Remembering Alyx Herrmann: 'Her spirit was just very strong'

"She was fearless," her brother Eric said this week. "She would uplift everyone around her."

Remembering Alyx Herrmann: 'Her spirit was just very strong'
Alyx Herrmann had "a strong connection to the sea, to her daughter, and to the many friends who loved her." Courtesy

Family and friends of Alyx Herrmann came together in Santa Cruz in recent days for a vigil to remember her.

Herrmann, a 61-year-old woman who split most of her time between Capitola and El Cerrito and worked for a time in Berkeley, went missing in early December.

She is now presumed dead following the recovery of human remains in a Berkeley Hills park last week.

Authorities in Santa Cruz County, where Herrmann bought a house about a decade ago, have charged her longtime boyfriend with her murder.

But that was not the focus for Herrmann's loved ones Sunday evening when more than 100 people gathered at the Santa Cruz Harbor to honor her memory.

"The support we felt was just amazing," said Eric Herrmann, Alyx's younger brother. He attended the vigil along with Alyx's's 30-year-old daughter, Dorothy Scheurer. "I was just blown away."

Alyx — pronounced "Aleex" — was a beloved, active member of Outrigger Santa Cruz, the paddling and canoe racing nonprofit that organized the candlelight vigil.

"Our hearts are heavy with the loss of our sister," the group wrote on Facebook before the memorial. "While we wait for a larger event to celebrate her life and her love of the ocean, we are holding a small intimate vigil. We invite all who knew Alyx to join us as we share our grief, love, and memories of our beautiful butterfly."

As a member of the canoe club, Alyx attended practice with teammates multiple times a week. She also traveled the world with Outrigger for racing competitions, including one in Tahiti some years ago.

"She's always loved being outdoors and environmental causes," her brother Eric said Monday. "With canoeing, you get to combine exercise, community and the Hawaiian aspect all in one. She just fell into it and loved it."

Anela Joy Gutierrez, who runs the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society, said she met Herrmann last April during the group's Voyaging Camp in Maui. Herrmann also volunteered with the group in October.

In addition to Outrigger, Herrmann was a member of Hana Canoe Club, Gutierrez said.

"Although she lived and paddled in Santa Cruz, she came to Maui often," she added.

"I am grateful to have been in her presence and have gotten to know her," said Gutierrez. "All of us at Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society are heartbroken and devastated at the news of her passing. We send our deepest aloha to her ohana (family) and closest friends."

College at 16, then a PhD in neuroscience

Alyx Herrmann was "an adventurous athlete even at 61," one friend said. Courtesy

In addition to her devotion to competitive ocean outrigger racing, Herrmann also had other deep passions.

"She attended Pomona College at 16 years old, got a BS from from Caltech (in an era when there were very few women), had a PhD in neuroscience, was a professor at University of Lausanne, had a black belt in tae kwon do, spoke multiple languages, [and] was a lifelong musician, pescatarian, and soft-spoken lover of life," one friend wrote, also noting that Alyx was "an adventurous athlete even at 61" and had "a strong connection to the sea, to her daughter, and to the many friends who loved her."

Alyx came from a close-knit family and was the oldest of three siblings, with two younger brothers close behind her: Conrad is 57 and Eric is 58.

A gifted software engineer, Alyx worked in technology for her entire career, brother Eric said.

"Her specialty was digital signal processing, which is a mouthful," he said.

Her talent led to jobs with a video game company, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Four Twenty Seven, a climate change risk-modeling company in Berkeley that was later acquired by global financial firm Moody's.

Emilie Mazzacurati hired Alyx at Four Twenty Seven, when Mazzacurati was its CEO. She said she had been "blown away by her resume."

Mazzacurati described Alyx as very sweet and very quiet, not to mention whip-smart, insightful and generous with her time.

"Her colleagues really loved her," she said. "She cared tremendously about the ocean and the environment. I think it really also says something that she chose to put her skills to work to help a little climate startup from Berkeley. That's telling about where her heart was."

She loved family, the outdoors and making music

In addition to her commitment to math and technology, Alyx (neé Alice, later Alix), "did a lot of outdoors things," including hiking and running. She also "loved all things Hawaii, where my mom’s family is from and my dad still lives," her brother Eric said.

Their parents retired to Hawaii, where their mother died two years ago. The family still owns a home in Richmond, where Alyx's daughter lives.

Eric described Alyx's home in Capitola as "filled with instruments of all kinds." His sister played bass as well as guitar in amateur bands and with friends.

"She gets that from our mother," he said, who was a fixture at the weekly Irish music sessions that have long been held at The Starry Plough in South Berkeley. "My mom's been doing that her entire life. Growing up, all of us got dragged to folk music festivals. My sister picked up on that, and I did too."

Friends have described Alyx as vibrant, always smiling, "even with extreme challenges," Eric said.

Faced with two arduous canoe races in a single day, she would be the one to make light of the fact that the team had "another 26-mile paddle through a storm" coming up.

"She was fearless," he said. "Everyone talks about how she would uplift everyone around her. Her spirit was just very strong."

But she also had an unassuming nature, demonstrating her expertise through action rather than words.

"She didn't feel the need to talk about herself," her brother said. "Ultimately, she wanted to deal with things by herself. And that is reflected in what actually ended up happening."

What happened to Alyx Herrmann?

Eric said he could not share much about what led to his sister's death due to the ongoing criminal case, in which he might one day testify.

"We all wish she had reached out and talked to more people about what was going on," he said. "Family and friends are crushed and still in shock and disbelief at what happened."

Alyx was last seen Sunday, Dec. 3, at a recreational paddling event in Santa Cruz. Then she didn't show up for work the next week, which was unlike her.

"At that point, we were still hoping that, oh, she's just decided to go out camping or something," Eric said. "You never expect things like this."

But when Alyx failed to get on a plane to Hawaii on Tuesday, Dec. 12, to visit her father for the holidays, her family began to fear the worst.

They called police shortly after 2 p.m. that day to request a welfare check.

Police searched Alyx's Capitola home for leads and soon found her red Toyota Highlander parked outside the El Cerrito home of her boyfriend of five years, 54-year-old Theobald (Theo) Lengyel.

"Based on his actions, Theo Lengyel is a person of interest in Alice Herrmann’s disappearance and has not cooperated with the police investigation," the El Cerrito Police Department (ECPD) wrote on Dec. 16 when it announced the "missing person/homicide investigation."

Lengyel, police said, had driven to Portland, Oregon, after Herrmann’s disappearance and detectives from Capitola, Portland and El Cerrito were "collaborating to locate information and evidence relating to Alice’s disappearance," ECPD wrote in the release.

ECPD said authorities had taken custody of Lengyel's Ford pickup truck as well as Herrmann’s Toyota as part of the investigation.

And they seemed to be zeroing in: El Cerrito police asked residents "who spend time in regional parks and open spaces to be on the lookout for anything suspicious that might lead to Alice’s whereabouts."

Meanwhile, as the days crept by, family and friends posted missing person fliers online and tried to hope for the best.

Human remains recovered in Berkeley's Tilden park

Police announced Theobald Lengyel's arrest Jan. 2, 2024. Capitola PD

On Dec. 26, the Capitola Police Department announced that Alyx Herrmann was "still missing and her whereabouts are unknown."

Police wrote that they had come to believe that she may have been the victim of a homicide "based on evidence located during the investigation."

They provided no further details about the evidence they'd found and have not said how Herrmann may have died.

As the investigation progressed, however, "it became clear that foul play was involved," Capitola police said Jan. 2 when they announced Lengyel's arrest.

After gathering evidence, conducting interviews and sharing information among law enforcement agencies "to piece together the circumstances" of Herrmann's disappearance, detectives recovered human remains "in a wooded area" at Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley Hills.

Authorities declined to say much about where in the park the remains were found.

But a reader told The Scanner that Wildcat Canyon Road was closed at South Park Drive on Jan. 2 and that police there identified the area as a crime scene.

The next day, the Santa Cruz DA's office charged Lengyel with murder, listing the date of the homicide as Dec. 5, according to court records online.

Lengyel was also charged at the same time with felony burglary on Dec. 30 and auto theft on Dec. 31, according to court records.

Lengyel, who has been assigned two public defenders, was scheduled for arraignment Jan. 4. It didn't happen.

Theobald Lengyel. Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office

Family members and a dozen or so members of Outrigger Santa Cruz showed up for the arraignment, but the hearing was postponed until Jan. 16, reportedly so Lengyel's attorneys could work out some logistics.

He remains in custody in Santa Cruz County where he is being held without bail, according to booking records online.

Identification of the Tilden remains is now pending DNA confirmation from the Contra County Coroner’s Office, Capitola police said.

Records show Theo Lengyel's criminal history

Most of the media attention in the case to date has focused on Theobald Lengyel due to his status as a minor celebrity in the music world.

Decades ago, he was a member of the experimental rock band Mr. Bungle, along with front man Mike Patton of Faith No More fame. Lengyel left Mr. Bungle in the 90s due to "creative differences," according to a band bio.

Lengyel grew up in Eureka and went to Humboldt State University before attending Cornell University and getting a BA in physics, according to his LinkedIn page. He later worked as a computer programmer.

Lengyel, who also uses the name Mylo Stone, police say, is no stranger to the criminal justice system.

According to public records, he has an active felony case in Santa Clara County in connection with an arrest in Campbell last July related to allegations of animal cruelty, public intoxication and resisting arrest.

(Further details were not immediately available but The Scanner is seeking to learn more.)

Lengyel also has back-to-back arrests listed in Capitola and Santa Cruz County in 2019 in connection with battery and public intoxication.

But his troubles didn't start there.

On Oct. 14, 2017, Lengyel ran into trouble with the law, which resulted in eight misdemeanor charges, including carrying a loaded, concealed firearm in a vehicle, driving under the influence and alcohol-related reckless driving.

Most of that case was ultimately dismissed in exchange for a no-contest plea to alcohol-related reckless driving.

But whatever happened that day may have caused a major rupture in Lengyel's personal life.

Learn more about domestic violence on the California Department of Public Health website.

Two days later, on Oct. 16, 2017, Lengyel's wife at the time, with whom he had minor children, filed for divorce and domestic violence protection, according to Contra Costa County court records.

The woman obtained DV restraining orders against Lengyel in 2017 and sought to renew them in 2020, according to court records.

The two were still having hearings related to the divorce in 2023, court records show, including a trial date that was set for October and then vacated.

In the five years since Lengyel and Herrmann began dating, a relative said there had been "some incidents that raised questions" between them. But, they added, nothing ever suggested a fatal outcome.

If you are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224.

What happens next in the Alyx Herrmann murder case?

Alyx Herrmann with her father. Courtesy

As of this week, Eric Herrmann said his family is still trying to sort out what it would like to happen in the case.

"We are told that the family has some say in this, with Marsy's Law," he said. "We may have some influence but we'll see. And that's complicated."

He said the family wants to find a way to honor what Alyx would have wanted, in part by talking to her friends and coworkers to learn more about her state of mind "and what brought her to this place."

"Because it doesn't make sense," Eric said. "And yet, knowing what I know now, after having put a bunch of pieces together and talking to a bunch of people, it doesn't make sense but it does make sense. It is a story that has happened many times."

Eric said he and his brother are trying to look at the situation with compassion and empathy.

"We're still processing the whole thing. It's not as simple as — we want to see justice done," he said. "Even in spite of what's happened, we see that somebody can do something horrible but they're still a person."

"We don't know all the evidence that the police have," he added.

Eric and Alyx Herrmann in Hawaii several years ago. Courtesy

Herrmann also pointed out that most of the family's attention over the past five weeks has simply been on finding Alyx, "so that we could start grieving and begin the process of everything else we have to do."

"We've done that," he said, of finding her. "Now the criminal justice system is going to do what it does. We have to learn a lot about what that means."

Herrmann said there will likely be more events coming up where friends and loved ones will be able to honor Alyx.

The family hopes to have a "paddle out" — a floating memorial in the water with Outrigger Santa Cruz — and may also hold a Bay Area vigil, possibly in Berkeley.

"And then, most likely, we will be returning Alyx to Hana," he said, in Hawaii. "We spread my mom's ashes there in Hana Bay a year and a half ago."

Police ask anyone with information about the case to email Capitola Police Detective Zack Currier at

The family of Alice "Alyx" Kamakaokalani Herrmann has asked those who would like to honor her memory to consider making a donation to the causes that were closest to her heart.

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