Sandy • Every day, David Stokoe walked into the board room of the real estate company where he worked, took his seat at exactly 9 a.m. — having a penchant for punctuality — and declared to his colleagues: “Today is great because I choose to make it great.”
When Stokoe started that ritual on his first day there three years ago, Michael Carter remembered laughing at how goofy it was. “That was so weird,” he whispered to a realtor next to him. “Who is this weird dude?”
But Stokoe kept saying it anyway. And Carter, who stood outside RANLife Home Loans on Monday evening, said the positive saying slowly grew on him. Now he’ll miss hearing it. He repeated the line as he pounded his chest like Stokoe used to and choked back tears.
The roughly 100 people in the crowd put a fist to their chests, too. They came here to remember Stokoe, who police say was killed last week while attempting to evict tenants at a Salt Lake City apartment.
Friends and family and coworkers stood outside of his office in Sandy as it lightly snowed, telling stories about the confident and charismatic broker who liked to buy the worst looking buildings and make them beautiful. They talked about how he could remember everyone’s name — and their wife’s name and their kids’ names and their dog’s name. They joked about his funny quirks, how he couldn’t dance, loved the movie “Gladiator" and was full of positive quotes.
They helped one another light candles and hugged each other when their sobs blew them out. Mostly, they just tried to console one another, tried to choose to make it great in memory of Stokoe.
“I’m just grateful for every moment that we shared,” Carter said.
Stokoe, 40, likely died Thursday when he went to an apartment near 900 East and Princeton Avenue in Salt Lake City to talk to the residents there about moving out as they had discussed. By Friday night, police learned, he had never left the building.
Officers found his body in a semi-hidden crawl space and began searching for the tenants. They later arrested Manuel Velasquez, 31; Jessica Reese, 38; and Diana Hernandez, 30. Velasquez and Reese, who were renting the apartment, told police they had felt Stokoe was “overstepping his legal rights by entering” without their permission.
Velasquez said he got in a fight with Stokoe and shot him multiple times. Reese and Hernandez allegedly helped him hide the body.
The death has stunned the community.
Stokoe’s friends said at the vigil Monday that he was the kindest man they knew, someone who had worn out his copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” from how much he’d read it. They don’t understand why anyone would want to hurt him.
“He treated me like a princess,” said his wife, Nikki, who walked through the crowd to hug and greet people there and to tell them about the blind date 16 years ago when she first met Stokoe. “He was the most amazing husband and father.”
Stokoe, she said, would wake up every day at 5:30 a.m. to go to the gym with their oldest son, 13, and play basketball. Then he drove their four kids to school, enjoying the time to talk to them and sing along to the radio together. “We were No. 1, always,” Nikki Stokoe said.
Joe Tomsich, his brother-in-law, said Stokoe introduced people in the nicest ways. “Here’s Joe,” he recalled Stokoe saying once. “He’s a rock star.”
Shaun Rasmussen, who met Stokoe when they were in fourth grade, said they remained friends as adults because Stokoe cared so much about relationships. “The guy was full of life.”
The group of mourners stood outside for an hour with their stories and their cries turning into white puffs of steam in the freezing air. They pulled black jackets with real estate logos tight around them. They wiped tears with mittens and scarves. They stood in the parking lot where Stokoe pulled in every weekday morning at 8:55 a.m. and watched their reflections in the mirrored windows where he’d check his teeth before opening the door.
One man pulled out his phone and played a video that showed Stokoe missing a putt on a golf course and then dancing.
“He has no rhythm,” Nikki Stokoe responded with a laugh. Her son stood nearby, clinging to a candle under the company’s neon red sign.
Greg Walker, CEO of RANLife, choked up telling a story about how he walked past Stokoe giving a motivational speech once and heard him ask the audience with serious concern: “Are you drinking enough water?” Others talked about how he loved listening to Tony Robbins on tape, making goals and working hard. Rasmussen said he was always riding motorcycles. Neil Stokoe, his brother, said he loved his Mormon faith and served a mission in England.
“I idolized him,” he said. “Absolutely his death was a shock. But he was so positive, it’s overshadowing that shock and that hurt.”
Nearly everyone shared one of the positive sayings that Stokoe used to repeat. “Focus and finish,” said his wife. “I am a champion,” added Carter. A few noted, “Be comfortable being uncomfortable.”