Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Friends fear foul play in man found floating in Tampa Bay

TAMPA — Jason Downey was headed home.

That's what he told his roommate when they last spoke outside Georgie's Alibi bar in St. Petersburg early Friday morning.

The 31-year-old veterinary technician was alone, puffing a cigarette out on the patio bar just before 2 a.m. when he told Tony Ginski he'd catch up with him back at the house in Tampa.

"I thought maybe he'd be right along shortly," said Ginski, 42, who departed in his own car.

The usually reliable Downey never showed.

On Sunday, a fisherman discovered Downey's body floating in Tampa Bay near an approach to the Howard Frankland Bridge at Interstate 275 and Fourth Street N.

Police are still looking for his green 1998 Toyota Rav 4, which Downey was driving that night. St. Petersburg Police are calling it a suspicious death, but say an autopsy on Monday indicated no signs of trauma.

"I can't believe there would be anyone who would intentionally harm him, said David Landreth, 31, a long-time friend who also met Downey out on Thursday night.

Downey's friends, family and coworkers described him as upbeat, laid-back and funny. He served two years in the U.S. Army, worked as a flight attendant and, most recently, with animals at the Sierra Animal Hospital in Apollo Beach.

"He was a very happy person," boss Leslie Sierra said. "Clients loved him."

Until Downey's disappearance, Landreth and Ginski said there was nothing about that Thursday evening that seemed unusual.

Landreth and Downey regularly met at Alibi on Thursday nights, a tradition at the gay-friendly bar at 3100 Third Ave., known for its $3 Long Island iced tea special.

Downey seemed upbeat and the night was rather tame, Landreth said.

The friends talked. They danced. They acted silly. But it was a weeknight — Downey had work the next day.

"It was not a 'drunk-fest, crazy, do-whatever' kind of night," Landreth said Monday. "It was just a Thursday ... Honestly he wasn't drinking that much. He didn't even look like he had a good buzz."

Landreth said he hugged Downey on his way out of the bar around midnight. Landreth told him to call him later.

"And he always does this stupid thing where he's like, 'Alright, sista,' and I hugged him and I left," Landreth remembered, his voice cracking. "Right now is the worst part because you don't know what happened and its kind of hard to handle."

On Saturday morning, Downey's mother, Kim Truman of Palm Harbor, reported her son missing after his employer at Sierra Animal Hospital in Apollo Beach called. Downey hadn't shown up to work.

"It scared me to death," said Truman, 51, who last saw her son Wednesday.

Sierra, Downey's boss, had been calling him regularly since Friday, worried something was wrong. At 2 p.m. Saturday, Sierra said, the calls started going straight to voice mail without a ring. "We wish that we had some answers," she said Monday.

Police revealed little about their investigation Monday, but those who knew Downey feared he was the victim of foul play.

"I just don't understand it at all," Ginski said. "We were all having fun, there wasn't any drama. It definitely makes me nervous about going out."

Landreth has heard people speculating about what might have happened: "I hope to think it's not a gay issue," he said. "Everyone jumps to that from the start, but I'd like to think that's not the case."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Friends fear foul play in man found floating in Tampa Bay 09/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 6:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. University student accused of making bomb threat on Snapchat

    Crime

    DELAND — A Florida university student is accused of making threats on Snapchat to "bomb" or "gas" the campus.

    Stetson University freshman Griffin Powell, 18, is accused of making threats on Snapchat to "bomb" or "gas" the campus in DeLand.


  2. Tiki Barber will join his brother, Ronde, on Fox broadcast for Bucs-Giants

    Bucs

    FOX announced Monday night that former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber will have a familiar face joining him as a guest analyst for the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants game in Tampa: his twin brother Tiki, who will join …

    Tiki Barber, right, will join his brother, Ronde, left, as a guest analyst on the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants broadcast on FOX. [Times files (2006)]
  3. Cannons will fire again when Bucs return to Raymond James Stadium

    Bucs

    As good as the Bucs looked in their season-opening 29-7 win against the Bears on Sunday, fans couldn't help but notice that the success didn't sound the same at Raymond James Stadium.

     Ron Gutschmidt is perched on top of the Buccaneer pirate ship ready to activate the ship's cannons with the press of a button after a Buccaneer touchdown. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Rick and Tom podcast: How should Joe Maddon be remembered tonight?

    The Heater

    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones talk about Joe Maddon's return to Tropicana Field for the first time since he left the Rays in 2014 in the latest edition of our Rick and Tom podcast. They discuss the mixed emotions …

    Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field tonight for the first time since he left the Rays in 2014. [Getty Images]
  5. Watch live: President Trump's speech to the U.N. General Assembly

    World

    UNITED NATIONS — U.S. President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron are expected to take the spotlight at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations — but it's the tough global challenges from the nuclear threat in North Korea and the plight of Myanmar's minority Muslims to the …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in New York. [Associated Press]