Uncovering secret that led to son's suicide

Utah family shares 'sextortion' story hoping to help others see dangers of trend police say is becoming commonplace

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  • Bloomera Silt, CO
    April 6, 2019 8:17 p.m.

    These are very frustrating comments. I haven’t been able to not think about this boy since my sister sent me the article and I have to object to most of these comments. The phone, the internet, the apps, the social media, parents are not to blame here!!! The awfulness evil people who did this to Tevan are. Yes, warn our children and talk to them, but this is a one in a million violet crime that I’m not sure how we completely shield anyone from.
    This young man was a victim in the truest sense of sexual abuse and murder. A perpetrator infected his phone lied, coerced, and manipulated him into many perverse traps and then extorted him for it. He was NO LESS than raped and murdered through the internet and no one or thing is to blamed except the horrible, vice and vile murdered who did this to him. This is a horrible person who will without a doubt reside in hell forever. They are those of who Christ spoke of Luke 17:2! The FBI knows this, this is a crime scene that took place on a phone.
    I know where Tevan Tobler is. Just as sure as I know where his perpetrator and murder is going on judgement day. Tevan was a victim of sexual violence that took his life.

  • Luke Hales Hampshire, TN
    April 6, 2019 11:55 a.m.

    After everything that has happened I was surprised that they would still allow their children to have phones.

    I once heard a Bishop say, as he held up a smart phone and addressed the adults in his ward, "I'm hard pressed to find a good reason for an adolescent to have one of these." I agree.

    Ultimately, my biggest challenge is just to love and teach my kids so that they will choose the right and hopefully choose to open up when they don't.

  • mominthetrenches South Jordan, UT
    April 4, 2019 10:23 p.m.

    Great in-depth article-I am so sorry for the Toblers, and their tragic loss, yet and am so touched and grateful to them for their courage to share and give many of us, parents, a reality check. My husband and I are going to read this article and discuss it together with our children this weekend. This is definitely a very different world compared to the one I grew up in, and we need to help and support each other, as parents, doing the best we can. Our children definitely need re-assurance to know that we love them and are there to help them unconditionally so that when they are in over their heads, they will come to us (or others they can trust), rather than feel there are no other options.

  • Mellow33 Herriman, UT
    April 3, 2019 3:07 p.m.

    I am so very sorry for your loss. This is so terrible.
    Please, don't think your child is safe just because you do not give them a smart phone. If they want access to the apps, they will get them. My husband is in the schools as an Officer, and many times when he has investigated problems like this, the phone has come from a friend. They use it with wifi while at school, it never goes home with them. The best thing to do, is educate and set your child up for success. Let them know what can happen, how to avoid and what to do if it happens to them. Living a sheltered life is dangerous and will only cause them to be curious and they will find a way to do what they want.

    I am not saying that smart phones are for everyone, but I am just stating what we have seen. Even if you trust your children 100%, you just never know. So education is SO important.

  • Fullypresent Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 11:28 p.m.

    There are a lot of evil people out there that want to destroy your children not just for money. They need to feel the full effect of the law when they are caught. There are many reasons in our modern society to bring back the death penalty. The left has pushed our society too far that direction.

    Condolences to the family. So sorry for your heartbreaking loss. You never get over the loss of a child.

  • DanceKitty Clearfield, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:16 p.m.

    My daughter worked with Tevan. He kept this secret to himself. She knew he needed money but he wouldn't tell her why. It is a complete tragedy that I hope is never repeated. My heart hurts for his family and his friends.

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 6:07 p.m.

    @winchester20,

    You may know your kid better; you may even do a better job at teaching your child the facts of life than a government program.

    The reason I say it MUST be mandated and by the government is the simple truth of the matter that the vast majority of abuse is in the home by family members and close friends. And, read nearly every single day a headline about such child abuse on this website, you will see that the children don't even know what was happening to them is "wrong." It was how they are raised.

    Only by putting everything in the public square and handling it there can children in abusive situations even understand the abuse that is taking place right in their own home.

    You might say that doesn't apply to your child; but even then; the vast majority of non-abusing parents are naive about what their children are doing; and push the mentality that biological behaviors are so terrible; that no one should ever talk about them. That too doesn't work.

    Because MOST parents are incapable or refuse to talk with their very young children; and MOST abuse happens in the home and young age; the programs need to be in the public school. Absolutely parents should ALSO teach!

  • kmulmz Bountiful, UT
    April 2, 2019 4:53 p.m.

    God bless these parents, and all others who have dealt with sexting and/or suicide. We do the best we can, we do what we think is right, we put the appropriate precautions in place, we have those teaching moments and conversations, we think our kids would never get wrapped up in it ... but they do. App developers come up with ways to reach our kids faster that we can keep up with them (the apps). I've never heard of the apps mentioned in this article. All we can do is pray that when we do talk to our kids, they will listen, and be honest with us, tell us what is REALLY happening and know that if mistakes are made, they have a safe place to go.

  • Sion Knoxville, TN
    April 2, 2019 4:34 p.m.

    Words cannot express how my heart breaks for them. Wishing them peace and comfort.

  • T-money$$$ Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 4:32 p.m.

    Well said (username) ADifferentView!

    It's easy to say "well social media media/cell/phones/snapchat is the problem - I'll just throw away my kids' phones" when in reality censoring communication will absolutely not solve the problem and will probably only serve to strengthen the stigma and shame around sex and cybercrime. They might be protected for a few years as kids but will likely go on to become victims of fraud as adults.

    In addition to comprehensive sexual education - separated from the shame and guilt that's strapped on from a religious or cultural perspective - children also should be educated with a basic knowledge of how to avoid scams and criminal activity inherent with emerging technology. The FBI publishes a list of common scams to watch out for every year.. take some time with your children to spot the warning signs and help them understand the value of protecting privacy in the internet age.

    You can teach your kids to keep their heads in the sand or teach them to recognize and report bad actors.

  • Teejjoy Syracuse, UT
    April 2, 2019 3:52 p.m.

    "ADifferentView' has it right. My mother told me when she was in high school if there was ever a fire they were told to throw the towels on their heads since they were too small to cover their bodies. Too funny, but the point is we need to be open and forthcoming with our kids in all areas. We need to be patient and kind, especially with the small mistakes they make so they can trust us with any larger ones. This family has so much heartache and is another reason why I refuse to get any of my children a phone now and only a 'dummy' phone later. They will only have a phone, a dummy phone, when they start driving. No texting, no apps, nothing, just able to make an emergency phone call. Most of the garbage teens deal with due to social media/texting they won't see if they don't even have a phone to participate in the nastiness!

  • winchester20 Moriarty, NM
    April 2, 2019 3:43 p.m.

    From such little info, let's not blame these parents (or any parents). It sounds like they loved this kid and were very involved in his life.

    As for mandated public school sex-ed, I know my kid WAY better than any gov-appointed functionary at a school. Why do so many people's thoughts turn first to some idea of the government fixing whatever is wrong? Government can't do anything right. Especially sex-ed. Just look at what it's trying to do in California and other places. California's "Healthy Youth Act" is everything but healthy and it IS mandated. Parents must always have the final word in how they handle their children's upbringing.

    No, you won't be able to stop everything your kid can get into online, but you can sure make a positive statement about how important it is as a parent. Do all you can. And let your children know you love them no matter what. My heart goes out to this family and I'm so grateful that they have shared their story. I had my son read it and it sparked an excellent discussion.

  • USAlover Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 3:19 p.m.

    SHAME! Shame is such a prevalent feeling among the most religious people. This story rocks me to the core and motivates me to communicate better with my kids.

    There is nothing to feel ashamed of to the point of losing your sanity or life. Nothing. How we balance SHAME and RELIGION needs to be talked about more. A lot more...

  • Good Judgment Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 2:09 p.m.

    As Ragnar said, a young person's brain is not fully developed and treating/trusting them as if they are adults is not wise. They cannot see and process consequences as adults. That is why so many children die in car accidents. They misunderstand the risks they take. That is also why they commit suicide, an action with consequences way out of line with that which they are seeking to escape.

  • Good Judgment Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 2:08 p.m.

    "The Toblers also recognize that banning all social media from their house isn't practical."

    Oh? And why is that? Because "everybody's doing it?"

    "Even Tevan, who didn't use social media much, had Snapchat on his phone because it's the way teenagers today communicate. They use Snapchat like text messaging, his mother said. In order for Tevan to find out about sports practices and other events, he needed to be included on group Snapchat messages."

    Snapchat is a dangerous app. It leaves no trail, no history. It is designed to avoid reasonable tracking and oversight. It is a haven for perpetrators or sexting teens. Teens send a pic thinking it will "disappear" 2, 3, 10 seconds later and the recipient takes a screenshot and now it is permanent. Parents, DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS USE SNAPCHAT. Do not let your teens control what apps they use -- IF -- you let them have smartphones. A feature phone that can text and call only, no pics, no apps, is plenty.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    April 2, 2019 2:05 p.m.

    "Independent. How do you prosecute a perpetrator who lives in Africa."

    Extradition, diplomatic pressure, etc. It's worth the trouble when our kids are killing themselves over it.

  • Lilly Munster , 00
    April 2, 2019 1:44 p.m.

    When we do not discuss with our children the comprehensive facts about human sexuality, and treat sex as if it is always a topic to be avoided, filled with judgments and shame: we set them up for just this kind of disaster. The young man was set up on a pedestal to be the perfect athlete, son, student and church member. He had nowhere to turn because of unrealistic expectations. He obviously thought that bringing a real problem to family, church or even friends would have destroyed his life. He was the victim of fear and shame: both his, and the shame and fear in others.

  • NeilT Harrisville, UT
    April 2, 2019 1:22 p.m.

    Independent. How do you prosecute a perpetrator who lives in Africa.

  • Ragnar the Viking Orem, UT
    April 2, 2019 1:05 p.m.

    My heart goes out to this family!
    I can't emphasize enough the advice in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, from Walter Donovan to Indy: "Trust no one!" and Donovan was himself with the Nazis. Young people have access to all this convenient, mobile technology, but they have NO idea if the person they're communicating with is really who he/she says, and they might even be in Ivory Coast.
    Also, young people's brains aren't fully developed yet, and they're vulnerable to impulse & etc.
    My own eBay account was hacked yesterday, and I had to spend over half an hour with them to get it fixed. Be careful. There are creeps everywhere!

  • ADifferentView Park City, UT
    April 2, 2019 12:28 p.m.

    It seems that a common link in all these scams is the wire companies. Can' t they figure out a few common sense business requirements to help them not be the favorite choice of criminals and thieves?

    For example, why would any financial transfer company not have a minimum age of 18 requirement? If a 12-year old girl walked in and wanted to wire $2000 wouldn't that raise a bit of suspicion?

    I also agree with some sentiments that we can do far more to reduce the shame and stigma of sexual mistakes. I was raised to value sexual modesty, but my mother also told the story of an older relative's house that caught fire while he was in the bath. He ran out naked, but then was so embarrassed he ran back in to get a towel and died in the process. My mother was shy and modest, but she had the common sense to teach us that being seen naked is not the worst thing that can happen in life.

    I believe we can simultaneously teach modesty to prevent sexual mistakes while also cultivating an open-door atmosphere of unconditional love for those in need to help prevent these types of tragedies in the future.

  • Sneaky Jimmy Bay Area, CA
    April 2, 2019 12:00 p.m.

    This is a tragedy. The solution isn't parents to talking to the kids because kids will deny and parents don't want to believe their child would send graphic pictures to a stranger. An easy next step would be to have the local ecclesiastical leader (bishop) use the "youth interview" time to 1) explain internet dangers 2) when you do send pics, we can fix it. Don't shame them 3). let them know that the interview is confidential but we can involve law enforcement if needed.
    This would be much more beneficial than asking personal questions that encourage kids to lie.

  • AZ Blue & Red Gilbert, AZ
    April 2, 2019 11:12 a.m.

    Thanks for the article and sharing. This will be used for good for us to teach our children and grandchildren. I am sure that this will help prevent many future problems similar as well as save several lives. Thanks again for sharing with us to save others.

  • BradJames Manti, UT
    April 2, 2019 11:08 a.m.

    this society, generally speaking, is not interested in punishing the guilty. Rather, as we read in Helaman 7, "because of their money, the guilty went unpunished." "Money" could also appertain to "popularity," "prestige" or "clout/influence." Until an essential paradigm shift occurs, ignominiously, expect these things to keep happening. What a disappointment.

  • tothemoon Centerville, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:21 a.m.

    When TV first came out people thought it would have a negative impact on people. Make them more sedentary, read less. They were 100% right. That's exactly what it did. Same with cellphones I think, less is more.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    April 2, 2019 10:18 a.m.

    “life is hard if you make perfect choices. If you make one incorrect choice it can become impossible.”

    No pressure there.

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:16 a.m.

    This is why it is so very important that we need to start requiring "human biology classes" (can't use the actual name of such classes or I get blocked) even in kindergarten. Until as an entire society we step up; and stop putting a taboo even on talking about the human body and all things related to it; we are putting ALL children at risk for extortion; and many other victimization techniques used by predators.

    The ONLY way we can even begin to address the endemic ("just part of our generation" a the article puts it) behavior; is to address it in the public school system REQUIRED (so that parents can't opt their kid out); and teach far more than just internet safety; but the whys and wherefores of predatorial behavior and human biology.

    It is not enough for parents to wait until the child is a teen and then teach "abstinence only" because there is far more to human biology than "the act." The information needs to come by the time a child is actually able to talk; and needs to be in the public square (so that parents and family... the largest segment of abusers) can't keep their children in the dark.

  • Independent Henderson, NV
    April 2, 2019 9:59 a.m.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think that the solution to this problem is to put more pressure on kids and parents to have perfect internet security, perfect communication, perfect friends, perfect knowledge of apps, etc. Maybe the focus should be on catching and prosecuting the scum bags who extort people, and hold them responsible for the lives they ruin. If a kid finds himself in this situation, he needs a strong perception of who that bad guy is, and it’s not the kid just because they didn’t follow some over the top family rule about showing your parents every communication you ever have with anyone. The bad guy is the extortionist. Also, maybe instead of spying on your kids 24/7, the family rule could just be to not send racy photos of yourself to strangers, etc.

  • Bludosu1969 Washington, UT
    April 2, 2019 9:33 a.m.

    Breaks my heart. Peace and love to the family. I appreciate the details of this story. I wish And hope and pray that our awesome young , men and children will come to understand this. Your parents are and never have been or will be perfect. You can talk with them regardless of the situations and humiliation your suffering from. Pride will tell you to not do this. It’s a LIE! For those who may not have the opportunity to talk to a parent. Reach out to those who you know love you (extended family) True Love is and should always be unconditional. Unconditional means no conditions (porn, drugs, depression, being bullied, your sexual orientation, NOTHING exempt, NO conditions.) As hard as it sounds, as hard as it is and will be to overcome. It does not nor will define you. You are a spirit child of a loving, forgiving, patient, Heavenly Father and savior Jesus Christ. Nothing changes this fact. Especially a situation of a choice or choices made that our culture looks at as wrongful. Social media and mainstream media We all have done wrong. ALL of us! Forgiveness and love can win. I promise. Lots of examples of this already. It is never your final decision or destination. Peace

  • tothemoon Centerville, UT
    April 2, 2019 9:30 a.m.

    I'm ashamed to admit that because of certain religious beliefs I used to think people who committed suicide might not go to heaven. What a ludicrous idea now. Do people who don't exercise enough and get heart disease not go to heaven? Mental health is also very genetic...does someone with a genetic heart condition who dies not go to heaven?

  • bemorefair , 00
    April 2, 2019 9:20 a.m.

    This is so sad and frightening. We must be more vigilant as parents to make sure our children are safe. If your child is afraid to show you what is on their screen, something isn't right. And it's important right then and there to have a frank discussion about appropriate online behavior.

    I'm grateful to this family for sharing their son's tragic story with us so that maybe it can prevent another similar story.

  • ConradGurch Salt Lake City, Utah
    April 2, 2019 9:19 a.m.

    My heart goes out to all that knew this kid.

    I really wish cell phones would be banned until kids are 18. It seems to me that when it comes to cell phones/technology the Bad really out weighs the good.

  • Spoons lake tahoe, NV
    April 2, 2019 9:05 a.m.

    My dad always taught me “life is hard if you make perfect choices. If you make one incorrect choice it can become impossible.” The margin for error can be zero.

  • carylwd ,
    April 2, 2019 9:05 a.m.

    I just shared this heartrending story with all of my children to share with their children. I don't want to see any of them have to suffer through the consequences of this fine family who were obviously trying to do their best with their children.

  • county mom Austin, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:58 a.m.

    Thank you to this family for sharing this story.
    I hope that many other families can learn from their tragic loss. Our children are our greatest assets, our future, our everything. Nothing they do or did will make us love them less, and other then getting into politics, online pictures are forgotten. "This to shall pass" it's never worth your life.
    Our children need to learn that a smart phone is just another gadget to make our lives easier. It can be put down, shut off. This world is spectacular, let's do things that don't require a phone.

  • gatsby Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:41 a.m.

    what a tragedy! But thank you so much for sharing the story and for all the good info and warnings. What a "brave new world" we live in. I will talk to my 2 teens specifically about this story today. We have discussed sexting, and they are not on social media...but it's all a good reminder. So sorry for the loss of this young man. We will all miss him and the impact for good he would have continued to have

  • ECR Burke, VA
    April 2, 2019 8:19 a.m.

    What a tragic story and so many lessons to be learned from it. The dangers of the internet; the need to help young folks maintain a good self image; communication between parents and their children, especially to help them understand that while they are expected to live a certain standard, falling down and violating that standard is not the end of the world - everything can be fixed.

    The most frustrating part of the story is the fact that the predator was not able to be found, not able to be stopped, not made to be accountable.

    And the bravery of these parents to tell their story, knowing it won't change the tragedy in their lives but hoping it will help others. Thanks to all for bringing this issue to light with helpful suggestions about how to avoid the tragic circumstance. May blessings of love, comfort, and some satisfaction come to these parents for their generous gesture.

  • KokoC Parker, CO
    April 2, 2019 8:14 a.m.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. This was painful to read so I can't imagine experiencing it. You will help many by sharing this story - thank you!

  • Old Jake Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:10 a.m.

    Don't fall for some loser online telling you to do anything. Turn your phone off even if you are in deep. Life will go on. It will all turn out ok.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    April 2, 2019 8:03 a.m.

    This sad, unfortunate story is one of the reasons that I feel teens should only have phones that make and receive calls. And maybe text. No camera, no internet, no apps.

    I hope that they can bring the perp to justice at some point and charge them with conspiracy to commit murder and jail them for a long time.

    My heart goes out to this family and their pain over losing their son. It is so sad.

  • bjeanb Orem, UT
    April 2, 2019 7:14 a.m.

    Thank you for this article—to both the author and the family who so generously shared their experience.

  • tsobserver Mapleton, UT
    April 2, 2019 6:42 a.m.

    Let us share this tragic story with everyone we know and love. We must teach our children that shame should never be so powerful in our lives. We must teach them that we love them no matter what they have done and provide a safe place for them to escape from the world without fear. Talk to your kids regularly about this. Develop a rapport with them that transcends shame. Help them to know they can come to you with anything and the only thing they will receive from you is gentle loving concern and help to overcome the evils of this world.

  • windsor Logan, UT
    April 2, 2019 5:30 a.m.

    "Whatever you did, it’s nothing you’re going to go to jail for,” he said. "If someone manipulated you, you’re not in trouble. You can go to the cops. You’re not going to be the one that gets in trouble."

    Really liked this part--wish kids could learn it somewhere. If kids can't bring themselves to tell 'a trusted adult' they can take any kind of threat they've received ( or indiscresion they've gotten themselves into) to the police.

    So many kids, even good religious kids, are told to go to a Church leader if they can't tell their parents something--but so often they don't want to tell any adult. But police who don't know them could remove that reluctance.

    Thanks to this family for sharing their story.