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Family of 1994 murder victim outraged by new directive from parole board

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 7:46 PM EDT
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) - In July of 1994, Tom Toney was reported missing in Boyd County, Kentucky. He was last seen cashing a check at a Foodland in Ashland.

His wife, Rita, begged the public for help in an interview with WSAZ.

“His family needs him back, she said. “We’ve got to have him back.”

Police later spotted his vehicle, which they began chasing -- resulting in a shootout. The suspect, later identified as Roy Stanley Pearce fled the scene on foot. He was eventually captured weeks later at a home in Michigan on Toney’s 50th birthday.

In order to avoid capital punishment, Pearce confessed to killing Toney and drew police a map of where they could find his body.

Thirty-three days after he was reported missing, Tom Toney’s body was recovered in the woods. According to officials, his murder was gruesome and horrific.

Pearce was on parole at the time, a criminal record including charges of assault, drugs, traffic and misdemeanor charges, as well as several deadly weapons offenses.

To this day, his family tells WSAZ they aren’t sure how or if Pearce knew Toney, or why he killed him.

“There comes a point,” said David Toney, Tom’s son. “No matter what the answers are, I just have to get on and move ahead and try to take care of my family and chase grandkids around.”

In December of 1994, Pearce was convicted of robbery and murder, sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

The first parole hearing was November 2020. The family and several witnesses told the Kentucky Parole Board that Pearce should not be given his freedom due to the violent nature of his crimes.

The Kentucky Parole Board agreed and decided that Pearce would have to serve out the rest of his sentence -- until a recent measure was announced, undoing the work done at the last hearing.

“It was a gut punch,” said David Toney.

David Toney now lives in Tennessee. He says the area no longer felt like home to him and he hasn’t returned in nearly 15 years.

A recent directive by the Kentucky Parole Board signifies that about 45 inmates across the state will be eligible for a second parole hearing, if they were told to serve out their sentence at their first hearing.

In this case, Pearce will be given another chance in front of the parole board in November 2030. Toney says it’s a lot to put the family through, especially since they had tried to put this matter behind them.

“It’s taken a lot of years to get to where I am right now,” said David Toney. “Forgiveness isn’t there yet, but the seething hatred it’s not there either. It’s a process.”

He says this directive could ultimately impact community safety.

“If he gets parole, no one knows where he’s going,” he said. “He could wind up somebody’s next door neighbor.”

David Toney has set up a petition; you can read more and sign it here.

Toney hopes residents will speak up and reach out to elected officials to voice concerns.

“If there’s a fight to be fought, I’m there,” he said. “I’ve not seen on yet in my lifetime that’s more important than this. I can’t do nothing for him at this point, but I can do something for other people and that’s what he would want me to do.”

He is also planning a rally at House of Grace Church in Ashland on July 31, hoping to bring attention to the cause and allow families an opportunity to speak their minds.

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