'Homicide for the Holidays': How lawyer Fred Tolkars had his wife killed in front of their two young kids to maintain his life of lies
After spending Thanksgiving with her family, Sara and her kids bid goodbye to her family and promise to be back for Christmas and make up for the lost time. That was the last time her family saw her alive
The holidays are a season of joy. Families get together and show gratitude for being in each other's lives no matter how busy they may have been through the year. The Ambruskos were no different.
On Thanksgiving Day, Sara Ambrusko and her husband Fredric Tokars drove down from their Atlanta home in the affluent suburb East Cobb to Bradenton in Florida, to Sara's parents. Their two young boys, four-year-old Mike and six-year-old Ricky, were in the car, looking forward to the holidays.
Only, it wasn't going to go as smoothly. Sara worked in marketing at Altlanta and her husband Fred was a one-time prosecutor.
He had switched sides and become a criminal defense attorney because it paid better. The two had fallen in love quickly and had been married for seven years. They were regular people, living their best life with their kids.
At their parent's home for Thanksgiving on November 29, 1992, Fred gets a client call. He worked all the time and was never home and since he became a criminal defense attorney, his job had also become dangerous.
Sara worried about him and the boys all the time. Fred had to go to a client meeting in Alabama and it just couldn't wait. The family decided to carry on with the festivities anyway, for their two kids.
After spending the day with the family, Sara and her kids bid goodbye to her family and promise to be back for Christmas and make up for the lost time. That was the last time her family saw her alive.
Just before 11 pm, Sara gets home to the driveway only to meet a man in a hoodie holding a gun to her and the kids. It is dark, no one is around and he directs them to get in the car and drive.
She begs him not to hurt the kids. He shoves a gun in her face and tells her to keep driving. After they drove for a while, she begs him again to not hurt the kids.
He warns her to not "F***" with him and she responds saying, "I'm not trying to f***" with you" and just like that, he shoots her with his shotgun in the back of the head. She dies, with her two kids in the car.
The police arrived after the kids walked up to a neighbor's house covered in blood, saying that their mother had been shot. They found the car red with blood inside and her body had still been warm.
Blood was still dripping from her hair. Upon interrogation, Ricky told the police that it had been a black male and he had shot his mom with a "pirate" gun. He had tried to shake her awake, not comprehending that she had already died.
The first thought was that it was a carjacking gone wrong, or even a robbery — but all the jewelry inside was still there and so were the valuables. What was strange was that it seemed like a room in the house had been staged to look like a robbery. The door had been unlocked but there were no signs of a break-in.
The police were at a dead end. There was no one that seemed to have wanted to hurt Sara, an incredibly low-risk victim but there she was — dead.
They brought in the husband for questioning and he seemed so broken and upset that he wanted to do everything he could to help. He sat in the room for three hours chronicling his business associates, partners, and clients but nothing seemed to match.
Meanwhile, Sara's family had set up a reward for information. Tips had poured in and one of them really turned this case around. One woman had given her brother up for the reward for $25,000, saying that her brother had come home wearing blood trainers and when the news came up on TV, she had rejoiced.
When they brought him in for questioning, the police found that he was a hired hitman by a man named Eddie Lawrence, a shifty character who had forgeries linked to him.
They visited his office and what they found was shocking — Fred Tokars' name was on the plank of their door along with Lawrence. In the three hours they had spoken to him, Fred had failed to mention that. The police, however, still didn't have enough to hold him.
The investigation found that Fred had a completely different life than what the Ambruskos knew about. Fred was surrounded by hookers and cocaine and was helping nightclubs launder money to offshore accounts.
One day, after snooping in his office, Sara had found out about this secret life. She had asked for a divorce, desperate to get out of the marriage but he had threatened her saying he would take the kids.
Eventually, when it got too much, he decided to get her out of the way so he could continue his lifestyle. He had asked Lawrence to do it for him as a way to repay the $80,000 loan he had taken from Fred, but Lawrence decided to hire someone else.
In order to get sympathy, Fred even attempted a half-hearted suicide in a motel in Florida after the police started building their case. But eventually, he was caught and convicted.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997. Catch the full story on Oxygen's 'Homicide for the Holidays', when it premiered on Saturday 7.30 pm ET/PT. Catch the rest of the episodes at 7pm ET/PT on Saturday.