Motive unclear for Smithfield murder-suicide

SMITHFIELD – The cause of the apparent murder-suicide of an elderly couple near Smithfield is unknown, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said this morning.

The bodies of Eugene and Phyllis Tovinitti were discovered Tuesday about 11 a.m. when a sheriff’s deputy went to their home after a neighbor called authorities, reporting they hadn’t been seen for a couple of days.

Reporting the couple had not been in ill health, Abdalla said their children had been at the home in the last couple of weeks, and there didn’t seem to be any problems.

“We don’t know why it happened and probably will never know,” Abdalla added.

It is believed the 85-year-old man shot his wife, thought to be 83, and then committed suicide. A shotgun was used in the shootings.

The couple’s home is located along Jefferson 15, just outside Smithfield.

A neighbor, according to the sheriff, had attempted to get ahold of the couple and hadn’t seen them for a couple of days so the neighbor placed a call to the Jefferson County 911 emergency system, which notified the sheriff’s office. The deputy then went to the home and was able to gain entrance into the house, Abdalla said.

Pokas can be reached at