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Mother raises awareness for domestic violence after losing her daughter

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah — A mother who lost her daughter to domestic violence shared her story with KSL’s Tamara Vaifanua.

She hopes no other families will have to go through the pain she experienced.

In May 2020, officials found Chynna Toilolo’s body in Ogden Canyon. 

She was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend, Andy Dennis, who is now serving a 15-years-to-life sentence for her murder.

Terri Toilolo and her only daughter, Chynna, were inseparable.

“We were so close we did things together, we talked. She was my shopping partner. We’d get mani pedi’s every weekend,” said Terri Toilolo.

Their bond changed forever on May 9, 2020. It was the night before Mother’s Day, and it was the last time Toilolo saw her daughter alive.

Chynna Toilolo

“I think about the what ifs, the could have, would have, should haves,” said Toilolo.

Chynna Toilolo got into an argument with her estranged boyfriend at his home in Pleasant View.

During the argument, police said Dennis strangled the 33-year-old before dumping her body near a river in Ogden Canyon.

Terri Toilolo said Chynna broke up with him before that night, and she begged her daughter not to go back.

“How do you get to a point where you decided to take someone’s life?” Terri Toilolo questioned.

Chynna Toilolo hid her struggles from her family, but she’s not alone.

“What happens privately in a relationship does not always show itself to the rest of us,” said Melissa Haenchen, Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Prevention coordinator.

According to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, one in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. 

Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes.

“On average, it does take seven times for a white woman, and the numbers are even higher for folks of color to leave a relationship,” said Haenchen.

Warning Signs

When asked if there was an incident or point in Chynna’s relationship with Dennis that Toilolo and her husband became concerned for her safety, Terri reflected on a violent argument she learned about later.

“They got into an argument. She jumped out of the car as he was beating her up, and she was trying to save her life,” she said.

Toilolo believes her daughter didn’t confide in her because she was scared or embarrassed.

That’s why she is sharing her daughter’s story.

Seeking Help

As a result of her daughter’s murder, Terri Toilolo hopes others, and especially those in the Polynesian community, will seek help for abusive relationships. 

“In Polynesian culture, we feel like this only happens in the movies. Never would be me. If my Polynesian people are listening, open your hearts and understand and listen,” she said.

Available Resources

If you know someone who is going through abuse, there are ways you can help:

  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).
  • Resources are also available online at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition website.

List of events happening in October as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

  • 5th Annual KAVA Talks Dinner and Silent Auction
    • October 29 from 6-10 p.m.
      • They are looking for Silent Auction/Donations if anyone is willing to support. All proceeds will go to our communities to help families that are survivors of Domestic Violence.
      • Link to join in on dinner: Eventbrite for KT Dinner
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