Paso Robles shooting victim was a friendly commercial fisherman, friends say

Benjamin Terra was working on Nicole Luxor’s ranch, Terra’s father said.
Benjamin Terra was working on Nicole Luxor’s ranch, Terra’s father said.

As a self-described clairvoyant prepares to enter court on a premeditated murder charge, friends of commercial fisherman and environmental activist Benjamin Terra are still wondering why he was fatally shot last weekend.

“It just didn’t make sense,” said Paul Irving of Los Osos. “You wonder why anybody would want to harm this gentle creature.”

Nicole Honait Luxor, 61, of Paso Robles will appear Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, charged with one count of premeditated murder and five counts of attempted murder on peace officers.

Although the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office formally filed charges against Luxor on Tuesday, a probable-cause statement filed with the complaint does little to explain a possible motive.

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the 4200 block of Old Nacimiento Lake Road in Paso Robles around 3 p.m. Saturday, according to the document. The reporting party advised that there was possibly a deceased person at the property.

Once deputies arrived, Luxor allegedly barricaded herself in the residence, leading to a dangerous nine-hour standoff, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Members of the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Detail gained emergency entry, after which they found the body of Terra, 34. When they attempted to contact Luxor, according to the statement, Luxor fired on them. One round possibly came within feet of a sniper deployment.

“In total, Luxor made at least 39 attempts of homicide against the peace officers/members of the Special Enforcement Detail,” according to the report. It does not include any information about Terra’s death.

Terra was doing work on Luxor’s ranch, said the victim’s father, Derel Terra.

Derel Terra said he didn’t want to discuss what he knows about the case for fear of hampering the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, several of his son’s friends posted memories on Ben Terra’s Facebook page, where the musician went by a play on words — Beenjamon (been jammin’). Friends remembered him as a positive force known for frequent smiles.

“That was Ben,” his father said. “He had lots of friends. Ben was a real good people person.”

Benjamin Terra grew up in Morro Bay, where his father taught him how to surf and fish.

“He started commercial fishing when he was 12 years old,” Derel Terra said.

The family’s ties to the fishing industry can be traced to the beginning of the 20th century, when Derel Terra’s maternal grandfather shipped with the Alaska Packers Association. Benjamin Terra had his own fishing boat, which he used to put himself through college, his father said. Benjamin Terra earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and world languages from Cal State Monterey Bay. As part of his studies, he spent three months living in the northern mountains of Nicaragua, where he learned about organic, small-scale coffee production. While there, he also headed a small stove-building project in the community.

In 2007, he returned to Nicaragua and lived there for a year and a half.

Terra’s father said his son liked traveling and had planned to take a trip with him and Terra’s stepmother, Jill, in March.

“We had planned to go to Indonesia, surfing,” Derel Terra said.

Benjamin Terra considered himself an environmental fisherman, said Aaron Ochs, who knew him through Citizens Opposing Acoustic Seismic Testing, which protested PG&E’s plans to conduct seismic testing off the coast.

“He contributed a lot to our organization and brought a lot of levity to a serious topic,” Ochs said.

Terra sometimes performed piano at the group’s meetings, Ochs said.

“He was known for being a happy-go-lucky individual,” Ochs said.

Irving, a friend of Benjamin Terra, first met Terra through Save Our Seas Music Festival, an awareness event organized in opposition to seismic testing. Terra also frequently attended concerts by Irving’s Afro-Carribbean band, Zongo All-Stars.

“He was really one of the sweetest guys I know,” Irving said. “He seemed like he really enjoyed life.”

A Morro Bay High School graduate, Benjamin Terra was also interested in diving and yoga.

“He was on the verge of a lot of good things in his life,” said Atascadero resident Mike Jones, who befriended him about 15 years ago.

When he heard that Benjamin Terra had been killed, Jones said, he quickly texted his friend, not convinced it was the same Benjamin Terra, but he received no response.

While many posted memories of happier times on Facebook, there was little written about the shooting. Jones said he was shocked when he saw the 61-year-old defendant’s photo. He had read that Luxor claimed to be a clairvoyant who offered readings for a fee. Luxor also bred horses and ran a bed-and-breakfast.

“I just can’t believe it, looking at that picture, thinking, ‘You killed Ben?’ ” Jones said.

Terra was a shy, passive person, Jones said, slight in stature but quick with a smile. “He wasn’t like some big macho fellow,” he said. “He was just a real mellow dude.”

A memorial is being planned for Nov. 29 at Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in Morro Bay.

Derel Terra said he is devastated by his son’s death. “My main feeling is loss.”

Patrick S. Pemberton: 805-781-7903, @ppemberton