Who was Mike Tokars? Journalist saw his mother being shot dead in front of him when he was just 4 years old
What was even more traumatic was that the hit was ordered by his father Fred Tokars
Mike Tokars was just four years old when he saw his mother Sara being murdered right in front of him. What was even more traumatic was that the hit was ordered by his father Fred Tokars.
The tale of horror goes back to 1992. On November 29, Sara and her two boys, seven-year-old Ricky and four-year-old Mike, arrived at their Georgia home after spending Thanksgiving out of town with the family. Sara's husband Fred, a prominent Atlanta attorney, was in a hotel room in Alabama as he knew that his wife would soon be killed. He had planned her murder meticulously. He had offered $25,000 to a business associate to kill Sara in their home and pass it off as a burglary. The business associate, Eddie C. Lawrence, then contracted gunman Curtis Rower to complete the job.
Mike recalled waking up in the back of his mother’s 4Runner, which was in the garage of the family’s East Cobb home. A strange man emerged from the house with a sawed-off shotgun. He kicked the family’s springer spaniel Jake aside, and jumped into the backseat beside Mike; and forced Mike’s mother to drive to a vacant residential development about a half mile away, where she pulled over. He shot her in the head and then fled. From the passenger seat, Mike’s brother Rick turned off the ignition. After seeing their mother slumped over the steering wheel, Rick told Mike they had to go for help. But Mike knew she was dead.
Lawrence told Rower to kill Sara, “a white woman in her 40s,” according to court documents. Later, Ricky took Mike’s hand and walked through a field looking for help. They saw a home with lights on and walked toward it. A man opened the door when the children approached and saw a “mixture of blood and some kind of white material” on top of Ricky’s head, according to court documents.
Fred, Lawrence and Rower were convicted and were sentenced to prison for life. According to prosecutors, Sara was murdered after she found out that her husband was involved in money laundering and was associated with drug dealers. She threatened to leave Tokars and report his activities to police in an attempt to ensure he didn’t get custody of their children. The boys never spoke to Fred again, though he tried sending them letters from prison. They grew up in Florida, and their aunts and grandparents helped raise them.
Fred Tokars’s 1997 trial and conviction was broadcast nationally on Court TV, and which Mike did not attend. Family and friends tried protecting the boys from the horror, but “sometimes it would come up,” Mike said once to Atlanta Magazine.
“And when it didn’t, I knew that they knew. As we got older, we had more control over who knew,” he said “I was always open about it with my close friends. I wanted to explain—talking about my parents made me feel like a normal person.” Mike said that wasn’t the case with his brother, who was much more guarded. “I can’t remember a single instance of us talking about it,” says Mike. “We didn’t need to."
Mike died in April this year. Tokars, according to reports, died from a pulmonary embolism. He had developed a blood clot behind his knee earlier this year, and after undergoing treatment in California, a clot “broke loose and moved to his lungs,” AJC reported. Mike, a Columbia University journalism graduate, had once written a story for AJC about the death of his mother, Sara Tokars, though he later asked for it to be removed. For years, he struggled trying to earn a living as a writer and musician in New York. He had recently moved to California, where some of his family members lived, in the hope of closure and a fresh start.
He never quite recovered from the tragedy, as his aunt Krissy revealed, even though the family did everything they could to provide him a healthy upbringing after Sara's death. “He struggled his whole life; he was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. He was searching to find happiness through music and writing. I think Fred stole that happiness from him," she told Crime Online. She also said that Mike had a perpetual sadness when growing up. "Mike was just so sad. I remember he was 4 years old and I was tucking him into bed at night and I realized he had a picture of Sara underneath his pillow.”