The family of a 38-year-old mother of four was left heartbroken and confused Tuesday morning after authorities said she was killed by her husband in an apparent murder-suicide in a rural area in the southern part of Livingston Parish.
The brother and parents of Sherry Toney said they are at a loss for what could have driven 34-year-old Patrick Toney to shoot his wife of seven years and then turn the gun on himself inside their home Monday night.
Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said in a statement that the shooting followed an argument, but that deputies had never responded to the address on the 20,000 block of LA Highway 444 for a domestic violence complaint in the past. Sherry Toney's family said they knew her husband to be family-oriented and a hard worker, saying he was neither violent nor inclined towards drugs.
"Not a clue," said her father, Terry Chisholm. "None of us has seen any type of domestic (violence) going on. But you never know what is behind doors."
Sherry and Patrick Toney lived in a gray manufactured house on a 13-acre tract of land they shared with Sherry Toney's brother, Brandon Chisholm, and her father. The family homes are situated one behind the other. The family complex, surrounded by trees, includes a large pond and several camper trailers and vehicles.
Brandon Chisholm said he was sitting in his house about 10:30 p.m. Monday when his 14-year-old niece came through his door, screaming "daddy's beating mama!"
He said he pulled on his shoes and ran to his sister's house — but it was too late.
"I opened the door, and it was already done," he recalled in an interview by a campfire outside his house where family gathered Tuesday morning.
Sherry Toney had two children from a previous relationship and the couple together had two children. All four children were at the home at the time of the shooting.
Family members said Sherry Toney devoted her life to her kids, ages 14, 12, 7 and 3.
On the day of her death, she had spent several hours taking her son to New Orleans for his three-times weekly dialysis treatments, said her mother, Paula Chisholm.
A graduate of Walker High School, Sherry Toney was a stay-at-home mom who also helped with the family's business, T-N-T Plumbing, and bred registered Labrador dogs.
"She didn't care if her plate was loaded, she took care of them babies," said Terry Chisholm. "That's all she was about. They were first."
Patrick Toney produced flyers and other printed goods for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Brandon Chisholm said.
Her parents said the couple had a happy marriage centered around the kids. They enjoyed hunting and fishing and would sometimes go camping.
"Everything they did revolved around family," Sherry Toney's father said.
On the day of the shooting, Paula Chisholm said, she had watched the kids and saw Patrick Toney before he left for work.
"Everything was fine. He was so polite and nice, thanking me for coming to watch the kids so he could leave to go to work," Paula Chisholm said.
"I don't understand how this could have happened," she said. "You see it on TV, but you never think this could happen to somebody in your family."
In fact, the family had recently seen its fortunes improve, said Lea Chisholm, Sherry Toney's stepmom. Patrick Toney had gotten a raise and the child with kidney failure had been placed on a donor list, she said.
"As far as we knew, things were just great," she said. "Obviously something snapped. Obviously. But what?"
Sherry Toney's family, who congregated at the family tract Tuesday, said Patrick Toney's mother was there also for much of the night, as floored as they were by the events.
"We loved him, too," said Lea Chisholm. "We thought the world of him. And now you're so confused. You want to be so mad at him. You want to hate him, but you can't."