News of arrest changes tone of candlelight vigil for slain Ramona native
By Jessica King
What was supposed to be a public plea for help in catching a killer turned into a bittersweet celebration for the family of slain Ramona native Michael Gabriel Hallmann.
The 34-year-old Class of 1997 Ramona High graduate was found suffering from several stab wounds in south San Diego’s Chollas Creek neighborhood in September.
According to San Diego police, officers found Hallmann in the 5000 block of Sterling Court around 5:30 a.m.
Sept. 30. They rushed him to an area hospital, where he died less than two hours later.
For the past two months, the Hallmann family has wondered what happened to their “Gabe.” About three hours before family and friends were to meet Dec. 5 at the Ramona soccer fields to hold a candlelight vigil for Hallmann, his mother received a call from San Diego police, saying one person was in custody and more arrests were possible.
Police had yet to announce the arrest publicly as of presstime. But the news from Hallmann’s mother spread quickly as roughly three dozen people gathered at the fields for the vigil.
The event was planned, in part, to draw media attention to the homicide case in hopes of generating new leads for police.
Hallmann’s brother-in-law Mike Parenti called the development “good bittersweet news.”
“It doesn’t help much with bringing Gabe back, but at least whoever was responsible is now behind bars,” said Parenti.
Addressing the crowd gathered for the vigil, Parenti recalled how he had first met Hallmann when they were each about 13 or 14 years old.
Parenti said Hallmann had borrowed his sister’s bicycle and was riding in what was then a dirt lot behind El Michoacan restaurant, picking up difficult stunts quicker than most.
“We all have great memories and great times with Gabe … a lot of them right here on this soccer field,” Parenti also recalled.
Besides his natural athletic talents, Hallmann, a licensed massage therapist who last lived in San Diego, was a good dad to his 4-year-old daughter, “Gabby.” Hallmann’s mother described her granddaughter as a daddy’s girl, saying her son loved being a father and was sorely missed by his daughter.
“It’s such a path that’s never comfortable or makes any sense of anything … I’m really — we’re all really — struggling with it,” Jennifer Hallmann said about the grieving process.
The lack of information about what exactly happened to Hallmann isn’t making the process any easier.
Police have yet to offer a possible motive, but robbery has apparently been ruled out and there wasn’t any party or other gathering in the area that may have led to a fight between Hallmann and someone else, according to his mother.
“No, no, nothing like that,” she said when asked about the circumstances. “There were four stab wounds and they just left him there lying in the street until the police found him and took him to a hospital and it wasn’t much later he had died. From what I understand he didn’t have any defense wounds. I don’t know much else than that. They (the police) say they’ll have more information for us later, but right now, there’s just so much that doesn’t make sense.”
She said her son didn’t live or work anywhere near where he was found that fateful late September morning.
Despite the lingering questions, what little news the family received last week was welcome.
“I’m just really thankful they’re making progress on it,” said Gabe’s maternal uncle, Victor Peterson.
The soccer fields were an obvious choice for the vigil.
Hallmann grew up playing on the fields and he loved soccer, said his brother, David.
Hallmann also played varsity soccer for Ramona High School all four years and was selected Most Athletic his senior year.
Another attendee to the vigil was former Hallmann family neighbor Jeanette Christman.
Her four children grew up in Ramona at the same time as Hallmann and his siblings.
“They’re just a wonderful, special family. They’re very close, very loving and this has been hard,” said Christman, who has known the Hallmann family for nearly 40 years.
Though at least one arrest has been made, the Hallmann family continued to urge anyone with information about the slaying to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers’ anonymous tip line at 888-580-8477.
The family also asked people to consider making a donation to a trust fund that has been set up for Hallmann’s daughter. Jennifer Hallmann said the family would like to build the trust so one day her granddaughter could be sent to college.
Donations can be made at any Mission Federal Credit Union branch.
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