Frederick Tokars, a lawyer and Amherst native who was convicted of arranging the kidnapping and murder of his wife in Atlanta, Ga., has died in a federal prison, his attorney said Friday.
He died in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, said his former attorney, Jerry Froelich of Atlanta.
His death was also reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and other news media in Atlanta.
Tokars, 67, had been serving a life sentence with no parole for his role in the November 1992 shotgun murder of his wife, Sara, who was also a native of Amherst. She was executed in her car, as the couple’s two terrified sons sat in the backseat.
“He should have died in the electric chair 28 years ago,” Sara Ambrusko Tokars' six sisters said, in a statement released Friday evening to The Buffalo News. “The pain and suffering that he caused those little boys and our family was and continues to be immeasurable.”
The crime – for which Tokars always denied responsibility – shocked Atlanta and was the subject of national news coverage.
Prosecutors said Tokars, an Atlanta tax attorney, hired a man to kill his wife, the former Sara Ambrusko, because he thought she was going to testify about his illegal money laundering activities. They said he also planned to cash in a $1.75 million insurance policy he had taken out on his wife’s life.
"He not only murdered Sara, but he traumatized their two little boys for life," said Joni Ambrusko, one of the victim's sisters. "Those two boys had to watch their mother murdered, right before their eyes. Then they ran away into a field."
"Sara was a former school teacher and one of the most caring people you could ever meet in your life," added Joni Ambrusko, who now lives in Florida. "She was the middle sister of the seven of us, and was always looking out to make sure the rest of us were OK."
Tokars and Sara Ambrusko were graduuates of Amherst High School. Sara, 39, was the daughter of a prominent Amherst physician, Dr. John Ambrusko. The doctor died in 2002.
Froelich said Tokars’ family was notified of his death by a prison chaplain last weekend. Froelich said he does not know the cause of death, but added that Tokars has been ill in recent years.
“We know that he died after being sent for treatment for a fever,” Froelich said. “It very well could have been related to Covid-19.”
In 1997, Tokars was sentenced to life without a chance of parole after his conviction for premeditated murder. In a separate case, he was convicted of federal racketeering charges involving the help he provided to a multimillion dollar Georgia drug trafficking ring.
Prosecutors alleged that the shooter, Curtis Rower, was hired by Tokars through an intermediary to be the hit man. Rower was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
After he was sent to prison, Tokars became a government witness, helping federal prosecutors to solve six murders and convict three violent criminals, Froelich said. Because he was a government witness, no specific information has been released about his death, including the name of the prison where he died.