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What happened to Tommy Jodry? Family searches for answers after death at SLO parking garage

Thomas Jodry had an infectious smile and always wanted other people to feel included.

The 21-year-old Atascadero resident, who went by “Tommy” among his friends and family, had a thriving cactus and succulent business, was looking forward to getting his driver’s license and talked about one day getting married and having children.

That came to an end on the night of Sept. 14, when he fell to his death from the Marsh Street parking garage in San Luis Obispo.

“He had so much to live for,” said his father, Bill Jodry, his voice wobbling as he sat in the family’s living room. Weeks after Tommy’s death, sympathy cards lined the room, and a large framed photograph of Tommy next to his new truck was in a place of honor.

Tommy never got to drive that truck.

And his family fears they’ll never know what happened the night his life ended.

“I just want to know what happened,” Tommy’s mother, Mary Jane Jodry, said.

Questions arise over investigation

For the Jodrys, unanswered questions — as well as their suspicions — are piling up.

The Jodrys said Tommy left home that day with an older man that neither they nor his friends were familiar with. The man returned to their house late that night and returned Tommy’s cell phone.

Both parents said they wanted to find out whether the man had something to do with Tommy’s death.

San Luis Obispo Police Capt. Jeff Smith said the man Tommy was with that day is not a suspect at this time.

The Jodrys voiced their concerns that the San Luis Obispo Police Department hasn’t thoroughly investigated their son’s case, and is only looking at it as a suicide.

They pointed to two voicemails left for them by Detective Coroner Rory Linn of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office. The Tribune listened to those voicemails.

The first message informs the family of toxicology results that showed Tommy had “very high levels of alcohol” in his body when he died. Linn says in the recording that the death certificate will be updated, but it’s not clear to what.

Bill Jodry showed The Tribune a copy of a letter he said he sent to both Linn and San Luis Obispo police Detective Miguel Lozano, asking the detective to reconsider looking at the death as a suicide and saying that Tommy’s family felt it was accidental.

In a second voicemail, which the Jodrys said was left after the letter was sent, Linn tells the family his office will reassess the manner of death. Linn also mentions a conversation with the police detective a few weeks before the call that indicated that Tommy’s death was a suicide, though the detective’s final reports hadn’t been completed.

The Tribune requested a coroner’s report, and was told that the report was not ready because the investigation is ongoing.

The Jodrys expressed their concerns that no one involved in the investigation had spoken to their son’s therapist.

“A few days after (Tommy) passed away, his therapist came to our house, sat on this couch and said ‘Do not let anybody tell you your son was suicidal because he was not. He was working on his problems, we had plans on how we could address things, he was not suicidal at all,’ ” Bill Jodry said.

Another point of confusion for the family is what happened to Tommy’s wallet. As far as they know, it hasn’t been found.

Smith said the investigation is ongoing. He said police have spoken to both the man Tommy was with that night as well as his therapist, and reviewed the timeline provided to them by the Jodrys.

“We understand that the family is looking for answers with the loss of their son and we’re doing all we can to try to answer some of those questions,” Smith said. “As we try to determine what happened, there’s also the possibility we may not be able to determine whether it was an accident, suicide or there was foul play.”

Smith said it doesn’t appear at this time that there was foul play.

“We don’t have witnesses to him either jumping or falling from the third floor, but we have witnesses from the bar, going through downtown, entering the parking structure and watching him go to the third floor by himself,” he said.

Smith asked any witnesses with information pertaining to the case to call the police department at 805-781-7312.

Who was Tommy Jodry?

In recent years, struggles with high school bullies and mental health took their toll. But things were looking up for Tommy, his family said.

Mary Jane Jodry remembered her son’s passion for outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting and skateboarding, and his sensitivity to others. He used to dance with her, and could always make her laugh.

“He was adventurous and outgoing. He could talk to anyone in any situation,” Bill Jodry said, remembering how his son would include kids who were left out and was just as comfortable talking to adults as he was to other children.

When the Jodry family went on a trip to Europe, Tommy made friends despite the language barrier, Bill Jodry recalled.

When his grandmother broke her hip over the summer, Tommy made time to visit her, Mary Jane Jodry said.

“He really cared about other people,” she said. “He never really forgot people.”

Tommy was musically talented, and played guitar, bass and drums. He wanted to learn Portuguese one day, inspired by his mother’s love for the bossa nova song “The Girl From Ipanema.”

Tommy loved all music, and was talented at singing and freestyle rapping, his friend Micah Ayhens said.

Ayhens said he and Tommy became friends as kids because they always hung around the skate park.

“Even when he was feeling down, he’d smile,” Ayhens said. “He was my brother.”

Reminders of Tommy are scattered throughout the Jodrys’ home. A skateboard that he painted rests against the wall, while colorful stenciled designs that he painted adorn the steps from the house to the backyard. Cacti and succulents Tommy planted and hoped to sell sit in a shaded spot in the backyard.

The day Tommy died, he brought his dad out back to look at the garden, Bill Jodry remembered, tearing up.

“It’s a happy memory,” Jodry said. “Your son’s taking the time to show you something that’s important to him.”

‘A huge question mark’

With the investigation ongoing, and more questions than answers, the Jodrys worry whether they’ll ever know what happened that night.

“At first, you want to keep it private. It’s a family thing. We’re like most Americans, we trust our police to take care of us and to do justice and to look into things, and then you get nothing,” Bill Jodry said. “It’s a huge question mark.”

The family maintains that, if anything, Tommy’s death was not a suicide. Mary Jane and Bill Jodry both said their son had no plans to get hurt or to hurt himself, and was looking to his future.

“I just want to know what happened,” Mary Jane Jodry said. “Maybe someday I can have some peace, but I can’t until this really is resolved.”

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.
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