While changing from man to woman, Choate sought the help of Mildred Brown, a well-known Bay Area sexologist. But Choate ultimately claimed that Brown mishandled her case. Choate said Brown misrepresented herself as a mental health professional, and violated client-therapist protocol. Choate sued Brown, raising questions about the largely unregulated field of sexology.
Last November, Brown settled the suit out of court, and paid Choate an undisclosed sum of money. A general contractor, Choate had a steady job at a Bay Area construction company, and her teenage daughter was finally living with her again.
On Monday, Choate and her daughter were among the 88 people killed when Alaska Airlines Flight 261, en route from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco, crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Choate was 42. Her daughter, Jackie, was 17. Choate had always said that, if she won her lawsuit, she would celebrate by taking her daughter on a trip to Mexico.
"She walked out of here smiling, saying what a fabulous time she was going to have," said Lorna Black, who works at the downtown San Francisco law office that handled Choate's case. "It's like a morgue in here. Everyone is totally out of shape. We were all so close to her."
Linda Scaparotti, Choate's lead attorney, was in tears.
"When I think about what Toni endured -- and her daughter -- after all that, this just seems impossible," she said. "It only confirms the cruel universe theory."