Peace, Love and Murder

Did a Peace-Loving Hippie Brutally Murder His Wife?

Produced by Alec Sirken and Lourdes Aguiar

This story was originally broadcast on Jan. 17, 2009. It was updated on Aug. 14.

Bob Eckhart and Toni Soren, two self-proclaimed hippies, fell in love and were married only 48 hours after meeting. Twenty-seven years later, their union was torn apart when Bob came home from work to find Toni bludgeoned and stabbed to death, with seven wounds to her neck.

Bob's peaceful personality made him an unlikely suspect in his wife's death and the case went cold-until 2006, when a determined detective reopened the case in the hope that new DNA technology could help uncover her killer.

Could this affable man who said his marriage was "like living in nirvana" so brutally kill his wife?

Bob and Toni began their whirlwind courtship when she was just 23. He was 28.

"An incredibly beautiful girl knocked on my door, and her name was Toni and we talked for must have been six or seven hours," Bob recalls. "We could connect completely with no walls, no shields. Everything was just magic."

It was the uninhibited early 1970s. Within 48 hours of meeting, the two young lovers eloped. They had a hippie wedding.

"I was always amazed I was married to her," Bob tells "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Harold Dow. "She was my lover, my wife, my sister, my mother - everything rolled into one."

Bob and Toni were so entwined, they even created their own lyrical last name - Heartsong -- by fusing their two given names.

"We took the heart out of Eckhart and the song out of Soren and we made Heartsong," Bob explains. "We had blended together and become one person."

Toni had lost both her parents as a teenager and was raised as a young adult by her older brother, Barry Soren.

"I did everything I could for her," Soren says. "And our relationship was tight enough that she wasn't spun out about the terrible events -- the terrible way her life started."

With Bob, Toni seemed to have found a path to her own happy family.

Her cousin, Mel Sorkowitz, admired Bob's ambition. "Bob impressed me as being a very hardworking guy," he says.

Another cousin, Deb Schepp, liked Bob's calm personality. "The image that I got was that he was a very peaceful person, very spiritual," she says. "I know he and Toni practiced meditation, and it seemed like the ideal life for her."

Bob and Toni eventually settled in Jupiter, Fla., where they did everything together. They were strict vegetarians and wrote a tofu cookbook. They were also both artistic.

"We used to have a little company that we beaded necklaces for stores and we produced thousands and thousands and thousands of beaded necklaces," Bob explains.

The couple also used their artistic talents to start a company that built stone waterfalls for homes and businesses. And they became dedicated parents to two sons, Jake and Eli.

Schepp describes Toni as a happy mother who loved her boys.

"I think she was my best friend," says Eli. "She helped me out in whatever troubles I had." Adds Jake, "I loved my mom. My parents loved each other."

Through 27 years of a generally happy marriage, Bob and Toni did have some rocky periods.

"Were there ever any times where you or Toni were unfaithful in your marriage?" Dow asks.

"I've never had sex with another woman during my marriage," Bob replies. "There were times where I was sorely tempted, there's no question about that. I think she had sex with another man once or twice."

Bob says Toni's affair happened in the early 1980s. They got through that period, but the tough times occasionally returned.

Toni kept a journal that chronicled her frustrations. The following is an excerpt written in the early 1990s:

"He doesn't seem to really show me any love. Not in ways that are important to me. Like calling ... I'm constantly angry and frustrated. I hate it. He hates it. I feel so trapped. Not enough money to leave. Not enough care to work it out by both of us."
Bob says the couple had their share of tough patches, but worked on their marriage.

"[We] tried to find out what I was not doing that made sense. What I was not communicating, what I was not connecting -- that's' what I meant. She was very upfront. She'd tell me, 'I don't like this' and I'd say, 'OK. What can I do about it?'"

Even her cousins acknowledge Toni was not the easiest person to live with.

"Toni had a tough side. She inherited that from her mother. She could come across as being aggressive," explains Mel Sorkowitz.

But by all accounts, there were never any physical confrontations. Toni's brother says she would have said something to him if she ever felt threatened by Bob.

"No doubt," Soren says. "No, she would've used me to come in and protect her."