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Act of kindness may have led to Utah real estate agent's death, co-worker says

SANDY — An act of kindness may have ultimately led to the death of South Jordan real estate agent David Stokoe, according to the president of a real estate company who disputes the suspected gunman's version of events.

"Dave, being Dave, had been the nice guy and really tried to help, and then started to feel like he was getting taken advantage of," said Britt Sharp, president of Ranlife Real Estate, where Stokoe worked as an agent.

In late December, Sharp said Stokoe agreed to rent the upstairs apartment of a home he owned at 878 E. Princeton Ave. in Salt Lake City.

David Stokoe
Family photo

In court documents, police state that 38-year-old Jessica Reese, who also goes by Jessica Miller, and Manuel Velasquez, 31, moved into the unit.

"I think she had come on some hard times and had kind of given him a story of distress," Sharp said, "and Dave, just being the kind of guy he was, tried to accommodate her."

Sharp said there were problems with the rent being paid and that Stokoe was concerned that more people might be living in the apartment than was agreed upon.

Police say Stokoe, 40, was shot and killed Jan. 17 when he went to the apartment. His body was found the next day hidden in a crawl space.

"My understanding is he showed up there for rent or to have a conversation about their continuing to rent there," said Salt Lake City police detective Greg Wilking.

Three people have been arrested in connection with Stokoe's death. Velasquez was booked into jail for investigation of murder, obstruction of justice, transaction of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and felony discharge of a firearm.

Diana Hernandez, 30, and Reese were booked into jail on suspicion of obstruction of justice. Jail documents state that the two women assisted with the cleanup of the apartment and hiding the body.

Sharp questions Velasquez's version of events listed in the affidavit of probable cause filed to support his arrest. In the document, police wrote that Velasquez claimed Stokoe kicked in the door of the apartment and put him in a chokehold.

"(Velasquez) stated that he was able to free the handgun and fire several rounds into (Stokoe), causing his death," the document states.

"We just know that that's not who Dave was," Sharp said. "It's totally not something that would be in his nature or in his character."

Sharp said that Stokoe's wife was out of town on the day he went to the apartment, leaving him to care for the couple's children, and that he would not have put himself at risk.

"Dave's just not an aggressive guy," Sharp said. "I highly doubt that he would have gone and destroyed his own property."

Wilking also disputed Velasquez's story, saying there was no evidence of the apartment's door being kicked in or of a chokehold.

"There are two sides of the story, and we really only have one side," Wilking said. "We won't have David's side of the story, ever, because his voice has been silenced."

Formal charges against the three have not yet been filed.