The Justice Department's inspector general later issued a 517-page report that confirmed Whitehurst's allegations of substandard analyses, testimonial "errors" and generally poor practices at the lab.

Thurman soon retired from the agency, became a college professor and, in a second act that may be described as ironic, authored a well-received book in 2006 titled Practical Bomb Scene Investigation.

As for Thurman's work in the Fort Hood mail-bombing case, a 1997 FBI task force later concluded that all evidence had been destroyed. That seemingly made any real investigation into Thurman's pivotal work in that decade-old case impossible.

Robert Ortloff in 1982
Robert Ortloff in 1982
The SceneOne Condominiums in Tempe, where Kathleen Smith was murdered in 1984.
Paul Rubin
The SceneOne Condominiums in Tempe, where Kathleen Smith was murdered in 1984.


E-mail, or call 602-229-8433.

Ortloff continued to file his Freedom of Information requests and his lawsuits against the government.

He worked endlessly at the prison library on his so-called "chronology of facts" of the myriad events (the uncharged Kathleen Smith case, the FBI crime lab, and so on) that he alleged had wrongfully landed him behind bars.

As 1999 began, Ortloff continued to prepare hard for a parole hearing slated for sometime that year.

On April 10, 1994, a detailed story in the New York Times reported that "a prominent Atlanta lawyer has been convicted of arranging the murder of his wife, who was shot to death in front of the couple's two young sons as part of a cocaine and money-laundering conspiracy.

"The lawyer, Fredric Tokars, a former prosecutor and part-time judge, was convicted on Friday of eight federal charges, including racketeering, kidnapping, money laundering and using the phone to set up a murder."

Tokars, then 40, still faced a state murder charge, where prosecutors would seek the death penalty.

In Atlanta, Sara Tokars' murder had been a huge story ever since it occurred just after Thanksgiving 1992.

Mrs. Tokars and her sons, 4 and 6, were kidnapped from their suburban home. An intruder forced them into the mother's car and ordered her to drive down the street. There, he shot her in the head from close range and fled into the night.

The 6-year-old reached around his mother's bloody body to stop the vehicle and ran with his little brother to a neighbor's home for help.

Suspicions about Tokars soon arose. Police learned that Sara was about to seek a divorce and had asked a private detective to turn over his findings of her husband's various criminal enterprises and adulterous activities to authorities if anything happened to her.

Also, Tokars had taken out $1.7 million in insurance on Sara's life, with himself as sole beneficiary.

Within weeks, police arrested a Tokars business associate and another man on charges of murdering Sara and announced that Tokars also was a murder suspect.

The feds arrested Tokars in August 1993.

"Wife Dead, Husband Indicted, Atlanta Is Transfixed," a headline in the New York Times read.

In his closing argument at Tokars' federal trial the following year, a prosecutor told the jury, "You know what a hypocrite is? A hypocrite is a wolf in sheep's clothing. A hypocrite is a human being who portrays to be something good when they are really bad . . . And that is the case for Fred Tokars."

After the jury convicted Tokars, a judge sentenced him to four life sentences in a federal prison.

In March 1997, another jury in the state of Georgia's case against Tokars decided to spare his life after convicting him of murdering Sara.

During the sentencing phase, one of Tokars' oldest friends, Alan Bell, made an impassioned plea for mercy. Bell was a former prosecutor who split his time between Tucson and Capistrano Beach, California.

Bell would become a central figure in the new legal machinations that later would envelop Robert Ortloff.

By the late 1990s, records show that federal inmate Tokars already had offered his services to the government as what prosecutors like to term "a cooperating witness."

Others call them snitches, and they are everywhere inside penal institutions. In exchange for "information" about other inmates, government informants often are transferred into nicer prisons or receive other benefits.

In 1998, Tokars came forward with information on fellow inmate Dustin Honken, serving a 27-year sentence in a Colorado Supermax prison on a drug-distribution conviction.

Tokars and another inmate separately told authorities that Honken had confessed to the unsolved 1993 murders in Iowa of three adults and two children.

Prosecutors later secured Tokars' placement in the federal witness-protection program. Tokars and many other inmates testified against Honken at the 2004 trial, which ended in convictions and a death sentence.

But not everyone was enamored of Fred Tokars.

"Regarding his personality structure," a prison psychiatrist wrote of him in 1998, "it seems apparent that he has been dealt many narcissistic blows. He has a long history of manipulating and coercing people. He did not talk about his crimes at all, and he does not seem to have any remorse for his crimes."

On January 5, 1999, the feds transferred Fred Tokars from Colorado to the medium-security Oxford, Wisconsin, prison where Robert Ortloff had been housed for a few years.

It was a busy time for Ortloff, legally speaking.

He was putting the finishing touches on yet another attempt at a habeas petition ("newly discovered evidence"), though he says he was aware it would be an uphill struggle to win the day.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
bill w.
bill w.

Alan Bell is a well known attorney to myself and other colleagues of mine. He has a sterling reputation as an ethical and dedicated lawyer. His many accomplishments are impressive. He is also a distinguished philanthropist.


I'll always love you Fred. Call me. Remember who you are and that all good intentions get twisted in this day and age.


test comment


Fred Tokars is an honest man with a lot of personal integrity. Those closest to him, and there are many, know him to be a true friend, patient, gracious, and forgiving. I will always love this true friend and miss him forever.

Phoenix Concert Tickets