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Family fears domestic violence led to West Jordan woman's death

Posted at 10:31 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 23:56:24-04

A West Jordan family is speaking up about domestic violence, after a woman was found dead in Ogden Canyon-- and they believe she was a victim of relationship violence.

That woman, said the Weber County Sheriff's Office Thursday, is 30-year old Lopine "Chynna" Toilolo.

Her family confirmed the news to Fox 13 on Wednesday, sharing their frustrations over trying to report her missing to police days before her body was found near the Ogden River.

The investigation appeared to lead detectives to the home where Chynna's family said her ex-boyfriend lives. Fox 13 is not naming the ex-boyfriend, because at this time investigators have not made any arrests in Chynna's death or named any suspects.

But Chynna's mother and brother explained, they believe he has something to do with how Chynna died.

After Chynna went missing on Sunday, they began to piece her last days together. She sent a text to her mother Sunday morning that said, "I'm on my way home."

Chynna never arrived.

Phone records showed that Chynna and her ex-boyfriend had been speaking to each other again, the family said.

"We didn't even know that she was back in contact with him," said Chynna's brother, Sefuluai Toilolo Jr.

"I had no idea, until we checked the logs," echoed Terrie Toilolo, Chynna's mother.

They shared their serious concerns about Chynna's ex-boyfriend.

"He's abusive," Sefuluai said. "He beat her up a few months ago."

Court records obtained by Fox 13 show the man was charged with assault in December. The Toilolo family said Chynna was badly injured during that incident.

They also said her ex-boyfriend was known to take her phone away from her, and isolate her in his house. They said she wasn't allowed to leave his home, and eventually ran away.

Sefuluai described how he wanted to help, but that Chynna wouldn't tell them where her ex-boyfriend lived and that she didn't want her family involved.

Terrie said she had a serious talk with her daughter about the man's abusive behavior.

"She promised me, that she will never go back," Terrie said. "And I told her, we had a talk: 'Please don't ever go back. This guy is toxic. If you go back, you may not come back.'"

Terrie and Sefuluai believe that Chynna began speaking to her ex-boyfriend again and visited him the last day she was seen alive, partly because she was worried about his kids.

They said she cared about his children, and her ex-boyfriend told her he was going to serve jail time on the assault charges and wouldn't have anyone to take care of the children.

"He's concerned about his kids, and the only person that can take of his kids is her," Terrie said, of what Chynna's ex-boyfriend told her. "So, of course, she felt obligated."

The morning of Mother's Day, the ex-boyfriend's neighbors in his townhouse complex reported they heard a woman scream. One neighbor told Fox 13 she even called police and took pictures to document the incident.

The woman said a female she now thinks was Chynna rang her doorbell and knocked on her window. The woman awoke to the doorbell but concerned for the safety of her children inside her home, didn't open the door because she wasn't sure what was going on.

Photos taken by the neighbor show what the family believes is Chynna getting into her ex-boyfriend's car, and the car taking off.

Chynna was found dead in Ogden Canyon two days later.

"Some of the markers that I've heard in this case that are really concerning, is the past history of violence," said Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

Other concerning markers in Chynna's situation, she listed, include verbal abuse, children being involved, and signs of isolation or being held against her will.

Those are signs to take seriously, Oxborrow said.

According to the Lethality Assessment Protocol, she said, those markers are huge red flags that can predict intimate partner violence or homicide.

In addition to the markers, she explained the importance of neighbors calling 911 upon hearing the early morning screaming and yelling in the townhome complex.

While the one neighbor called police and took pictures, it appeared no other reports came in that morning.

"It's hard to understand what might have been going on behind the scenes," Oxborrow said. "That's why when we hear something, when we see something-- we need to start by believing that that person would benefit from speaking up, and we need to engage with law enforcement."

In addition to calling police if you hear or see something, she urged calling the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition hotline at 1-800-897-LINK to speak with a victim advocate if you are concerned about yourself, or a friend or family member.

The hotline is free, confidential, and operates 24/7.

Oxborrow explained that victim advocates can help you come up with a safety plan and direct you to resources. She said research shows that people who speak with victim advocates decrease risk of re-assault by 60%.

Chynna's family did take steps to alert law enforcement as soon as they realized Chynna was missing, and especially when they learned that she had been visiting her ex-boyfriend right before she disappeared.

The family expressed frustration over law enforcement's response to the missing persons report.

Both West Jordan Police and Pleasant View Police expressed to Fox 13 that they took the reports seriously and did everything within their protocols for this kind of situation.

Each department explained that they made sure officers conducted a welfare check at Chynna's last known location, in an attempt to find her.

Pleasant View Police said they took the disturbance report early Sunday morning, and responded to the neighbor's call.

"It was reported that someone was yelling in the roadway at this location," wrote Chief Ryon Hadley, in an email to Fox 13. "PVPD officer responded and checked the area given. No problems or disturbance was found. The officer watched and listened in the area with nothing found."

Chief Hadley also explained that they located Chynna's "acquaintance," and brought him to the Weber County Sheriff's Office to meet with investigators after her body was found.

"WCSO detectives requested PVPV assist them in locating an acquaintance of the deceased," he wrote. "The male acquaintance was located by Pleasant View Officers and escorted to the Sheriff’s Office to meet with WCSO investigators."

A fund raising account has been set up to help the Toilolo family. You can find it here.

If you think you or a friend or family member is experiencing domestic violence, click here for resources from the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.