Episode 028: Nick Cordova

February 21, 2022

A young father is killed while on FaceTime with his children. How did this happen? Who killed Nick Cordova?

Episode Media
Nick Cordova (Instagram)
Cordova family (Instagram)
Unidentified suspect captured on surveillance footage at Arco gas station (Gilbert PD)
Route between Gilbert Air and Arco gas station (Google Maps)
Video footage of unidentified suspect (Gilbert PD / Silent Witness)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a case that is shrouded in mystery and rumor. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

Nicholas Cordova grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, an upscale, trendy suburb on the east side of Phoenix. As a teenager, Nick was involved in sports, a member of Chandler High School’s football and wrestling teams. After graduating in 1998, Nick worked as a personal trainer, finding joy in helping others achieve their goals. He later transitioned into the heating and ventilation field, hoping to one day open his own business.

In 2003, 24-year-old Nick was attending his sister’s graduation party when his cousin introduced him to a beautiful young woman named Alysha. Nick and Alysha immediately hit it off, exchanging phone numbers at the end of the night. The couple dated for several years, finally tying the knot in October of 2011.

In 2012, Nick and Alysha welcomed a baby boy named Cruize to the family, and in 2015, a little girl named Capri. Nick was a devoted father, wanting to involve himself in every aspect of his children’s lives. Having both grown up in Arizona, Nick and Alysha had a strong support system around them; the children were growing up surrounded by a multitude of aunts, uncles, and cousins. To make ends meet, Alysha worked as a hair stylist and photographer, while Nick continued to grow his career as an HVAC technician.

In 2018, Nick became a co-owner of Gilbert Air Cooling and Heating. Gilbert Air had opened in 2005 and had gained a positive reputation in the area, so when Nick purchased half of the business from its founder, he already had a solid customer base and successful business model. David Sweetman, who owned the other half of Gilbert Air, preferred to be a silent partner, so Nick took over the daily operations, managing the team of technicians and connecting with customers. Nick’s plan was to build the business over the next five years, then sell his share so he could spend time at home with his family.

On Memorial Day weekend in 2020, Nick and Alysha took the kids up to Forest Lakes, one of their favorite vacation spots, for a few days of fun with their friends and extended family. The stay-at-home order in Phoenix had just expired, and they were looking forward to getting out of the house and enjoying the fresh air. When they got home from the trip, Alysha posted dozens of photos on her Instagram, everyone smiling and having fun.

But of course, soon it was back to work. Cruize and Capri were starting their summer break, so Alysha stayed home with them while Nick headed back to Gilbert Air. Everything seemed to get back to normal, but that normalcy would soon be disrupted.

On Wednesday, May 27th, Nick was in his office when he got a FaceTime call from the kids. Cruize had just learned a cool trick on TikTok and wanted to show his dad. Alysha was in the kitchen washing dishes, only half-listening to their conversation, when suddenly she heard Capri say, “Something is wrong with dad.” Alysha quickly grabbed the phone, but all she could see was white, as if the phone had been dropped or put into a pocket. She could hear movement and muffled sounds, and then she heard yelling.

Alysha called out to Nick, but he didn’t respond. In a panic, Alysha grabbed her other phone and dialed 911, keeping Nick on FaceTime. She immediately told the dispatcher that her husband had been attacked in his office at Gilbert Air. “I think they’re beating him… I didn’t see anyone… I’m pretty sure I saw a black glove or gun above… I didn’t hear any shots or anything though. I could hear him yelling, screaming – someone was hitting him.”

The 911 call is difficult to listen to. Alysha’s desperation is clear in every word as she goes back and forth between giving details to the dispatcher and trying to get a response from her husband. In the background, you can hear distant sounds from the FaceTime call, and Alysha says she hears Nick moaning.

In the middle of the 911 call, an unintelligible male voice is heard on the other phone. Alysha cries out, “Who is that? Who’s there? I have the police on the phone!” Again, the muffled voice, and Alysha says, “Dave! Pick up the phone!”

The dispatcher repeatedly asks Alysha who the man is, but Alysha continues to shout at Dave, asking him where Nick is and what happened. Finally, she tells the dispatcher that it’s Nick’s partner. “He just came into the building, I don’t know… He’s just saying, ‘Oh my God.’”

Finally, police and emergency crews arrived at Gilbert Air, and the dispatcher told Alysha that she could hang up and do what she needed to do, whatever she felt was safe. In her state of shock, Alysha told the kids to put their shoes on and get in the car. She then made the 20-minute drive from their home in Scottsdale to Gilbert Air, calling Nick’s mom on the way and telling her that something had happened to Nick.

When Alysha arrived at the office, the scene was already roped off with yellow police tape. She ducked under the tape, but was headed off by two officers, telling her she couldn’t go in. Alysha asked them where the ambulance was; had they already taken Nick to the hospital? The officers stared at her for what seemed like hours, and her heart sank. Finally, a detective approached and told Alysha that her husband was dead.

Alysha later described falling to the ground, the hot summer pavement burning her skin. None of it felt real. It didn’t make sense. She had just seen Nick that morning, the kids had just been talking to him less than an hour ago. How could he be gone?

As Alysha was trying to make sense of this horrible news, the Gilbert Police Department was already investigating, talking to neighbors in the business park and trying to piece together a timeline. No one in the park had heard gunshots; Alysha hadn’t heard any on the FaceTime call either. David Sweetman, Nick’s partner, said that he had been “knocked out” before Nick had been attacked, so he hadn’t seen anything or anyone. When he came to, the attackers were gone, and he heard Alysha’s voice over the phone.

Detectives gathered security footage from other businesses in the area, hoping for a clue. Witnesses in the business park had seen two men leaving the parking lot in a white truck, an older model single cab pickup. Investigators scoured the video footage for any sign of the men or their truck.

The timeline of the attack was tight. According to phone records, Cruize and Capri had FaceTimed Nick at 5:25pm. At 5:28, Capri told Alysha that something was wrong. When Nick didn’t respond to her, Alysha called 911 at 5:30. Police arrived at the scene almost immediately. Whoever had attacked Nick had gotten in and out in under five minutes.

For weeks, Nick’s family had no answers. Alysha planned a funeral while trying to comfort her grieving children and keep herself from falling apart. The community mourned with her – Nick was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. Hundreds of people attended his memorial service to say goodbye.

Then, in mid-June, the Gilbert Police Department released surveillance video from the Arco gas station a few blocks away from Gilbert Air. In the video, timestamped 5:33pm on May 27th – just minutes after Nick was killed – a stocky man in a blue t-shirt and jeans casually walks into the convenience store, speaks to the cashier for a few seconds – presumably to put money on the gas pump – then walks back out to his vehicle, which is not seen on camera. The video footage was clear and close up – police had an excellent picture of one of the suspects in Nick’s murder. Surely someone would recognize him and call in a tip.

But nearly two years have passed with no updates in the case. It seems that investigators are keeping their information close to the vest. Naturally, in lieu of solid information, rumors abound. Everyone wants to speculate about Nick, the business, and the unidentified suspects. But of course, until investigators release more details about the case, we can only guess at what happened. There are so many unanswered questions and possible theories.

First of all, how has no one in the Gilbert community recognized the suspect on the video? Why was he so nonchalant as he walked into the convenience store? If he had just murdered a man in cold blood less than five minutes before, why would he stop for gas less than a mile from the crime scene? Was he not concerned about being caught on camera? Some have speculated that the man, who appears to be of Hispanic or Native descent, may have crossed the border into Mexico. If that was his plan all along, maybe he thought he had plenty of time to get away and wasn’t worried about getting caught. But the question remains – How was this man connected to Nick? Did he know Nick, or was he just hired to kill him?

And let’s not forget that two men were spotted leaving the scene of the crime. If there is surveillance video from the business park, why have police only released footage of one suspect? Did the other man stay in the car during the attack? What was his role in all of this?

There are also lots of questions surrounding the crime itself. According to Alysha, she didn’t hear any words exchanged between Nick and his attacker. She also didn’t hear any gunshots, just the sounds of what she assumed to be the attacker beating Nick. The police haven’t released any details about the crime scene, just that Nick was found deceased around 5:30pm. This was well after the office closed at 5:00, and Nick wasn’t one to leave the door unlocked after hours. Nick was on FaceTime starting at 5:25, and it doesn’t appear that he got up to open the door for anyone during the call. So how did the attacker get in?

Then there’s the question of Nick’s partner, David Sweetman. David was a silent partner in the business and was rarely around the office, but he happened to be there on May 27th. According to Alysha, David says he was knocked out from behind, so he didn’t see the attack. Is it possible that he was the one who opened the door, then was attacked before he knew what was happening? And why would the attacker leave a witness alive, running the risk of being identified later?

Complicating the case even more is the issue of Nick’s life insurance policy. In September of 2018, right after he became co-owner of Gilbert Air, Nick applied for a $3 million life insurance policy in which Alysha was the beneficiary. But in December of that same year, the beneficiary was changed to Gilbert Air, meaning that in the event of Nick’s death, the owners of the business would receive the payout, not Alysha. This type of key person insurance policy is fairly common in business partnerships; it’s something that can help keep a business afloat if one of the partners passes away. But here’s the problem – Alysha claims she didn’t know that she was being removed as the beneficiary. After Nick’s death, David filed a claim on the benefits, so Alysha filed a complaint with the county’s superior court, alleging that the beneficiary change was fraudulent. It’s another complication in an already messy case, but it certainly adds fuel to the rumors and theories surrounding Nick’s murder.

But since no official charges have been made, I will refrain from speculating any more than I already have. Ultimately, what matters most is that Nick Cordova was taken from his family far too soon. He deserves justice, and his family deserves at least some small measure of peace.

Alysha continues to advocate for justice for Nick. Nick’s case isn’t cold – it is still an active investigation and police need tips.

If you have any information regarding the murder of Nick Cordova, please contact the Gilbert Police Department at 480-503-6500 or call Silent Witness at 480-948-6377. And please share Nick’s story on social media. Someone out there may be the key to solving this mystery.