A Palo Alto man who lived at the Opportunity Center was found dead in his room, according to a spokesperson for InnVision Shelter Network, which runs the the adjacent Opportunity Services Center on 33 Encina Avenue.
Lonnie Gullette, 63, was found dead in his room on Friday, Nov. 22, and police were called at 11:58 a.m., Officer Sean Downey said. Police believe he died between Nov. 5 and Nov. 22, Nov. 5 being the last confirmed date that someone saw him. The time frame is outside of when Gullette last saw a doctor, Downey said.
Lorin Krogh, a close friend, said he last saw Gullette between two days and a week ago. Gullette had emphysema, he said.
Gullette had not been seen by staff for about two days at the next-door drop-in center, which provides daily services to homeless persons, said Mila Zelkha, director of strategic relations for InnVision Shelter Network. She could not confirm who found Gullette.
"It's a loss of life and it's a very sad thing," she said. "Tenants have rights, and they are not required to have case managers knocking on the door."
Opportunity Center housing is managed by Charities Housing Development Corporation. Zelkha referred further information about Gullette's death to Vanessa Cooper, real estate services director at the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County. Cooper did not return requests for comment.
Gullette, who formerly lived in Carmichael, Calif., had health issues, he told the Weekly earlier this year. He had been under strain since his girlfriend, Vivian "Venus" Sarmago, 60, was allegedly punched and kicked at least 20 times by a drunken man while she was talking on her cell phone in the hallway outside her apartment on July 19.
Sarmago was paralyzed from the attack and remains in a long-term-care facility. Gullette made daily trips to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, taking the bus in his wheelchair.
He was crying about Sarmago's condition the last time Krogh saw him, he said.
"He said, 'I just don't know what to do. She's never going to be the same,'" Krogh recalled.
Gullette is thought to have died from natural causes, and there is no evidence of foul play, Downey said. Police are not investigating the case unless the Santa Clara County Coroner finds a suspicious cause of death, he said.
Gullette had been hospitalized at least two times since July due to his emphysema, Krogh said. He was a contractor prior to becoming homeless.
He hired Krogh to work on the Downtown Streets Team and was his boss there about seven years ago, he said. Gullette was a "lone wolf" who stayed out of the drama that often accompanies life at the Opportunity Center among "a lot of wounded souls," Krogh said.
Gullette was best known around the Opportunity Center for tumbling down a San Fraqncisquito Creek embankment in April, Krogh said. Palo Alto firefighters rescued him near the 500 block of Palo Alto Avenue after he became entangled in vines and brush.
He was suspended 10 to 15 feet above the creek and could not extricate himself, firefighters said at the time. His motorized wheelchair was found nearby. He was not injured.
The Santa Clara County Coroner's office has not officially confirmed Gullette's identity.