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Victim called 'uniquely kind and compassionate'

Police are still searching for the suspect who allegedly bludgeoned a 50-year-old Costa Mesa businessman in his home. Neighbors along Whittier Avenue remembered the victim as hardworking.

August 06, 2012|By Lauren Williams

Costa Mesa police continued to search Monday for a suspect who allegedly killed a 50-year-old man in his home.

Police said they discovered the body of Gary Allen Smola in his house in the 1700 block of Whittier Avenue at about 4:20 p.m. Saturday.

"If anyone needed anything, he would stop and help them. He really would," said neighbor Caroleann Burr.

She last saw Smola, who detailed cars and motor homes to make a living, Friday night when he brought her a catch from a fishing trip. He often brought neighbors fish, and Facebook photos show him with catches from various excursions.

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Burr said Smola would take her garbage cans to the curb on trash day and mow her lawn.

She said Smola kept a clean home and was a good cook, and that he was hardworking and "uniquely kind and compassionate."

"Gary meant a lot to me," she said. "He was the kind of guy that just struck your heart."

Smola owned Millennium Details. Business records show he worked as a car detailer in Laguna Beach in the early 1990s before working out of his Costa Mesa home.

Smola has a sister and a brother, Burr said.

His Facebook page says he's from Cleveland.

On Monday morning, a small trailer advertising his detailing service was parked in the driveway, and yellow evidence tape barred anyone from entering the home.

Burr said Smola's death was unusual because he was so good-natured and careful with his work that it seemed no one would want to do him harm.

"I've never heard of him having any squabbles with anyone," she said. "It's bizarre because no one can think of a motive."

Police said, based on the injuries to his body, they believe the suspect struck Smola with an unknown object.

After an autopsy late Monday morning, the Orange County coroner determined the cause of death was homicide resulting from blunt-force trauma to the head, according to Lt. Paul Dondero.

Smola lived alone, and there was no evidence of forced entry or burglary, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Carlos Diaz at (714) 754-5097 or the investigative bureau at (714) 754-5205.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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