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Sanpete County couple survives shotgun blasts to home

By Dennis Romboy | Posted - Nov. 19, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.

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CHESTER, Sanpete County — A rural Sanpete County couple is grateful to be alive after a gunman sprayed their home with shotgun blasts that missed them by inches.

John and Valerie Tolman were sitting in their living room watching TV on Wednesday night when they heard what John described as a "kaboom."

"It didn't register at first what it was. I thought something had exploded," he said.

As Tolman, an officer at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, crawled across the floor, buckshot whizzed barely above his head. He made it to a bedroom where he grabbed a gun and prepared to defend himself.

"I think right after that they loaded up and got out of here," said Tolman, adding all he saw were headlights between his bunkhouse and barn.

In all, four blasts from a .12-gauge shotgun, each carrying 11 pellets, peppered the Tolmans' home.

Valerie Tolman said there was smoke and flying glass everywhere. The shots took out windows and a sliding glass door at the back of the house. Pellets lodged in walls and kitchen cabinets. One put a hole in John Tolman's corrections hat on a closet shelf.

The Sanpete County sheriff's is investigating the incident.

Tolman said it was the by grace of God and guardian angels that he and his wife survived.

"This wasn't an attempt to scare somebody. That is probably the most lethal weapon there is at close range," he said. He figures the shooter was about seven yards from the front of the house.

"It's a miracle that one of us or both of us is not dead," John Tolman said.

"The good Lord protected us in this," he said. "I guess we'll have to rely on him that nothing else happens." -- John Tolman

The Tolmans live in the tiny, rural unincorporated community of Chester, about 110 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. They have no idea why anyone would want to shoot them, saying maybe it was a case of mistaken identity. John Tolman said he treats prisoners at Gunnison fairly and is well liked there.

"We don't have any enemies. We're good people. We're friendly people. I don't know of anyone that even dislikes let alone hates us enough to kill us," he said.

Though they don't know if it's related to the shooting, Val Tolman said a suspicious package arrived at their house via UPS on Nov. 7. The last name matched theirs but the address was not theirs. UPS, she said, called looking for the package, but a young man came and picked it up later that day.

The couple say they're still shaken and hope, as John Tolman said, no one's coming back to finish the job.

"The good Lord protected us in this," he said. "I guess we'll have to rely on him that nothing else happens."


Dennis Romboy


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