Fred Tokars hired a hitman to kill his wife in front of his sons on Thanksgiving weekend in 1992

By Steve Helling
May 15, 2020 04:46 PM
Thomas S. England/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty

An Atlanta attorney who masterminded the 1992 murder of his wife in front of their two young sons has died in prison.

Fred Tokars, 67, died of natural causes in a Pennsylvania prison while serving a life sentence, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to authorities, Tokars hired a hitman to kill his wife on Thanksgiving weekend in 1992. The hitman, Curtis Rower, kidnapped Sara Tokars along with her children Ricky and Mike, who were 6 and 4 at the time. Rower shot Sara Tokars in the head in front of the boys.

Curtis Rower was arrested for the murder. When he pleaded guilty, he pointed to Fred Tokars as the one who hired him.

During Tokars' trial, prosecutors said that he had hired Rowars to kill Sara after she discovered that he was laundering money for drug dealers through his law practice. She had threatened to turn him in, so her husband had her killed, prosecutors said.

Tokars was convicted of racketeering in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison. In 1997, he was convicted of Sara's murder and given another life sentence. He was not eligible for parole — although he became a prison informant, testifying against other people in the hopes of getting his sentenced reduced.

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Fred Tokars
Atlanta Journal Constitution/AP

Tokars' attorney, Jerry Froelich, tells the Journal-Constitution that Tokars suffered from a neurological disease that had destroyed his body. "He hadn't walked in 10 years," Froelich told the paper, adding that he had suffered from a fever for several days before his death.

The crime had a long-term effect on the sons. The gunman fled after the shooting. Ricky took Mike by the hand and ran to a nearby house, telling the homeowner that a bad man had shot his mother. Ricky grew up to be an EMT; Mike was a journalist who struggled with depression for years before he died last month.

Family members of Sara Tokars say that they're not saddened at his death.

“He should have died in the electric chair 28 years ago," Sarah's sister, Joni Ambrusko, told the Journal-Constitution. "The pain and suffering that he caused those little boys and our family was and continues to be immeasurable."