The tight-knit Laguna Beach community is in a state of shock.
Police say Nicholson may have been killed in his sleep.
"The cause of death is blunt force trauma, meaning he was struck with something in head in the upper body area," said Laguna Beach Police Lt. Jason Kravetz.
Friends say it was not like the hard-working catering manager at the Hotel Laguna to miss an appointment and then a staff meeting.
The female co-worker arrived to find an open patio door.
"He had a sliding glass door in the living room area. So the friend of his that came over and found him entered through that door and immediately upon entering is when she saw his body on the couch," described Kravetz.
Flowers sit next to the yellow crime scene tape bordering Nicholson's residence.
It is the first murder in seven years in the tightly knit community of Laguna Beach.
"I was shocked. I saw the woman who found him, and she was like she had seen something horrible," said Laguna Beach resident Beth Pinney.
Police say it's not clear if Nicholson left his door unlocked, or if the suspect or suspects broke in. So far, no weapon has been found, and the motive is also unclear.
"We haven't turned up anyone that had a vendetta with Damon or any enemies," said Kravetz.
Police are now interviewing co-workers and friends to learn more about Nicholson's past. He worked at Hotel Laguna for 15 years, helping cater countless weddings and holiday parties in Orange County.
"Very likeable guy, very meticulous when it came to the organization of our activities down there, and a great person for the position he had as a catering manager working with the public," described Kravetz.