By Betty Yu

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — From local legend to local criminal?

A Santa Cruz surfing icon admits to a very serious crime.

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He once made his living cheating death, riding monster waves on a surfboard.

Now, he’s escaped a prison sentence for murder.

The man accused of murder over the weekend, is also known in this community to sleep along the seawall.

But decades ago, he was known as a surfing legend.

Kevin Reed was the first to conquer aerials in the surfing world back in the 1970s.

One of his maneuvers landed him on the cover of surfing magazine in 1975.

And Kevin Reed was in a documentary, The Westsiders, a few years ago.

But this past weekend, the 58-year-old ended up behind bars, arrested for homicide for killing another homeless man. He had admitted to choking the victim to investigators.

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Joyce Blaschke with the Santa Cruz police said, “…these two individuals were known to each other. This altercation was very specific to the two of them.”

But on Tuesday, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office says autopsy findings and careful review of evidence determined that there is not enough evidence to charge Kevin Reed, who is now known as Kevin Callahan.

He’s out of jail now.

Bob Pearson, a pro-surfer and the owner of Arrow Surf & Sport, said “What I do know is Kevin is not an aggressive personality, he wouldn’t go looking for a fight.”

Pearson calls Kevin is friend. The two surfed around the world together for years.

“Who’s the best, I’d have to put Kevin. Kevin was the first guy to do air – he did it five years before anyone else. What he did was phenomenal,” Pearson said.

He says his friend fell onto hard times in the last three to five years. And Kevin leaned on alcohol to get through it.

Just two weeks ago, Pearson visited him, and brought him one of Kevin’s old boards, that one of his fans had given to Pearson.

“He was tearful about seeing his board, he grabbed it, he hugged it, took a few photos with him and my daughter and the other people around and he was stoked, then I went and bought him a bunch of tacos with his friends and it was a good day,” Pearson said.

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Pearson says his non-profit, the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society is going to discuss with its members how they can help Kevin get back on his feet and find a place to live.