Febraury 9th, 1985, Stasi and I (Phil) were married. On July 14th, our first daughter Toni was born. On November 12, 1986, our second daughter Erica was born. We moved to Littleton, Colorado in 1995 to give our girls a better environment to live in. Life was good.
Until February 17th, 2008, when the direction of our lives changed drastically. It was a snowy Sunday morning when a Denver Detective and a Victims Advocate came to our door to tell us that our oldest daughter had been killed by her boyfriend, James Greenwood. We were dropped into a world we knew nothing about. A world of murder, domestic violence and the legal system. We had no idea which way was up. We were fortunate that we had several people and family that helped us through the darkest moments of this tragic time.
Right away, we knew we needed to not only keep Toni’s memory alive but to commemorate her life. So instead of letting the depression get a hold of us, we decided to turn the pain around and try to educate others so they won’t have to go through the same hell that we’ve gone through. We started The TONI Connection. Our original goal was to provide scholarships to graduating seniors and help fund students on educational travel programs. But as we began to put the pieces together of Toni’s last year, we learned more about what had happened to Toni and how James had controlled her life, we realized that we had missed many warning signs.
Domestic violence had never been part of our lives. We had never understood the many ways that someone could be abused, it was more than physical violence. All we had ever told our girls was to never let a guy hit you. That’s all we knew to tell them. Now, as we have learned more of what Toni had been through and how she had become a victim of domestic violence, we knew that we had to share that information with others.
We found out after the fact, that James had been controlling the relationship for quite a while. Toni had originally decided against moving in with him but he made her feel guilty by claiming he couldn’t afford to live without her, financially and emotionally. He would tell her to stay home by herself while he went out for days at a time. He told her that she was worthless because she wasn’t doing enough to bring in money, even though she was working two jobs. He started controlling her time by texting and calling her, keeping tabs on where she was. He started keeping her from seeing her friends and from seeing us. There was always an excuse as to why she couldn’t come over or stay very long. He had her email and phone passwords so he could see who she was calling / texting and emailing. He even had her bank account info so he could track her money. That’s how easily it can start. Small steps that make it easier for bigger steps to be taken. Soon….he had power over almost everything.
Raising awareness about teen dating violence and domestic abuse has become a mission for The TONI Connection. We want to share Toni’s story to help prevent our greatest nightmare from becoming someone else’s.
The choices that James made, the action that he took that night, not only made Toni a crime victim…..but also made everyone that knew her a victim as well. We have all been victimized by what he did.
It has been 7 years since Toni’s death. Her killer pled guilty and has been convicted of 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to 48 years in prison. Toni was a sweet, kind, compassionate young woman whose life was taken at the age of 22. We are not the same people we were before, we can never be the same. The choices that James made in the early morning of February 17th, 2008 have changed who we are and where we are heading. We are now walking a different path, sharing Toni with anyone and everyone that will listen, changing the future by honoring the past.