Wife Swap Murders

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The reality tv show, Wife Swap, was first broadcast in the U.S. in 2004. It aired on the ABC network. The show was based on two families from different U.S. locations, usually with very different backgrounds. Generally, the two families would swap the wife/mother, but at times, swapped husbands/dads as well.

The two family’s lifestyles at times were so incredibly different that it caused chaos throughout the show.

In 2008, the show brought the Tonkovic family and the Stockdale family together. These two families were the absolute opposite of each other. The Stockdale family resided in rural Ohio; they consisted of four boys raised by Kathy and Tim Stockdale. The family was extremely conservative and moved out of the city because they feared harmful exposure to their children. They lived on a farm, and the boys were all homeschooled.
The four Stockdale boys ranged between the ages of 11 to 19, Calvin (19), Charles (16), Jacob (15), and James (11). None had ever been romantically involved, were not allowed to date, and were not allowed to watch television, play video games, or listen to any type of music other than religious or bluegrass….  Basically, they weren’t allowed to do anything that would disrupt the conservative moral values they were being taught.

Candy wasn’t allowed to be consumed, and cussing was never allowed in the household; the internet was completely off-limits. Katherine felt in order for her boys to succeed, they would need a good work ethic and strong structure in their lives. She and Tim felt their strict rules and schedules were protecting the boys from bad influences.

In fact, in order to have any privileges, the boys had to do chores. The boys were also heavily involved in a bluegrass band, joined by their father.

The Stockdale family band was a bluegrass band. Tim played guitar, Calvin played banjo, Charles played the mandolin, Jacob played the fiddle, and James played the bass. Katherine was not part of the band but was the band’s manager.

The Stockdale family band was the family’s priority. Homeschooling the boys was crucial as the band traveled and played competitively. The family wrote three albums, and the boys stated their father inspired them. 

And, of course, there were also strict rules surrounding band practice. 

The family that was to swap with the Stockdales was the Tonkovic family.  Laurie Tonkovic was vastly different from Katherine Stockdale, and she stated that her children had free reign over anything in her home, and the family included their children’s partners who lived in the home. 

When the show began to film, the two families would swap the mothers/wives. So the very liberal and open-minded Laurie Tonkovic would trade places with the very modest Katherine Stockdale.  

The two women would leave each other a family manual. Katherines was extremely detailed and a bit long. I won’t bore you with the entire thing but will post it in this story on Unexplainedrealms.com

But here is a piece of the very strict Stockdale family manual. 

Stockdale Family Manual


We’re not just a family, we’re a band – the ‘Stockdale Family Band’. We play bluegrass in barn dances and shin-digs all over our area. We have Calvin on banjo, Charles on mandolin, Jacob on fiddle, and James on upright bass. Tim, my husband, is on guitar and I’m the manager. A family that plays together stays together, and there’s nothing so wholesome as playing old-time bluegrass with your favorite people; your family.

We moved to the country to get the boys away from the city. Our children are being raised away from violent language, sexual influences, drinking, smoking, drugs, rap music, all the things we left behind in the city. Instead, we are raising our children on a diet of wholesome activities and farm work, keeping their minds pure and their bodies healthy and keeping out the influences of modern society. That is why we home-school.

Here are a few more statements from her manual : 

The boys receive tokens for every chore they do and an extra token if they do it with a glad heart. They trade their tokens for privileges like listening to the radio or for a stick of gum.

 I give my boys a large spoonful of cod-liver oil after dinner to keep their hearts and minds strong.

TV and video games are banned. They produce redundant minds and lazy children. I want my boys to be active, productive, and busy every waking moment. Internet access is restricted; there’s no idle surfing in this house. 

The boys are not encouraged to date until they are ready to get married. The boys were not even allowed to play sports as Katherine believed it would make them too self-centered and competitive. 

If they don’t finish eating what is served, they will not be given anything else to eat for the rest of the day. She also states that if they are late for breakfast, they must pay .25 cents, and the fee gets larger the later they are. 

Meal options….. Disgusting. Here are just a few I read from her manual, which included a menu.

Breakfast: Giblets (Chicken hearts and gizzards)

Lunch: Fried liver on bread and butter

Supper: Sardines on hot buttered toast with mustard, sauerkraut, tomato soup, and pickled eggs.


Homeschooling gave her control, and she forced the boys to receive A’ on all their schoolwork before moving on to new material. The boys would take part in debate sessions every day at 4 pm. 

But outside of all this, the number one rule was to obey your parents. 

Meanwhile, at the Tonkovic household, there was fast food on multiple nights of the week, cigarette smoking in the home, kids slept till late in the morning or afternoon, and in some cases, parties were thrown with the parents in attendance.

In the Tonkovic family manual, Laurie stated she did not want to raise children that were sheltered. She also said their son was a rapper, T Vic, and they fully supported him. 

She also said that none of her kids have jobs and that if they need money, they know to come to her. 

Once the swap occurred, Laurie and Kathy would live by the rules of each other’s households for one week. Then the second week, they could change the rules. 

During Laurie’s second week with the Stockdale boys, she allowed them to play video games freely, not do chores, and even allowed the older boys to go on a date. 

Overall, The experience was rough on both families, and the Stockdale boys returned to their extremely structured life after the show.

By 2017, the two older boys, Calvin and Charles, had moved out of the home. Jacob, James, a family friend, and their father, Tim, still played in the band. In June 2017, the band stayed busy and toured the area performing. 

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until the night of June 15th, 2017.  A call was made to the Stark County police 911 dispatch. The call came in around 4:36 pm, and the caller hung up. As a formality, deputies were dispatched to the address. Once arriving, they found the front door open and a figure on the inside. Within seconds of seeing a figure, they heard a gunshot. 

They called for backup and entered the home. It appeared Jacob had shot and killed his mother and his 21-year-old brother James. 

He then shot himself; he was alive but in grave condition.

Officers found Kathy in the upstairs bathroom. 

Jacob was in the hospital recovering when the indictment process began. He was finally arrested in September 2018, more than one year after the murders. He was charged with two counts of murder and pleaded not guilty. 

By January 2019, Jacobs’s attorney would request a psychological evaluation. In May, Jacob was placed in a psychiatric facility and deemed not mentally competent to stand trial, and the court felt his competency would be restored within a year. 

Jacobs’s father, Tim, has attended every court hearing. 

Will we ever know if the extreme schedules and disciplined days caused Jacob to snap and murder those he loved? Or was there a pre-existing mental illness? 

I suppose we just leave this to the realms of the unexplained…

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