THOUSAND OAKS — A Thousand Oaks man was fatally stabbed Sunday during what neighbors and law enforcement officials said was a fight between him and the former husband of his girlfriend.
The man, David Smith, 34, was pronounced dead at Los Robles Regional Medical Center. The cause of death was a stab wound to the chest, according to the Ventura County coroner's office.
Court records and interviews with neighbors indicate the fight was preceded by years of fear, violence and ill will among the three adults.
"It was a volatile situation," said neighbor Bob Bradley, who said he has distanced himself from the household in recent years. "It was not if something like this was going to happen. It was more like when."
The woman's next-door neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the fight occurred when Ram Roland Gonzales, 41, returned his two elementary-school-age sons to his ex-wife's one-story home on Lear Court about 5 p.m. Police said they would not release the woman's name because she is considered a victim of domestic violence. She could not be reached for comment Monday.
After the stabbing, Gonzales ran to the next-door neighbor's house and told her to call 911, then grabbed his sons and drove away, neighbors said. Deputies later arrested Gonzales at the Westlake Inn in Westlake Village on suspicion of murder. Investigators found a knife they believe was used in the stabbing in a trash can at the hotel, said sheriff's Senior Deputy Harold Hanley.
It was unclear Monday what triggered, or who started, the fight between the two men. The next-door neighbor said Smith and his girlfriend had spent the afternoon together drinking and had themselves gotten into a violent fight, which had left the woman with some injuries that her ex-husband may have noticed when he went to the house.
Hanley confirmed a fight had taken place between Smith and the woman earlier in the day. He said deputies had been to the house before for domestic-violence calls, although he could not say how many times.
Gonzales was not injured, authorities said. The two boys appeared unharmed and were in the custody of their mother Monday, Hanley said.
Neighbors say fighting at the house has been overheard for years, first between the woman and Gonzales, and later between the woman and Smith.
Court records show the woman filed a restraining order against Gonzales in 1994, when they were still married.
Gonzales filed for divorce in 1995, according to records. Months later, records show, Smith sought a restraining order against Gonzales. Smith once lived at the house but had moved out a few months ago, the next-door neighbor said.
The woman talked extensively Sunday night with police, but was too upset to convey many of the details to the neighbor.
"She was so distraught last night, you couldn't get a lot out of her," the neighbor said.
Broken glass and what appeared to be dried blood dotted the walkway to the home on Monday.
Gonzales was being held at Ventura County Jail on $500,000 bail, authorities said.
Times staff writer Tracy Wilson contributed to this story.