The Wife Swap Murders – Update

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I just loved the series “Wife Swap”. They would take two moms from completely different walks of life and opposite parenting methods; the moms would switch families, and we would watch what happened. It really shouldn’t be a surprise than something crazy could happen to a family from the show, a few made the news.

The outrageous Heene clan

For instance, on October 15th of 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene, who had appeared on a 2008 episode of the show, placed a 911 call to say that their 6 year old son had accidentally taken off into the air on a homemade weather balloon. Panicked officials did everything within their power to rescue the child, and no expenses were spared. Hours later it was discovered that the kid had been at home, hiding, all along.

The Heenes later gave a morning show interview in which the child accidentally admitted that the “balloon boy” fiasco was just a hoax! Needless to say, everyone involved in the rescue along with the entire town were absolutely infuriated. Not only had they all been terribly stressed whilst believing that the child’s life was in danger, but it had cost the county so much money – they’d even had helicopters chasing after that UFO shaped balloon! In 2010 not only were Richard and Mayumi ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution, but they were both sentenced to serve a month in jail. A few years later they tried to seek fame again by turning the family into a heavy metal band.

Then there is the Stockdale family; who would’ve expected tragedy to strike this wholesome bunch?

Above photo, from left: Calvin, Jacob, James, and father Tim Stockdale.

The Stockdale family appeared on the aforementioned reality show back in 2008. Kathryn Stockdale was a super-strict, uber religious, and controlling mom from Canton, Ohio. The father, Tim, and their 4 boys had a very popular bluegrass act: “The Stockdale Family Band”. They were all pretty decent, too; well, better than decent – the family was loaded with talent! Check out their YouTube videos, even if you’re not a bluegrass music fan surely you can still appreciate their talents. I’ll post one for you just below.

Video of the Stockdale family performing

Mama Kathy was into healthy living; she was a farmsteader who grew all of her own veggies, and she raised her own animals to feed her family. The boys were all homeschooled, they were absolutely not permitted to date, very seldom allowed to socialize with other boys their age. The boys had to do chores around their farm in order to earn coins if they wished to partake in any sort of entertainment such as listen to the radio for an allotted amount of time – and that was approved listening only, mind you, as they were not to be corrupted by pop music or culture.

Mother Kathryn Stockdale

There were absolutely no swear words, video games, no television, or internet within this household. What they had was togetherness, chores, religion, and their band. Sure, it was pretty darn strict, but it made for great tv and the family seemed “wholesome” enough. Sorry to keep repeating that word, but nothing else sums them up so well. On the show they swapped with Illinois’ Tonkovic family, who were the Stockdales family’s polar opposites, as per usual.

After the show, the Stockdale family continued living their lives as they had before. They kept on doing their shows and entering competitions, individually and as a group, in which they very often won. Their community has stated that the family had always been much respected and loved; the Stockdale family had been looked up to as role models.

Fast forward to 2017 – At age 54 Kathryn was still handling the business end of the family band, and she’d also become a Grandma. James, the youngest brother and accomplished bass player, was 21 years old and enrolled at Kent State University Stark. He was getting his degree in business, and planning to help his mama with the family’s finances. 25 year old Jacob, the third Stockdale son and fiddle player, was still focusing on his music. Along with Tim, the father, these 4 continued to live and work together; the two older brothers, Charles and Calvin, had moved away once they’d become old enough to attend college. They were still included in the family musical act whenever they came home to visit.

At a little past 4:30 on the afternoon of June 15th in 2017 a 911 call was placed from the Stockdale home; it was a hang-up call. As soon Police arrived to check on the family, they heard a gunshot; upon entering the home they found that Jacob had shot his mama, his baby brother, then had turned the 20 gauge shotgun on himself. Miraculously Jacob survived the shot to the head; he sustained serious brain injuries and had to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries, but he did survive. Sadly, his mother and brother were already deceased when police found them. Father Tim had been on his way home from work when he received the devastating call from police.

Father and the two older brothers claimed that they’d had no idea that there had ever been any issues at all within the family. Not a single Stockadle had any history of violence, police had never been summoned to the residence, none had any sort of criminal record, nor were there any known mental health issues. Now this isn’t to say that Jacob hadn’t been mentally ill; mother had been all about healthy living and religion. She didn’t seem like the type to take her children to a psychologist no matter how badly they needed one – I could easily be wrong about this.

No one who’d known the family could think of a single reason for this tragedy, except Mrs. Tonkovik, the mom who Kathryn has swapped with years earlier. She gave an interview stating that she wasn’t surprised that there had been trouble within the family. The boys were never allowed to make any of their own decisions, interact with people their own age, and she feels the overbearingness caught up with them.


Calvin, the oldest brother, went on record soon after the tragedy happened; he said that he had fully forgiven Jacob, and asked that people please pray for his brother’s recovery.

Jacob in court

Jacob’s lawyer is going for a not guilty by reason of insanity defense; the trial was set for April of 2019 but the defendant was found mentally incompetent. While the death penalty is not in the table, if convicted, this young man could serve the rest of his life in prison. Hopefully during the trial we will finally have some answers.
As always, I promise to update the minute I hear something new.

As promised, I’m here with an update. In April of this year, a now 28 year old Jacob pleaded guilty to murdering his mother and brother. He’s been sentenced to 30 years to life.

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