The Wife Swap murders: The appalling story of the Stockdale family murders explained

The Wife Swap murders: The appalling story of the Stockdale family murders explained

Celebrity scandals can spread faster than the common cold. Though viewers have probably come to expect the unexpected on their favourite hit shows, there have still been major on-screen debacles that managed to catch audiences off guard. This was the case with The Wife Swap murders.

wife swap murders
The Stockdale family. Photo: @apsullivan
Source: Twitter

The Wife Swap murders is the story of a young man who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing his mother and youngest brother. The Stockdale family was famous in 2008 after appearing on season 4 of the Wife Swap reality series. However, after the show ended, nobody would have expected to see them on TV again until 2017 as part of a murder investigation.

The Wife Swap reality show

The Wife Swap was one of the highly trending reality TV shows in the 2000s. The show showcased a better version of Trading Spouses to offer different families a glimpse of another lifestyle. In most cases, a tidy mother would be swapped with a messy family, while a religious one would be swapped with one that wasn't.

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This was the exact case with the Stockdale family as it was one of the profoundly religious ones. The family was made of Kathy (mother), Tim (father) and children, Calvin, Charles, Jacob and James. The Stockdale parents were strict with their kids.

They managed the media their sons could watch. Each son would carry out various house chores to earn tokens redeemed later for activities such as listening to the radio. Some of the things they were not allowed include:

  • Listening to pop or rap music
  • Using curse words
  • Going out on dates

What episode was the Stockdale family on Wife Swap? The Stockdale appeared on episode 14 of Wife Swap season four. Kathy was swapped with the matriarch of the Tonkovic family, which was presented as a more liberal unit.

The Stockdale family had a bluegrass band known as the Stockdale Family Band. Kathy often posted videos of her family singing different songs in their band. As Calvin and Charles grew older, they left the family band and moved out.

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The Stockdale family murders

wife swap murders
The Stockdale band posing for the camera. Photo: @apsullivan
Source: Twitter

Who killed their parents on Wife Swap? One of the Stockdale sons, Jacob Stockdale, killed his mother, Kathy, and younger brother James. The Stockdale murders happened on 15th June 2017, roughly 8 years after appearing on the Wife Swap reality show.

The Stark County police officers received a hang-up 911 call on this fateful day at around 4:46 am. Upon arriving at the Stockdale's residence, where the call was from, they found the front door open. As they headed towards the door, they saw a figure inside and heard a gunshot.

They immediately requested backup as they continued toward the house. They found out that Jacob had shot his mother, Kathy, and his younger brother James on entering the house. Kathryn was upstairs in a bathroom while James was near the front door.

Jacob was on the floor with a gunshot wound on the head. He was bleeding profusely, but he was still alive.

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What happened after the murder?

After the murders, Calvin Stockdale released a statement on behalf of the family, which read:

James, our youngest brother, has always been a catalyst of family fun. Unfortunately, he leaves behind many friends and a family that loved him dearly. My brother, Jacob, is still in critical condition, and we are praying for his physical recovery as our family makes funeral plans and begins the healing process.

What was the Wife Swap murders' motive? No official motive was released as to why Jacob killed his mother and brother. However, the wife swapped with his family speculated that his lack of freedom caught up with him.

The authorities waited for Jacob to recover fully before charging him with two murder counts. Finally, in October 2018, he submitted himself to the Stark County Sheriff's office, but the trial began two years later.

wife swap murders
The Stockdale band performing on the stage. Photo: @apsullivan
Source: Twitter

Jacob pleaded not guilty because of insanity and was thus placed in a mental facility for further observation. Eventually, the doctor reported that he was clinically sane at the time of the murders.

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Finally, a week before the scheduled trial, Jacob Stockdale pleaded guilty to the murders. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, 15 years for each murder to run consecutively.

Jacob Stockdale attempted to escape

Stockdale attempted to escape before his trial. He tried blending in with a group of people who were on their way out of the facility. However, it wasn’t the first time he’s been caught trying to leave, and therefore, the guards were always on the lookout.

Although he was not charged with attempted escape, he allegedly tried to leave the institution on a different occasion. A statement offered by the facility workers said that they found him hiding in the book stacks of the mental hospital's library. This made the staff believe that he was attempting to figure out a way to leave the property before they realized he was missing.

The Wife Swap murders remain one of the saddest stories ever to happen. After appearing on the Wife Swap reality show, one of the kids, Jacob Stockdale, killed some of his family members almost nine years later. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison to pay for his crime.

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