ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - Friends grieving the death of a beloved bike builder say their sorrow is mixed with anguish after the theft of several of his bikes.
Darold Wallick met Norbert Eichorn, known as 'Budman' in the bike community, a few years ago and became fast friends. On Christmas, a friend visiting Eichorn says he was feeling sick and had been discharged from a hospital ER. Three days later, Eichorn was found in his apartment dead. The cause has yet to been determined.
"Probably the nicest guy I've known in a long time," said Wallick.
Wallick says his grief was joined by outrage when he learned someone stole two bikes custom-built by Budman from outside his apartment since his death.
"It breaks my heart. It really does," said Wallick.
At the front door, inches from the cut bike lock, is a bright orange Medical Examiner's seal. Any thief would clearly have known the resident had recently passed away.
"That just eats me alive. If I saw someone on his bike, I'm not a violent person, but it just makes me angry," said Wallick.
Budman's award-winning bikes were known for their 'Rat Rod' style.
"It's a hot-rod, bettina look: unfinished. He would come up with something imaginative with what he thought a bike should look like," said Wallick.
Budman also repaired bikes for neighborhood kids, mentoring some of them.
"I think he saw a lot of himself in these kids. He wanted to share with them what he was passionate about," said Wallick.
That passion is the reason the theft of those bikes is so painful.
"They are works of art. You wouldn't tear up the Mona Lisa or repaint it. It embodied him as an artist and should be preserved," said Wallick.
The missing bikes were the ones Budman actually rode around on and took to events. If you recognize the bikes, email Tips@10news.com.