Darrell MacKenzie was most at home operating heavy equipment, where he was free to practice as a “master of dirt work.”
Those who knew him best said the 49-year-old was unassuming and shied from the spotlight, preferring a couple of friends over a large crowd — meaning that he may not have been completely comfortable with the amount of attention that his death has received in the days following an altercation in a McGregor parking lot.
But news that he was stabbed to death early Sunday morning outside Doc’s On Main Steakhouse and Saloon spread quickly, spawning prayer services and candlelight vigils, T-shirts, messages of “RIP Darrell” on several business marquees, and a makeshift memorial.
Relatives said they don’t know what to believe about what happened in the parking lot of Doc’s On Main that night.
They’ve heard several different versions of the story in the days following his death.
“We’d just like to know the truth,” said Scott MacKenzie, Darrell MacKenzie’s brother. “Not knowing doesn’t change anything; he’s still not here. But it would help us understand.”
McGregor police released limited information about the case earlier this week, identifying 33-year-old Augustine Jimenez Guerrero as the man charged with murder in MacKenzie’s slaying.
Guerrero was arrested shortly after police found MacKenzie with stab wounds in Doc’s parking lot around 12:10 a.m. Sunday.
Soon after arriving at the scene, officers were notified that Guerrero and a woman who appeared to be injured were in the parking lot of the police department, about four blocks away from the bar, officials said.
The woman was identified as 32-year-old Paula Rios, who suffered stab wounds and was taken by helicopter to Scott & White Hospital in Temple.
She was released from their care earlier this week, according to a hospital spokesman.
Guerrero was arrested after he was identified as a suspect in MacKenzie’s stabbing, authorities said.
Booked into the McLennan County Jail under the name Augustine Cantu Jimenez, he was being held Friday afternoon under a $1 million bond.
No additional information about the case was available for public release Friday, said McGregor Police Chief Steve Foster.
Guerrero’s attorney, Sam Martinez, declined comment on behalf of his client this week, saying the matter was still under investigation.
‘A terrible time’
MacKenzie’s family members said they did not know Guerrero, but thought they knew some of his relatives.
“It’s a terrible time . . . They’re dealing with that loss as much as we are,” said Scott MacKenzie. “It’s all the same loss. It’s a tragic deal.”
Roy and Judy MacKenzie, Darrell’s parents, described him in the hours before his visitation Thursday as a much-loved son.
They hope he will be remembered for his passion for his work, his smile and laugh that came from his belly, not his throat, his mother said.
“Anytime he had bad luck, he just laughed it off and said, ‘That’s life,’ ” said Scott MacKenzie.
Several friends and family members said MacKenzie was an “artist” with large machinery, able to create and demolish alike with grace.
MacKenzie was first trained in operating heavy equipment during a six-year stint in the U.S. Navy.
He later used those skills for a variety of jobs, including demolition, excavation and creating motocross tracks, his family said. He also rode dirt bikes and motorcycles himself.
Several hours before MacKenzie’s funeral Friday, Jarred Smith, who described himself as a colleague and longtime friend of MacKenzie’s, recalled MacKenzie fixing his dirt bike for free, refusing to take any money for the job.
Smith said he, too, had heard a number of different stories about that night, but declined to speculate which of them may be true.
“I know whatever happened out there, it wasn’t worth none of this,” he said. “Nothing should be bad enough to take someone’s life.”