A Levin man fondly known as "Maka" was once hailed a hero, but now the young father is dead - stabbed after "some minor matters" got out of hand.
Ambulance staff and police found Michael Valentine, 27, on the front lawn outside his home on an unnamed gravel road off State Highway 1, 7 kilometres north of Levin, on Friday night.
He died from a single stab wound to his chest caused by a knife.
A 31-year-old man is scheduled to appear in the Palmerston North District Court today charged with murder.
Two other men, aged 22 and 29, have been charged with assault.
Yesterday Mr Valentine's step-father of 17 years, John Timmer-Arends, said the family were reeling. "It's out of the blue, and it's beyond any of our experiences and that's what's making it so hard."
He found out about the attack "basically in real time" from someone who phoned from the scene.
"It's not a nightmare - it's much worse than that. Everything is never going to be OK again."
Mr Timmer-Arends said the family thought they had faced the worst when seven years ago Mr Valentine nearly died after he was hit by a car outside O'Malley's Bar in Levin.
The stolen car mounted the footpath and Mr Valentine pushed a female friend out of the way, taking the full impact of the car, which pinned him against a wall. He spent 14 days on life support at Palmerston North Hospital and was credited with saving the woman's life.
"The morning he was in intensive care I got a phone call from the hospital saying I had half an hour to get up there and I thought that was it, but he pulled through.
"This is a different scenario altogether ... being told somebody has gone out and killed your son - it's too hard to talk about."
Mr Timmer-Arends said the incident showed the type of person his stepson was. "Loyalty had no boundaries with Michael and it'd get him into some pickles sometimes.
"He had a wicked, cheeky smile - he used to get into the usual scraps that young boys got into, but he grew up into a really happy go-lucky kind of guy."
The dairy farm worker was loved by his four sisters and adored by his 4-year-old son, Luka, Mr Timmer-Arends said. Luka lives in Taupo with a previous partner of Mr Valentine, but they had regular contact.
The former Waiopehu College student lived with his fiancee, who he proposed to in November, and another flatmate. Arrangements were being made for his funeral, likely to be later this week.
Detective Senior Sergeant Marc Hercock said the fatal altercation occurred during an argument over "a couple of minor issues", which escalated.
Information from witnesses had led police to believe a fight had preceded the stabbing, he said.
He would not reveal the nature of the disagreement, but said financial debt did not appear to be a motive for the attack. "It's not something that I consider would cause concern for people to fight over, let alone this to occur."
Police believed they had spoken to all witnesses to the attack and there was no suggestion Mr Valentine had suffered other injuries.
Misinformation and speculation on social media had been detrimental to the investigation, he said.
He appealed for sightings of a 1997 white Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD, registration CTJ418, between the hours of 6pm and midnight on Saturday.
"We believe this vehicle has been used at some point prior to, and after the fatal stabbing."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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