This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
John Paul Stoner loved to laugh.
“His laugh would make you laugh,” Wendy Lindquist said of her uncle.
Whenever John came to visit, he always went downstairs and experimented with the music recording equipment that Wendy’s husband had set up. Meanwhile, Wendy would be upstairs playing with her children or making dinner.
“You could hear his laugh,” Wendy recalled. “It echoed.”
That laugh ceased in 2008 when John and his roommate were murdered. The two men were beaten and shot to death inside their apartment in the Turtle Creek area of Jacksonville, Florida.
The double homicide remains unsolved. John was 41 years old.
John grew up in Greentown, Pennsylvania, just an hour south of New York. He was the baby of the family – the youngest of three. He loved to build forts and ride Big Wheels.
John was very close to his sister Siobhan. She took her little brother under her wing at a very young age.
“He was like one of my own,” said Siobhan.
John was an avid wrestler during his early years of high school. He also loved football – specifically the Dallas Cowboys – and NASCAR and fishing.
Siobhan and her husband used to take their children to watch stock car racing every Saturday night at the local track. John would often tag along, too. They would always pack a cooler full of sodas, juice, and snacks and arrive early to get front row seats.
Wendy and her brother would typically fall asleep because the races would last until almost midnight. They would wake up and pick dirt clumps the size of Hershey Kisses out of their ears, but John watched every minute of the races. He loved cars.
Wendy and her uncle were very close growing up. They were not even 10 years apart. The two loved to go fishing together.
Wendy and John would walk from the house in Greentown, Pennsylvania down Route 390, a busy main road, and through the forest to Promised Land State Park, carrying their fishing poles and tackle boxes.
“That was our thing,” Wendy said. “It was totally unsafe,” she laughed.
John dropped out of high school and began working at a gas station. He spent his entire work life employed at various gas stations.
He was very handy. John was always working on cars, both his own and other people, and he enjoyed building decks.
Eventually, John met and married his wife, Valerie. Valerie often babysat for Siobhan.
The couple had two children: Amber and Joshua. They moved from Greentown, Pennsylvania to three other small towns in Pennsylvania, before finally settling down in Jacksonville, Florida. There, John collected recyclables as a means of income.
His friend Leonard Davis, 69, lived with the family.
On March 5, 2008, Amber arrived home from school to find her father and Leonard dead. John was beaten to death with a baseball bat and then shot in the head with his own gun.
John had only been living in Florida for two years.
“He loved it there for some reason,” said Siobhan.
John had a good relationship with the other residents around the apartment complex and always offered a helping hand to anyone in need.
“There were kids over there that weren’t getting fed properly, and he’d have them over,” said Siobhan.
John and Leonard sold marijuana out of the family’s apartment, so it was not unusual for people to constantly be coming in and out of the unit. This generated an extensive list of people for detectives to speak to about the murders, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
There are theories about the murders from both the detectives and John’s family. The common dominator in these theories involves the men selling marijuana.
Wendy said that her uncle liked to brag and believes his murder was the result of a drug-related robbery gone wrong.
“There wasn’t nothing on him that wasn’t broken,” said Siobhan.
The apartment had been ransacked, and belongings were missing – including John’s gun.
There were at least two persons of interest who were named suspects in 2008. They were most likely minors when the murders were committed, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Siobhan’s life was turned upside down following her brother’s murder. She got the call at work from her sister. She was not one to answer her phone while at work, but she knew something was wrong.
When Siobhan was told the news, she immediately started calling her brother’s phone out of disbelief.
“Nobody answered, nobody answered,” said Siobhan. “I didn’t believe he was dead.”
On March 6, 2008, just one day after John’s murder, Siobhan flew from Pennsylvania to Jacksonville and permanently moved to Florida shortly thereafter.
Wendy said her mother moved because she was “chasing a murderer.”
John had called Siobhan just two weeks before his murder. He asked Siobhan for $50 so he could purchase a plane ticket to come and stay with her in Pennsylvania.
Siobhan didn’t send her brother the money.
“He’d be alive if I sent it,” said Siobhan, crying as she told the story.
John then called Wendy after receiving no help from Siobhan. Wendy said he requested just $8 so he could buy a bus ticket to come and visit her and her daughter. Wendy couldn’t help. She was struggling financially at the time herself.
Soon after that, John was murdered.
Wendy said the hardest part of daily life without John is watching her mother suffer.
“John’s on her mind 16 out of the 24 hours in a day,” Wendy said. “Any free time she has, he’s on her mind.”
Siobhan said that she doesn’t think her brother’s case will ever be solved, but Wendy remains optimistic.
The murderers, Wendy says, were likely “little kids” at the time – and eventually, she believes, one of them will say something.
Siobhan and Wendy both began fostering animals after John’s murder to help them cope. They have fostered all kinds of animals, including dogs, cats and even pigs. They love being able to help animals in need.
In 2018, on the 10th anniversary of John’s murder, Siobhan and Wendy revisited John’s apartment on Harts Road. There, they were interviewed by Action News Jax.
The Turtle Creek neighborhood where John lived has an “F” in crime rating, according to the website AreaVibes. The neighborhood’s violent crime ranks 51% above the national average, and property crime ranks 91% above the national average. Turtle Creek’s total crime ranks 85% above the national average, as of 2019.
During the interview, a blue pickup truck continuously drove up and down the street, alarming Siobhan, Wendy, and the Action News Jax crew. They all left the apartment complex and finished the interview at the news station.
Nothing had changed in 10 years, except the name of the apartment complex. Formerly the Forest Lake Apartments, the complex is now called Canopy Place Homes.
“Even the bushes outside [were] the same,” Siobhan said.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of John Paul Stoner, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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