Suicide Victim Had Brushes with Fame, Left Mark on Culinary World

David Epps, 49, hanged himself Wednesday, behind Sport Chalet in Laguna Niguel, according to officials. His family says he was a talented chef, fisherman and paratrooper for the U.S. Army.

While the world may know him as the man who made headlines for this week, David Epps’s family will remember him as a talented chef for the someone who liked to fish, auditioned for the TV show, "Boston Legal" and who was a proud paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

Investigators believe, Epps, 49, The first deputy on the scene attempted CPR, as did paramedics, but Epps was declared dead at the scene, officials said.

His family is mourning the loss of David, a son, brother and fiancé, but they decided to share their memories of him with Patch despite their pain.

“He was such a very talented chef,” said his mother Gerri, 73, who resides in Northern California. “We would always exchange recipes, but he was a much better cook than me. As a young boy, he loved to be in the kitchen. He also enjoyed making Indian-style jewelry and would sell it at various places.”

He had such a passion for cooking, that David attended a culinary arts school in his native New York, where he later earned a degree. As a result of his accomplishments in cooking school, he went on to short-lived career in culinary arts working at several hotels and restaurants.

“He worked at the Ritz for a while as well as performed a private meal for William Shatner and even cooked for the 'Teflon Don,' John Gotti at one time,” said Gerri, who worked in the banking field. “He enjoyed dabbling in all kinds of cuisine, but he didn’t really have a favorite dish.”

Her son was also a chef at a casino in Bishop, Calif. and even spent some time in the test kitchens of Heinz, whipping up special creations, she said.

“He also created a sauce that was used at the fast-food chain Johnny Rockets, for quite a while that they really liked,” she said.

In addition to his culinary kudos, Gerri said David served in the U.S. Army from 1981-1983, shortly after graduating from high school in New York as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

But after a short time in the service, he decided that he wanted to go back into the food industry and moved to Southern California, Gerri said. By this time, she and David’s father, Joseph, were divorced. Gerri said even though they split, they had decided years before, not to break up the family.

“We said just because we divorced, there was no reason that we still couldn't be parents,” she said. “We didn’t want to split the family up, or have the kids have to decide where they wanted to go to spend the holidays."

When David moved to Southern California after volunteering in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina victims, he moved in with his mother.

“He lived with me for a while, and he would drive my van down to the Ritz in Dana Point,” she said. “He loved that job.”

David held other various jobs within the food industry, but by the early 2000s, he was on a different path, Gerri said.

“He was homeless at one point, but that was a long time ago,” she said. “Once he met his girlfriend, Cindy, things changed. She really looked out for him and they promised one another that they would be there for each other—always. My son was very bright, and very innovative. He once recorded bird sounds in the backyard by setting up microphones in birdhouses. He’d play them for me through his computer.”

His father, Joseph, now 74, is a retired architect living in Virginia.

“He was a heck of a chef. he cooked for 3,000 people a day when he left to volunteer during Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “He always loved to go fishing and we’d go quite a bit.”

In fact, the last time that Joseph saw his son was on a fishing trip in 2011 at Gerri’s Northern California home.

“He was an extraordinary person who was compassionate and people loved him," he said. “I talked to him between five and six times a week; we were close. He was doing several odd jobs recently including helping out with a window washing company. I am hoping that he is now resting in peace.”

Epps also leaves behind two sisters, Rev. Karen Epps, a minister in Northern California, and Debbie Manole, who lives in Pennsylvania.

Karen has her own fond memories of her brother and said she has read many comments on other

“The subject of homelessness/sign-flying, is emotionally charged with opinions running a wide spectrum,” she said. “When all is said and done, I believe, the most important thing is that each person in their own way has tried their very best. I know this holds true for Dave. I'll miss him always.”

She recalled the very first job her brother had was when he was a mere 13-years-old.

“He worked at the local fish market, where I believe his love of food and cooking began. He was an accomplished chef, and presentation was his big thing. He loved to serve a 'beautiful plate,'" she recalled. "As kids, we were always climbing trees, and my dad used to say he had three monkeys instead of three children. My brother was an outdoor kind of guy who loved being in nature. He had a great sense of humor and the same quirky smile since childhood.” 

The family is planning several tributes and memorials in the weeks to come for David. Ultimately their son and brother will be cremated, and his ashes will be scattered someplace in Virginia, said Joseph.

Tom Berney August 07, 2012 at 05:53 AM
Well Melody I see you had a Change of heart and deleted your post, I'm actually sorry you did that I was expecting more anger at the suffering people on the streets.
Mel B. August 11, 2012 at 08:28 AM
I read all the past comments from the initial article....what a hateful judgmental community. Unfortunate the family had to subject themselves to defend David after his death because of such ignorance. My heart goes out to the family and I pray David may now rest in peace.
Kait Aud August 13, 2012 at 06:17 PM
This is such a sad story. My prayers go out to Davids family.I am currently involved with a local organization, My Broken Palace,that is here to help people dealing with addiction, abuse, depression or having thoughts of suicide. Our website, MyBrokenPalace .Com has help lines, of people who want to listen and who want to help. "No one lonely alone"
Ms. Gerri Epps August 16, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Dear Mel B. Thank you so very much for your words of kindness regarding my son, David. Gerri Epps
Deborah A. Adams, DVM August 23, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I recently lost one of my best friends to suicide. She was a veterinarian, she placed a catheter and hooked herself up to a bag of fluids that she had injected euthanasia solution into. She was one of the most incredible people and I am so very fortunate to have spent some of the finest moments of my life with her. Yes, suicide can happen to ANYONE.


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