start over.”
By all accounts, that is what he did — quickly finding work and staying clean. Last summer, he reconnected with his son and met his grandson, John Kainen Diaz, for the first time.
“He was a grandfather, a father,” said Edwards. “He was someone who was working and was highly respected in his job. This was somebody who was doing everything right, for the first time in his life.”
In December 2022, John began working at Architectural Coatings and Preservation, a painting company.
Business owner Rob Neuhoff remembers Diaz as a hard worker who earned a promotion within just four months on the job.
“The reason he was a great employee was because of his character,” said Neuhoff. “He treated his job like he cared about it. He always had a smile on his face.”
A lifelong athlete, John would do pushups during the 45 seconds of lag time when running materials into the company’s machines.
“Like a lot of us, he’s got a colorful past and he overcame that,” said Neuhoff. “It seemed like he’d beat his demons.”
His younger brother Nathan Diaz, 44, looked up to John growing up. His elder brother was a homecoming king and star cornerback on his high school football team in California, Nathan said.
“We all chased after him. He was a football player, and I became a football player,” said Diaz. “Everyone looked up to him and we all kinda followed in his footsteps.”
Nathan remembered going to football games, eating tacos together at their grandma’s house, hanging out at the beach and going mountain biking with his brother.
Weeks after John’s death, memories came flooding back when Nathan saw two kids riding bikes together.
“I thought I was OK, and then I just saw that and it floored me for a second,” he said. “Certain little things have gotten to me.”
Nathan expressed “helplessness, anger and frustration,” at the lack of justice for his brother, a month after his death. Edwards echoed that sentiment, calling for people to pressure the system to make sure the case is solved.
“We will not stop until justice is done,” said Edwards.
Those with information on Diaz’s death are encouraged to contact KPD dispatch at 808-241-1711 or Crime Stoppers Kaua‘i at 808-246-8300 to give information anonymously.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island
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