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A few weeks ago, she was found guilty of murdering her husband. And, a few months from now, her story will be broadcast for millions of television viewers.
Tonya Ford will be featured on an episode of “Snapped,” a crime documentary television show that airs on the Oxygen network.
Her episode, which will feature interviews with several attorneys, investigators, friends and family members, is slated to air in December.
Ford’s trial began Aug. 20 in Taylor Circuit Court. After hearing opening and closing statements, and from several witnesses, jurors spent 12 hours deliberating Ford’s guilt. After deliberating for about five minutes, jurors recommended that Ford should spend 20 years in prison for her crime. Sentencing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 18.
She faced as much as life in prison.
A motion has been filed by Ford’s attorney, Danny Butler of Greensburg, asking for her to be granted a new trial.
Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly is expected to consider that motion when he sentences Ford. Since murder is a violent crime, Ford will serve 85 percent of the sentence — with a maximum of 20 years — before being eligible for parole.
Ford, 39, was accused of shooting and killing her husband, Lebanon Police Officer David Ford, on Feb. 10, 2009.
She pleaded not guilty in November 2010.
Officer Ford, 40, was found shot to death in the head at his Graham Road home in Campbellsville. Ford called the Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911 Center and said she had arrived at the home and found that her husband had been shot.
Taylor County Coroner Terry Dabney said in 2009 that an autopsy confirmed Officer Ford’s death as a homicide.
A year and a half after Officer Ford’s death, on Oct. 19, 2010, a Taylor County grand jury convened in special session to hear from 17 witnesses and then issued an indictment charging Ford with murder. She was arrested the following day.
She was released from the Taylor County Detention Center on Nov. 9, 2010, after family members posted a $30,000 cash bond. She remained free on bond until her conviction.
Mindy Yarberry, a field producer for Jupiter Entertainment, the company that produces “Snapped,” filmed Ford’s trial for inclusion in her episode.
Following the trial, Yarberry and two other Jupiter Entertainment crew members, Paul Foster, director of photography, and Christopher Gurney, location sound technician, spent several days in Campbellsville. The three did several interviews and filmed several locations in Campbellsville and surrounding towns.
Sharon Martin is a supervising producer for “Snapped,” and narrates the episodes. Executive producer is Stephen Land. Co-executive producer is Deborah Dawkins.
“Snapped” premiered in 2004 and is currently airing its ninth season. Several seasons are available for purchase on DVD. Ford’s episode is slated to air at the end of the current season.
Donna Hart Dudek, who is also a supervising producer for “Snapped,” says each episode profiles the case of a woman who has been accused of a violent crime.
According to the show’s website, oxygen.com/tvshows/snapped, about 16,000 people are killed each year in the United States, and seven percent of killers are female.
Dudek said “Snapped” producers learned about Ford’s case through one of their many research resources.
“We have a lot of different resources for finding cases,” she said. “Sometimes viewers send in ideas, sometimes people we’ve worked with on one episode will tell us about another case. But most of our cases come from our own research.
“We try to cast a wide net across a variety of news sources, and that’s how we came across Ms. Ford’s case.”
Dudek said “Snapped” producers believe that people watch shows like theirs because they, on some level, want to know, “Could that be me? Could that be someone I know?”
“We challenge ourselves to try and help viewers see what they — or someone they know — may have in common with the women whose cases we profile,” she said. “With that in mind, we try to choose the cases of women who have lead seemingly ordinary lives, but have found themselves in the extraordinary position of being accused of a terrible crime.”
Dudek said Ford — and her life and family — all seem highly relatable.
“She could definitely be my neighbor or someone I grew up with,” Dudek said.
Filming an episode of “Snapped” begins with setting up interviews with the people who were most closely involved with the case. Next, producers visit the towns where the crime happened and gather information, film locations and collect photos of those involved to show viewers.
“In Ms. Ford’s case, we actually started by videotaping her trial first, and shooting the interviews and locations afterward,” Dudek said. “Being in the courtroom is always an interesting experience for us, not only because we get to hear both sides of the case, but also because it gives us a good sense of the community and the people involved in the case.”
Dudek said “Snapped” producers try to make each episode as fair as possible by telling both sides of the story they are featuring.
“The best way to ensure that we tell both sides of the case is to make sure we have as much information as possible,” she said. “Besides the people we interview, we also try to access all of the police and court records, and we are very scrupulous about checking our facts and sources.”
If only one side agrees to participate in filming the episode, Dudek said, producers make an effort to contact the other side, right until filming is scheduled to conclude.
“As for Ms. Ford’s episode in particular, we have and will do what we always do; write a script using all of the information we have gathered from interviews, police and court documents, etc., and, where we feel a point is going unchallenged, we will make efforts to give the other side a chance to answer it.”
Dudek said the women featured on “Snapped” have reacted to their episodes in a variety of ways.
“So far, we have not heard how Ms. Ford feels about being on the show, but I imagine that our show is the last thing on her mind right now.”
Ford’s case isn’t the only one to be featured on “Snapped” that took place in Kentucky.
Other episodes filmed in Kentucky include the cases of Adele Craven of Covington, Donna Fryman and Vicki Monroe of Louisville, Amy Bosley of Alexandria and Sarah Brady of Ft. Mitchell.
“If you know anything about these cases, you’ll see that we cover a wide variety of cases, with a wide variety of outcomes,” Dudek said.
“When the show was first conceived, the original concept was that when women commit murder, it’s often because they reach a breaking point and ‘snap.’ However, that definition of “Snapped,” quickly became too restraining, and now we like to say that “Snapped” refers to a breaking point in the woman’s life, not necessarily the woman herself reaching a breaking point.”
Dudek said she believes “Snapped” is popular because people want to know if they could ever find themselves in some of the situations featured on the show.
“ ... We all, deep down, want to know if we could ever find ourselves in the same situation that these women — or the victim’s families — are in,” she said.
“It’s endlessly fascinating to discover over and over, week after week, that the answer is “Yes!”