SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – An appearance in court may have helped secure justice for David Stokoe’s family.
In January 2019, David Stokoe, a local realtor, was reported missing and eventually was found murdered. His last known destination was at a Salt Lake City apartment he owned.
Stokoe was there to evict Jessica (Reese) Miller. According to Stokoe’s mother, Miller claimed to be a battered woman and needed a place to stay. That was on Christmas day and Stokoe offered her one of his apartments. But she never paid the discounted rent.
“My son goes there and there is Jessica Miller and (Manuel) Velasquez saying we have rights,” said Diane Stokoe. “They were never renters. They were squatters.”
The night he disappeared his family became worried. They filed a missing person report with the police.
“His car is gone,” said Stokoe. “No one has seen him for 24 hours. Everybody is looking for him.”
Diane Stokoe had a premonition and believed her son was still in the apartment. She went to the apartment and tried to convince the police that he was still in there and wanted to show them where. Police refused to allow her because it was still considered a crime scene. Stokoe went home.
“(Then) my son calls me and says mom they’ve found his body,” she said. “It’s in the crawl space.”
Miller along with her boyfriend, Valasquez, and a friend Diana Hernandez was arrested in connection to Stokoe’s murder.
“Velasquez shot David three times in the back and once in the groin,” said the mother.
In court documents, police claimed Velasquez admitted to the shooting. He allegedly told police “he shot the landlord at least 3-4 times.”
Hernandez maintained she didn’t know what had happened that night.
The plea deal called for time served and probation.
“I just want to apologize to the family,” she said at her sentencing. “I did not know it was a murder. They were supposed to call my friends and they asked if they could move back to my house because they got into an argument with the landlord. I said yes. I thought they were moving stuff.”
But the Stokoe family was also present and demanded stronger punishment. The judge agreed and sent her to jail for a year.
“We were against that and we showed up and told the judge on how we felt,” said Belov. “Anytime you make a stand and stand up for justice, you can make a difference.”
Now their focus is on Miller and Velasquez.
“(David) was conned by two people who had no business walking the street and an ex-con with a gun and a woman who was on probation,” said his mother. “I did not want them in a position where they could do the same thing and they could be released with minimal charges.”
Velasques will stand trial in September. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Miller later this month.
And Stokoe’s family plans to be at each of those events.
“It’s been over 3-years since this has happened and it’s had a heavy weight on our family,” said Belov.