The only documented death from jumping off the top of Hotel Clovis occurred in 1986. Old timers claim one or two others attempted it but were talked out of it.
Apparently no one was with 27-year-old, Anthony “Tony” Johnson, when he jumped off the top of the hotel on a Wednesday afternoon. The hotel has been closed since 1983, but Johnson succeeded in getting to the top of the 55-year-old nine-story hotel, which was built in 1931.
Two hours prior to death, Johnson was released from the Curry County jail for failure to appear to pay fines on a third-offense shoplifting charge.
Johnson was not violent. According to the story his parents told following his death, they said their son was mentally ill because of a blow he received to the head in a mining accident in Grants.
His mother said, “Tony led a regular life. He had a responsible job. He had a wife and daughter. After the mining accident he has no friends, he has no wife, he has no child.”
She said he could no longer get a job because of his mental disability.
“That is not what needs to be publicized though,” his father said. “What needs to be publicized is that people can’t get help for their loved ones with these problems. Usually they end up in the state pen before they get help. We tried everything we could to get mental help for our son, but since he did not have insurance or a job they usually couldn’t get any help.”
On Monday before his death Johnson was taken to municipal court to await sentencing for the failure to appear charge. He was given permission to go outside and smoke a cigarette and walked away from the court. His father found him under a trailer shortly thereafter and told the police where he was.
“When the police found him under the trailer,” his father said Wednesday morning, prior to his son’s death, “he was crying. And he apologized. He said he was sorry.”
“With the kind of illness Tony has, we never know from one day to the next how he’s going to be,” his mother said, telling why he had probably left municipal court. “He has a very short memory.” She said it was typical of her son to forget what he had been told and just leave.
He was released from jail at 1 p.m. that Wednesday. Two hours later he apparently jumped off the west side of the hotel away from where the metal fire escape was located. A witness, name unknown, called the police at 2:53 p.m. and reported someone had just jumped off of Hotel Clovis. A Clovis detective said the Clovis Police Department had a statement from one individual who knew Johnson, who said he had mentioned in earlier conversations that he was going to jump off of the hotel.
Johnson was born in Phoenix, Ariz., on Sept. 27, 1958. He joined the army and served at Fort Dix in New Jersey, He was given an honorable discharge on Oct. 6, 1976. He had come to Clovis in 1979 and worked as a laborer at a packing house.
He was survived by his parents, Anthony Raymond and Francis Johnson, a daughter, two brothers, three sisters, his grandparents, and a great-grandmother, Crusita Sena, of Clovis.
He is buried in the Mission Gardens of Memories on West Seventh Street. His pallbearers were Larry Sena, Delbert Chapman, Joe Sisneros, Mathew Tenorio, Steve Cohen, and Bonney Tenorio.
May he rest in peace.
Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.