A 72-year-old man, identified so far only as "Bob," was stabbed to death Friday night at a Midtown residence, allegedly by his girlfriend's 46-year-old son, Herman Van Bragt of Auburn.
Police received a call from Van Bragt around 9:10 p.m. Friday reporting a knife fight on the 2500 block of Waverley Street, near Colorado Avenue, according to Sgt. Sandra Brown.
Police arrived and found Bob, a Palo Alto resident, dead, and Van Bragt suffering from knife wounds. Van Bragt's girlfriend and his mother, Electra Van Bragt, were out to dinner during the incident, according to Brown.
"The mother doesn't know what happened," she said.
On Monday, a coroner's inquiry determined that the older man died of multiple stab wounds, Brown said. She said she could not release the victim's name.
"This is a tragic, tragic incident," she said.
Van Bragt, 46, was later charged with suspicion of homicide and suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Brown said. He spent the night at Stanford Hospital for his knife wounds but was released, she said.
Brown said Van Bragt and his girlfriend had driven from Auburn to visit his mother, known as Ellie.
Brown said she did not know if alcohol was involved or if Van Bragt suffered from mental-health problems.
"I don't have anything to say that there is any diagnosis. We just don't know," she said.
Neighbor Sanford Small said he was away Friday night but returned Saturday to find crime tape extending into his yard.
Small said Electra had two sons, had divorced some time ago and was now involved with Bob, whom he said he liked very much.
Van Bragt, known as "Tim," moved to Auburn to live with his father, a glassblower who recently died, Small said.
"He and his dad were pretty close."
When Van Bragt was younger, he liked to perform magic tricks, Small said. He said he did not know Van Bragt's occupation.
Small said Van Bragt and Bob knew each other; Ellie Van Bragt and Bob had been together for at least five years, he said.
Small said he had never known Bob to be a heavy drinker.
The incident did not particularly surprise Small.
"Not much surprises me anymore. I don't think I ever would have thought Tim (Van Bragt) could lose his temper to that extent. It's funny what you don't know about people."
He called Ellie Van Bragt "a real giving lady."
Ellie and Bob often visited Avenidas, the Palo Alto senior center, he said.
Neighbors Jerry and Lindsay Belden said they didn't hear a fight and only learned of the incident when the police arrived.
They said Ellie Van Bragt was a "night owl" and that Bob kept to himself.
The Waverley Street Van Bragt house is one-story and yellow, with a faded American flag and a dusty front lawn broken by patches of grass. Inside a small gate, a path to the door is lined by tarp-covered pots, papers, books, cans, clothes and other items. In the little-used driveway sits a rusting swing-set and two tricycles.