A beloved California pastor and father of six with a heart for "outcast and marginalized people" was fatally stabbed in the neck with a drywall saw by a member of his flock Tuesday night as he offered prayers for his alleged killer.
Salinas Police Department Sgt. Christopher Lane told KSBW 8 that Pastor Herbert Valero, 68, of Victory Outreach Church in Salinas was fatally stabbed by parishioner Servando Ayala Silva, 37, outside the preacher's home on the 1500 block of Verona Court shortly before 8 p.m.
"Pastor Herb met one of his parishioners, 37-year-old Servando Ayala Silva, outside of (his house). Pastor Herb told his family he was going to be outside praying with Silva. A few minutes later, Pastor Herb ran into the house holding his neck. He stated Silva had stabbed him," Lane said.
It is unclear what the motive was for the stabbing but family members called 911 as Silva fled in a white pickup truck. The preacher died at the scene.
Silva's family called 911 at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday to report that he had returned home after the stabbing. He was taken into custody and booked into the Monterey County Jail on charges of first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and probation violation. His bail was set at $1 million.
Valero's church was a part of the Victory Outreach International movement which is "a unique ministry that reaches people in the inner cities of the world; touching lives from all walks of life."
In a statement on his church's website, Valero explained that he started Victory Outreach Church in 1989 to empower people to change their lives with God's help.
"Since 1989 I have had a single-minded purpose with a clear mission: to empower individuals to take control of their lives by placing their future in the hands of God. I have seen multitudes exchange a hopeless subsistence for a new resolve and confidence in life with a determination to help others," he said.
"God sent me here to Salinas to establish Victory Outreach Salinas Church as a place where outcast and marginalized people can feel welcome. We are a global family with members in every populated continent on Earth," he added.
Victory Outreach International said in a statement that Valero was a regional leader who was very committed to their cause.
"He served as a Regional pastor overseeing several churches in the Monterey County Region where he focused on mentoring and supporting pastors. He established Special Service Homes for men and women on Main St. in Salinas.
"Pastor Herb continued his work alongside a local group of pastors praying for the city and partnering with local city officials to develop strategies for gang intervention to end gang violence. His scope of work stretched across the city of Salinas where he participated with the Salinas Mayor's faith based gatherings. Three decades later his legacy of family and ministry has left a path for people to change their lives.
"We want to thank the community of Salinas and all his friends and family for the outpouring of their love and support during this difficult time; please continue to pray for the family. Funeral arrangements are being arranged and will be made public as soon as they are finalized."
Salinas City Council member Tony Barrera, who was close friends with Valero, remembered him as a servant leader.
"Pastor Herb was a servant of the community, he dedicated his life to God. He was determined to make somebody's life a little bit better. He was able to minister [to] broken men and women. He would go into the prisons, Chinatown, he would go everywhere," Barrera said. "Herb is not going to leave a void, he is going to leave a legacy."
Church members said Valero's home was also an open door to those who needed help, like the man who killed him.
While Valero's murder counts as the 10th homicide in Salinas this year, Barrera said he believes God simply called the preacher home.
"I don't see him as a 10th homicide. Like the scripture says, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I see it as, the good Lord was telling Herb, 'mijo it's time to come home,'" Barrera said.