ATLANTA - It was 20 years ago this week when the name Tokars was all too common to hear on Atlanta's evening news. Two decades have passed since Sara Tokars was murdered with her husband; Fred Tokars, later convicted as the man behind her hit.
FOX 5 News spoke exclusively to Sara Tokars' sister, Krissy Pennington about the case and how it still evokes strong emotions for Sara's family.
It all started the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1992 with the kidnapping of Sara and her two young boys, Rick, 7, and Mike, 4. With a gun pointed at her head, the kidnapper demanded that Sara drive them from their Cobb County home. It was just as she was pulling from their subdivision when the sawed-off shotgun went off.
Sara was shot at point blank range in front of her own children.
The gunman fled the scene.
Rick and Mike ran to a nearby home for help, but it was too late. Their mother had died.
The horrific crime stunned and captivated Atlanta, but it is one which Krissy has been trying hard to forget.
"Especially this time of year, no matter what, you realize that our life had really just been a nightmare. It's been a nightmare for 20 years," said Pennington.
Krissy remembers how the whole family grieved at their loss, especially Sara's two young boys.
"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," said Pennington.
But the greatest heartbreak might have been who was responsible for this heinous crime.
An attorney and municipal court judge, Fred Tokars was a well-known Atlanta figure, but what was not publicly known at the time of Sara's murder was his shady dealings. Within a year, he was taken into custody by Federal agents on various charges for his part in a money laundering operation. Just over four years after her death, a jury convicted him on the state murder charges.
Sara's family believes he should have received the death penalty. Instead, he was sentenced to life without parole.
"And the fact that Fred is sitting in some jail cell watching cable TV, football games and reading the Wall Street Journal is just absolutely disgusting to me," said Pennington.
Pennington said that the lack of forgiveness despite the time passed is because of the emotions stirred every time she sees a picture of her sister. She can't help but be taken back to the way she died.
"I just don't want anybody to forget that she was a sweet, wonderful, innocent mother. And she never did anything wrong. And the terror and the horror she went through," said Pennington.
The gunman, Curtis Rower, and a middleman, Eddie Lawrence, were also eventually arrested in connection to Sara's death. All three men are still in prison.
It is twenty years later and things have changed. Many involved in the case have moved on or retired. And many of the family and friends have moved away.
"Even in spite of everything, it's amazing that they've been able to do as well as they have been," Pennington said about her nephews.
Sara's two sons were raised by their grandparents in Florida before heading off to college. Rick, now 26, is studying to be a paramedic in California, while Mike, now 24, is an aspiring journalist in New York.