Tony Lombardi’s family believes he was murdered… police say it was suicide.

Smiling Tony Lombardi with small mustache

Tony Lombardi

Investigator picking up a small pistol from the floor of a room

A gun was recovered at the scene

CASE DETAILS

Upper torso of Tony Lombardi showing the bruises on his arms and body

Bruises were found on his arms

The Lombardis were a typical middle class family living in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Westerville.  But on August 30, 1990, Cheryl Lombardi, a housewife and mother, made a tragic discovery, one that would forever rip the family from the tranquility of suburban life.

Cheryl had come home at around midnight.  She assumed that her 22-year-old son, Tony, would also be home soon.  According to Cheryl, at around 12:45 AM, she heard a door closing and the sound of footsteps.  Cheryl went into Tony’s room to say goodnight.  It was there that Cheryl discovered the lifeless body of her son.  Police arrived shortly after at around 1:15 AM.  They discovered Tony’s car was missing from the garage, perhaps stolen by an assailant.  According to Sergeant Michael Hatzo, the investigation moved swiftly and by the book:

“Our normal procedure is to contact the detectives and have them come and we treat all death scenes as a homicide until we prove it otherwise.”

Pickup truck parked outside of an apartment at night

Tony had received death threats earlier

Inside, on the floor near the body, police found a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol.  On the bed was a single, spent .38 shell.  Then, investigators found a drunk-driving citation in Tony’s pants pocket, which pushed the inquiry in an entirely new direction.  Two days before his death, Tony had been arrested for driving while intoxicated.  Detectives quickly solved the mystery of Tony’s missing car.  It had been impounded by Columbus police at the time of the arrest.  In addition, Tony had faced fines and possible suspension of his driver’s license.

To Sergeant Hatzo, a portrait had now emerged of a young man, stripped of his freedom and despondent over impending legal problems:

“Right now, everything that we have, any evidence that we have indicates Tony’s death was a suicide.”

Police looking inside of an empty garage

Tony’s car was missing

But for Cheryl Lombardi, her son’s death was nothing short of cold-blooded murder:

“I believe that there was a struggle.  He had an inch and a half gash over his left eye.  He had a broken jaw, he had bruises.  And he was found nude.  He would never let anyone see him nude.  Those are all things that I think should have been looked into.” 

Based on her observations that morning, Cheryl believed that not only was her son murdered, but the killer was still in Tony’s bedroom, even as she moved about the house.  Her evidence is disarmingly simple: the light in Tony’s bedroom:

“Going up and down the steps you can see my son’s room and the door was closed and there was no light on.  Going up and down the steps as many times as I did, there is no way I could have missed the light being on.”

Cheryl assumed Tony’s light was turned off because he wasn’t home.  45 minutes later, she heard the door closing.  The light in Tony’s room was now on.  Cheryl assumed her son had finally come home:

“Then I opened the door and that’s when I found my son dead.” 

Who could have turned on the light?  Cheryl believed it was the killer who became trapped in Tony’s room when she arrived home:

“I believe that I surprised him, and then when I went to my bedroom to get ready for bed they thought that was a good opportunity for them to leave.  And I believe that’s what I heard, was someone leaving.”

To Tony’s parents, there was further evidence pointing to murder.  In the week before he died, Tony was the target of two different death threats.  A woman who lived next door witnessed the driver of a white pick-up truck screaming at Tony.  Tony’s father, Tony Lombardi Sr., overheard the second death threat just a few days later:

“I was checking my messages and I heard this threat on our voice mail, of a gentleman, a young person, telling Tony that he had a gun and was going to use if it Tony didn’t stay away from his girlfriend.  And at that point I brought that up to Tony and he said not to worry about it.”

Tony’s best friend, Andy Royer, agreed to mediate:

“I told Tony that, I’d talk to the guy and see what the deal was on it, and he said to me that his problem was not with me, it was with Tony, and that he would take care of it.  Tony would get what was coming to him.”

Tony’s parents disputed the official conclusions drawn from some of the physical evidence.  For Cheryl Lombardi, a test that revealed Tony had recently handled a metal object was problematic:

“He worked on a can line, downtown at the Columbus plant.  He handled cans daily.  Naturally, you would have metal on your hands from working with that.”

According to Tony’s father, the position of Tony’s body and the trajectory of the fatal bullet were also subjects of bitter controversy:

“The bullet hole does not make sense to me, unless there was some pressure on top of Tony holding him down, the bullet would have been much higher in the headboard.”

Finally, Cheryl says the county coroner found bruises on Tony’s chest, directly under his clenched hands.  To Cheryl, that is proof her son was forcibly held down by an assailant.

The last minutes of Tony Lombardi’s life remain clouded by controversy.  As far as the police are concerned, the 22-year-old took his own life, a conclusion supported by the county coroner, the sheriff’s department, and the district attorney.  His parents will never agree with that conclusion.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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44 Comments

  1. Remz

    1. Has anyone spoken to the neighbor about the supposed “road rage incident” and was this the same night as the dui?
    2. Has anyone spoken to his best friend.
    3. Has anyone spoken to the “girlfriends” boyfriend. I bet that guy has been arrested for some type of violence.
    I really hate how the police didn’t handle any evidence as a possible homicide (they say they did) but all evidence points to murder. Did they ever look into the dui, or the officer that gave him the citation. They also checked his hands for metal (which he would be positive for because his job was literally handling tin) but did they check for gun powder?
    What was the real time of death?
    I can’t believe this terrible police “investigation”. They really dropped the ball on this one.

    Reply

  2. Matthew Creech

    Where was the entry wound to Tony’s head? Second, could someone have caught him in the act with someone else? Why was he naked in bed?

    Reply

  3. robb

    Where not talking about something simple, its a car. He would have to tell his mom. She came in to see if he was okay. They got a long and had no differences. Why would he sill have the citation in his pocket and still not have told her? Was the cop actually on duty that night? Its just so happens that Tony didn’t have rubbers on him, he had a citation from nights before but this was all over a girl. His jaw was broke, its not a breuse were talking about. Its a little more then that.

    Reply

  4. Rob

    There was no drunk driving, there couldn’t of been. He would have to tell his mom the car was gone, he would need a ride from jail. His mom knew nothing of it. Was it reallly his car impounded? It sounds to me that copper got a call that night by someone he knew.

    Reply

  5. Rob

    The door slammed. Why would a guy do that. She was there and wanted him to get caught. Probably forced her

    Reply

  6. Rob

    Look into protocol for drunk driving impound in 1990, then maybe look into the hand writing. Where’s his shirt?

    Reply

  7. Rob

    I think she was there. His arms were crossed that’s a girl thing. A guy would of put the gun in his hand. She was problaby crying on top of him, which would explain the gun shot going up. Insult to injury he probably shot her when she was saying good by

    Reply

  8. robb

    Hi, if a person was in the room and didn’t attack her, its interesting. The idea of a cop leaving evidence out it interesting. He states “any evidence we have leads to a suicide. Was it his son that did the murder? It seems to me that it might be helpful for having the phone records. So you can look at who it was that left the voice mail. It seems that easy and yet not. Can you look at hospital in the area to see if that can tell you if anyone came in with injuries? His hands were beat up, someones face was quite messy. I think that I would look to see if it was the cops daughter that he was dating? In modern society guys usually don’t beat up each other over a women. I think this person might have been older. Could have been two people with the oddness of the bullet.

    Reply

  9. Charles

    If this was a suicide, what is the explanation behind the lacerations and bruises which were clearly from an altercation of some kind? This kid was too well put together from a broad perspective to kill himself. It is certainly possible and alot of young adults are prone to it…but there clues that lead it not to be.

    Reply

  10. Dean

    This was a suicide…period……and the mother was super creepy……i believe she said “our son” around 40 times……she might as well accept this and move on…..if nothing new has developed after nearly 30yrs then it never will……because it’s clearly a suicide

    Reply

    • Nik

      I’m sorry but I don’t agree with you. I don’t believe it was a suicide she stated his jaw was broke had bruises on his body. If he’s going to just shoot himself he’s not going to have all those bruises on his body and also have a cut above his eye. I think he got into a scuffle with someone. Maybe the person who love the threatening message about leaving his girlfriend alone. And I think he just exacted his revenge whatever revenge in his mind he exacted. and no I don’t think after 30 years they’re going to ever catch who did it. Someone would have to talk or tell somebody and that person would have to tell somebody. Or the person may not even be around anymore. But I don’t think he killed himself.

      Reply

  11. Angelina

    Another case that needs to be reopened. why would someone who committed suicide have a broken jaw, or the other injuries? Something isn’t right…

    Reply

  12. Cali Girl

    Who was the girl he was having relationship with and the Jealous boyfriend that left a voicemail. The jealous boyfriend probably caught them in the act thats why the lights were off. Didnt shot her but killed him in the act. Made the girlfriend watch while he killed her new found lover. That would explain why he was naked. If the police finds the girl they will find the killer!!

    Reply

  13. Justin Leichtweis

    I am sorry for your loss Keith. I hope the find your cousins killer. From my pov he was definitely murdered. I can’t believe the police found this to be a suicide. I wouldn’t want to live in a place where the police are so dense. Good luck

    Reply

  14. Amanda

    I’m sorry for your loss. The same thing has happened to my little brother last October. It was called in as a suicide but yet just 3 minutes before my brother was texting people saying he was going to die where he was and his life depended on leaving there. 3 minutes later 911 was called by my brothers wife’s boyfriend stating he killed hisself. It was ruled a suicide. We now have a private investigator who has reopened the case. The detectives botched the investigation from day one. Never treated it as anything other then a suicide even with us telling them it wasn’t. My brother was right handed and shot in the left cheek with a shot gun front to back left to right at a downward angle with a shotgun. I pray you get justice and closure. There is nothing worse then having a loved one murdered and a piece of paper saying they took their own life with their murderer still out there. We have a Facebook page for my brother under Justice for Dj. If you haven’t made one yourself then you should to help get the word out on this information and hopefully can help get you some leads. I will be sharing this on Facebook. Prayers to you all.

    Reply

  15. Rush

    It is kinda of weird that your fists would clench and rest on your chest after you supposedly just killed yourself. That is just weird.

    Reply

  16. Bob

    How come his Mom didn’t hear a gunshot coming from his room? Unless it was muffled by a pillow.

    Reply

    • Justin Leichtweis

      he was killed before she got home.

      Reply

    • Nik

      I think the reason is mother didn’t hear a gunshot because I think when she got home I think at that point he was already dead. And the killer was kind of stuck upstairs and Tony’s room because he didn’t want to go down and take a chance on having Tony’s mom see him. So he had to wait wait it out until she went to bed. Once he thought the coast was clear I think he left his room and left the house.

      Reply

  17. Anonymous

    Somebody has their theory, speculation,and circumstances of evidence of a “suicide” incorrect. This man was murdered ! Mrs. Lombardi came home from a late night our. She as she stated before hand said she was waiting for “Tony” to come home. Tony, was already home ! It’s possible that he had some company (visitors) over. Mrs. Lomardi, decided to do some laundry, she was as she stated waiting for him to come home, in her pajamas (night clothes). Coming back and forth through the home. His bedroom light was off. That’s because, the perp saw her coming home and they turned off his bedroom light. Their in her home, she’s unaware of who maybe be hiding in her home ! ( she didn’t hear a gunshot) that’s because they had already murdered him. And when she heard the door open ( that’s when the killer was creeping out of her home !) This case is a homicide ! Somebody’s got it wrong !

    Reply

  18. Anonymous

    To the last comment, who are the Tantarelli’s? How do you know them and how did you know Tony? Also I believe he was left handed…

    Reply

  19. diane

    For some odd reason peolpe who commit suicide remove their clothes first. Many movie stars were found in the nude who took their own life and my own son was found like that.E

    Reply

  20. keith burton

    Tony is my cousin if you have any info please call 6143145110

    Reply

  21. Jessie

    Was there gunshot residue on Tonys hands?

    Reply

  22. keith burton

    any info please call me tony is my cousin 6143145110

    Reply

  23. josh

    They really need to reinvestage this case there is no way a suicide would beable to have their arms crossed after shooting themselves in the head plus all of the injuries it doesn’t add up. That’s ohio cops for you lazy don’t want to put in the work just want to collect a check and that’s it

    Reply

  24. LUIS FREEH

    WHERE EVER HE WAS THAT DAY HE CAME HOME AND WENT TO SLEEP! HE HAD HIS ID STOLEN AND SOMEONE ELSE DRIVING HIS CAR GOT IT IMPOUNDED! HE WAS AT WORK WHEN IT HAPPENED. “I”DON’T KNOW WHY HE NEVER REPORTED IT MISSING! THE THEIF WENT TO A BAR WITH IT! THE THEIF WORKS WHERE HE WORKED AND THE THEIF KNEW WHERE HE LIVED! THE THEIF OF HIS CAR FROM WORK WENT TO HIS HOME AND FOUND HIM ASLEEP, PUT THE DUI TICKET IN HIS POCKET, SHOT HIM AND WAS GOING TO KILL “WHOEVER CAME IN THE HOME. WHILE WAITING FOR THEM TO ENTER TONY’S ROOM “IT” DECIDED TO GET OUT INCASE THE POLICE WERE CALLED FOR SOME REASON. FOR SOME REASON IT EXPECTED HIS MOTHER TO COME IN HIS ROOM AND SHE WAS “VERY LUCKY” THAT NIGHT!

    Reply

    • Keith burton

      Where did you get all this information on Tony I would like to sit down and talk with you my name is Keith I’m his cousin 614-314-5110

      Reply

      • Kai

        Hey Keith, I live in Westerville which is why I checked the site here to see if any additional information was ever figured out and I saw your posts. I just thought you should probably know that the user tagged as Louis Freeh responds to pretty much every case on this website spamming in all caps. He doesn’t know anything special about this case. Didn’t want you to waste your hopes or your time on his “leads”

        Reply

    • Keith burton

      And Tony’s cousin I’d like to know how you have all the information sounds like you know who this person was and you And you apparently knew my cousinmy Will you please contact me 614-353-8550 I would like to talk to you and find out any information you may have

      Reply

    • Keith burton

      i’m his cousin I’d like to talk to you

      Reply

      • Kai

        I know you’re still hurting. I just wanted to reiterate that Luis Freh posts lengthy, all-capitalized conspiracy theories on nearly every case on the unsolved mysteries website. He has no unique information on this case more than any other case. I doubt he even comes back to check and see how people respond to his ramblings, but I just thought you should know that he doesn’t have any special knowledge related to this case, so I don’t want you to go through the pain of dredging up those memories with a conspiracy theorist.

        Reply

      • Kai

        if you need proof, just google: “Luis Freeh” Unsolved mysteries
        he replies to everything

        Reply

  25. From Ohio

    They need to question the tantarellis. At the time of his death he was hanging out with them and they are known for breaking the law and at least one of them have been jailed for murder. I wouldn’t put anything past them.

    Reply

    • Keith burton

      You brought up the tantarellis I IKnow of them had no iidea my cousin knew them would you please contact me 6143145110

      Reply

  26. PG

    I’m inclined to believe that this case is murder due to the information presented on the episode. The body was clearly arranged, the bullet and casing were lying in areas that are not consistent with suicide, and unless the deceased was a lefty, the gun was found too far away to be accurate for suicide. Plus, the bruises on the chest indicate the deceased was held down (I’m inclined to think the murderer used their knees),and the dislocated jaw suggests that it was broken to prevent him crying for help. The actions of the police in this case indicate that it’s possible the killer could have been trained in staging a crime scene. The death threats could have been signs of the killer coming unhinged before carrying it out.

    Reply

  27. Johnny

    This looks like a murder to me. Probably a 2 man job. One to keep Tony down on the bed and another man to shoot. The threats Tony received should have been investigated with more fervor. Classic case where suicide was decided and that was going to be it. These wounds like the broken jaw and marks don’t fit suicide. I think this case can be solved.

    Reply

  28. Anonymous

    This young man had bruises and a broken jaw. Yea its foul play. Two red flags..the guy yelling at him in the white van and the threatening voice mail message. Those are things to look into. Who is this girlfriend someone warned Tony to stay a way from? They are so hell bent on trying to prove suicide. That the evidence was looked over. Maybe there where clues that proved someone was in Tony’s room. His friend talked to the guy that threatened Tony about his girlfriend. Why didn’t the cops explore every lead?Ask around. Talk to the neighbors about the van and of they got a license plate number or talk to the guy that warned tony to stay away from his girlfriend. Too many thing indicate something is rotten about this.

    Reply

  29. Dkk

    Are the photos posted actual crime photos? If yes, how is it you fire a weapon even if he used his left hand and the gun is on the floor, the recoil from the weapon would not force his arms and hands into the positions shown.

    Reply

  30. Savannah

    I think Tony Lombardi was murdered because you can not have bruises if you commit suicide. I think the person who killed him was the person who said that he had a gun because there was a gun on the crime scene.

    Reply

  31. Rebecca

    Were the two death threats investigated? The guy in the white truck that was screaming at Tony did they bring him in for questioning.Tony’s mother believed the killer or killers was in Tony’s room when she got home. She stated his bedroom light was off, then turned on after a short time, did the police look for any fingerprints in Tony’s bedroom or any blood or tissue under his finger nails in case there was a struggle? He was so young only 22 he had his whole life ahead of him. It’s ashamed this case was not properly investigated, the police based it on his arrest for driving while intoxicated, a citation in his pocket, his impounded vehicle, equal he committed suicide really ??? it was an open and shut case, the sheriff department took the easy way out by claiming Tony committed suicide. So sad for these parents, such injustice, no closure for this family.

    Reply

  32. Joshua S

    Who was the man who made the death threats? Was he ever investigated?

    Reply

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