The Justice Files: Murder or suicide?

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Ina Rodriguez won’t let her son’s death be forgotten.

She wants the investigation of her son’s death re-opened. 

It all hinges on the state medical examiner who originally determined he died of a suicide. But in 2015, another finding by the medical examiner made Rodriguez wonder if he really committed suicide or if he was murdered.

 “I miss him terribly,” she said. “Everyday I miss him.  It’s been really hard to come back here over and over.”

Rodriguez lives in South Dakota but is back in Salt Lake City taking care of another son. But it was during this stay that she spoke to ABC4 News about Cody Rodriguez’ death in 2008.  

Salt Lake police called it a suicide based on their investigation and the findings by the state medical examiner.

“No way,” she said. “They wanted me to believe that he took his own life. But I never did.”

Over the next seven years, she kept questioning whether her son committed suicide. In 2015 she got a letter from the medical examiner. The letter said there was “no evidence of soot, gunpowder stippling or other visible residues of weapon discharge was seen on the hands of (Rodriguez).”

Jason Jensen, a private investigator, has been looking into the case on behalf of the Rodriguez family.  

“O,  I think it changes the face of everything,” Jensen said.  “That would be inconsistent. There is no evidence that he shot himself in other words.”

Jensen reviewed the crime scene pictures from the Salt Lake City Police Department.  He said pictures show a trail of blood coming from another apartment.

He also said the blood spatter found on the roommate who found Rodriguez raises questions. 

“Someone washed off the gun,” he told ABC4 News.  

He said the photos revealed that the blood pattern on the gun was diluted with water.

“(It’s) clear evidence someone tried to clean off the gun,”  Jensen said.

But Sgt. Brandon Shearer, a spokesman for Salt Lake City Police Department said they’ve conducted several investigations with the same conclusion: it was a suicide.

He said three detectives conducted separate investigations beginning in 2010. There was an independent review conducted by investigators with the district attorney’s office.  Police said they also confirmed their findings.

In a letter to the family, District Attorney Sim Gill told them in 2011 that “he couldn’t find fault with the police investigation.”

Police also said there was another investigation after the 2015 medical examiner letter about gun residue and again the findings pointed to a suicide.

“You have to look at the totality of the investigation, not just items,” said Sgt. Shearer.

Police said if there is new information or if the medical examiner reaches a different conclusion they will re-open the case.

Rodriguez said she still doesn’t accept the findings by police.

“I am not going to give up,” she said. “That was my baby and he’s still my baby and I love him so much and I do miss him.”

Jensen said he received a letter from the state medical examiner who planned to bring together a team to re-exam the previous findings of the autopsy.

Jensen said that was nearly 15-months ago and hasn’t heard from the medical examiner. Rodriguez claimed in December, the medical examiner told her he won’t be doing any further review.

Attempts to reach the medical examiner were unsuccessful.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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