The idyllic Coromandel holiday town of Tairua has been plunged into mourning as residents reel from the alleged roadside murder of popular 20-year-old Bayden Williams.
Williams' body was discovered along the Kopu-Hikuai Rd on Wednesday night.
A 23-year-old man known to Williams has since been in court, charged with his murder.
The young dad leaves behind a 1-year old baby son as well as two sisters, a brother and devastated parents.
Many of the small town's about 1700 residents had since passed through the Gull Tairua petrol station where Williams worked to recall fond memories of him, manager Damian Fletcher said.
"We are talking - from young kids right up to our community elders - have come in and shared their thoughts about how respectful he was to everyone he met," Fletcher said.
"No one saw this coming - Bayden didn't have enemies."
Police believe Bayden died after his car and another was involved in a chase.
A 23-year-old man appeared in Hamilton District Court on Thursday, charged with
murder, and has been remanded in custody.
"The investigation into Bayden's death is ongoing," said police in a statement. "A team of investigators, with the support of specialist police teams, is working to understand the
"The investigation team has received a large amount of support from the public but is still appealing for sightings of two vehicles on Kopu-Hikuai Road on Wednesday night between 6pm and 7.30pm - a dark green 1997 Jaguar xJ6 Saloon and a silver 2003 Mazda Bounty double cab ute."
Fletcher didn't want to talk about the circumstances surrounding Williams' death, except to say he was incredulous that such a bright young man could be targeted by anyone.
"He had the softest, kindest, most respectful soul you've ever come across," Fletcher said.
"I've never seen him do anything in anger. I've seen him in situations where most people would explode, but he would just remain calm and deal with it in a mature way."
Fletcher got to know Williams shortly after he moved to Tairua five years ago.
He came from an "amazing, loving family", who were long-time locals in the close knit community, Fletcher said.
Williams' dad Lance Williams was a well-known painting contractor and volunteer firefighter, while mum Tracey was a "caring mum".
Williams had gone to school locally and was working in a Tairua takeaway shop when Fletcher moved to the town.
"I saw the qualities in the kid, and I wanted him to work for me at Gull - so I poached him when he was about 16 to 17 years old," he said.
"I quickly formed a real close friendship with him and his father and just watched him grow."
When it came to the petrol station, Williams was always ready to cover other people's shifts and help out.
"I trusted that kid like he was my own son, and he would be there at the drop of a hat for me and anyone else," Fletcher said.
Just over a year ago, Bayden also became a dad.
"His son's birth lit him up, he was going to be a great father."
"Coming from such a great family, he had inherited that love and he was going to pass that on to his kid and his boy was going to be a little Bayden."
Yet for all the changes in his life, Bayden always had time for others, Fletcher said
"He's got such a big group of friends - literally hundreds - and he always had time for them or his family or work colleagues no matter what."
The Tairua community had now banded behind the Williams family in preparation for a funeral next week.
A hangi was being prepared and local restaurants were also set to cook up nibbles.
A Givealittle page had also been set up as a way of giving back to the family and "easing some pressure of any funeral expenses and unexpected costs".
"Bayden was a gentle man with a heart of gold and he always had a smile that you could see for miles," the page said.
"His family, friends and his son meant everything to him."
For Fletcher, Williams' death had not only left a hole in his life but the whole community.
"He was a rare human being. The town is never going to be the same."