Written in Blood: Heidi was just four years old when her mother was murdered. She all grown up now and won’t let it rest until the killer is brought to justice.
Nightmares: For years, Margarita had kept a deadly secret. Then came the nightmares, compelling her to speak up. What she has to say is beyond shocking.
One Night in Ogden: The incredibly brutal murder of a 92-year-old woman leaves police desperate to catch her killer. DNA will unlock the mystery.
You Are My Sunshine: The town had not had a single murder in its history, not one. Then that proud record was shattered by an act of incredible savagery.
Before I Die: The murder had gone unsolved for a very long time. Then the killer had a life-changing medical diagnosis… and an attack of conscience.
Cop/Killer: He was a cop who abused his authority, a wife-beater, an abuser of animals. Janet thought she could walk away from him. She was wrong.
Sins of the Father: A 13-year-old is raped and strangled; her body discarded by the roadside. Her killer will be found close to home.
Cold Cases: Solved! Volume 6
Small Town Secrets
Shannon Siders was 18 years old, a pretty, sweet-natured teen who was popular with her peer group. Born and raised in Newaygo, Shannon lived with her dad, Bob, an employee at the local Pepsi-Cola plant. Bob Siders was a devoted single dad who’d raised his daughter alone. He and Shannon’s mom had divorced when Shannon was still a toddler. It made for a strong bond between father and daughter.
On the night of July 17, 1989, Bob was due to work the graveyard shift at his job. He left home at 10:30 that evening telling his daughter that he’d see her in the morning. Shannon had plans of her own that night, plans that involved partying with a group of friends. It is uncertain whether she shared these plans with her father. In any case, Bob expected to find his daughter safely tucked up in bed when he got off work. He arrived, instead, to an empty house.
At first, Bob wasn’t unduly concerned. Shannon was a friendly, outgoing girl. She often visited the neighbors. Bob went out on the lawn and called his daughter’s name, knowing that she’d hear him if she was near. He got no response. A little perplexed now, Bob re-entered the home. He then started making calls to Shannon’s friends, asking if any of them had seen her or knew where she was. The response at every turn was no. Now Bob was getting worried. After thinking about it for merely a minute, he picked up the phone and called the police.
The days and weeks that followed were a waking nightmare for Bob Siders. His daughter was missing and the police efforts to find her were coming up empty. Bob was grateful for their work, but he wasn’t going to sit around idly while Shannon was out there, maybe in trouble or in danger. He refused to contemplate the very real possibility that she was dead. He started working the phones, systematically calling every police department in the state. Always the answer was the same. They couldn’t help but would be in touch if anything came up. Bob also posted missing person flyers all over town, ultimately to no avail.
Then, over the Labor Day weekend, there was finally a break in the case. A couple of teens were walking through the woods when they found an ID card belonging to Shannon Siders. This was handed to the police and Michigan State troopers descended on the area to conduct a search. They didn’t find Shannon, but they did find a pair of jeans, which Bob Siders confirmed belonged to his daughter. The discovery held ominous implications. Those would be confirmed a month later when a hunter came across a body in the Manistee National Forest. The corpse was severely decomposed, with bones scattered by animal activity. It would take dental records to identify the missing teen.
Shannon Siders had not died an easy death. Several fractures were recorded in the autopsy report, suggesting that she’d suffered a severe beating before her life was ended with a crushing blow to the head. A table leg found in the area was thought to be the murder weapon. Why had she been killed? The coroner believed that it was to cover up a sexual assault. Shannon had been found with her shirt pushed up, her panties around one of her ankles. Her genitals had also been mutilated, probably with a knife and likely postmortem.
Who can understand the anguish of a father who loses a child in this way? None but those who have had the misfortune to experience it themselves. Bob Siders laid his daughter to rest in a somber ceremony, attended by Shannon’s entire high school class. Many of the children wanted to write letters to Shannon and place them in the casket. Bob allowed them to do that.
The small Newaygo police force had a murder on its hands, a murder with a townful of suspects. Its first act was to narrow the field by calling on the Behavior Analysis Unit of the Michigan State Police. A profile was compiled, pinpointing the likely suspect as someone Shannon had known. Drugs and/or alcohol were likely a factor and there may have been more than one perpetrator involved. The description tied in with what investigators suspected. Indeed, they believed they might already have interviewed the killer during their missing person inquiry.
Initially, suspicion fell on a teen named Brandon, a known misogynist who liked to refer to women as “sluts” and “whores.” Shannon had been spotted in Brandon’s car on the night she went missing, along with another teen named Levi. Interestingly, Brandon had left town within days of Shannon’s disappearance. He was back now and was picked up for questioning. He admitted to driving around with Shannon but said that she’d asked to get out at some point. He’d then seen her get into a red Mercury Cougar with two men. As for skipping town, Brandon denied doing any such thing. He’d driven to Colorado to pick up his cousin, he said, and was only gone for two days. That turned out to be true. Brandon was free to go…for now, at least.
But what of the two men in the red Cougar? The police knew who they were and had interviewed them before. They were brothers Paul and Matt Jones, 17 and 18 years old respectively. They, too, admitted that Shannon had been in their car. But they insisted that they’d dropped her at home, sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. The police couldn’t prove otherwise.
The investigation was stalled. Meanwhile, rumors engulfed the town. One of the stories held that the killer had taken Shannon’s class ring and was keeping it as a trophy. Another was that one of the letters placed in Shannon’s casket was a confession to her murder. There were other stories too, just as farfetched. They would continue to flourish over the years, as Bob Siders kept the case alive. Bob could frequently be seen around town putting up flyers. “Who Killed Shannon Siders?” they asked, in an eerie echo of Twin Peaks.
But for all the rumors, for all the efforts of a grieving father, the case would go unsolved. It was still in that state of purgatory in August 2011, when a new administration in Newaygo decided to create a Cold Case Task Force. One of the first cases on the agenda was that of Shannon Siders.
Several new leads would emerge during the new investigation. One of these involved a notorious local family who’d had many encounters with law enforcement, involving accusations of assault, murder, and incest. The tip-off that the task force received suggested that these ingrates had abducted Shannon and imprisoned her in their basement, where they’d used her as a sex slave for several weeks. Then, growing tired of their captive, they’d beaten her to death and dumped her in the woods.
Given the reputation of the individuals involved, this seemed like a credible lead. The police obtained a warrant and raided the property, but they came away empty-handed. There was no evidence that Shannon had ever been there. As for the basement where she’d supposedly been held, the house didn’t have one.
The next clue to emerge would end up being just as much of a dead end. During the original investigation, a story had emerged about a confession to murder being placed in the victim’s casket. Now that rumor reared its head again and this time the police took it seriously. An exhumation order was obtained with the blessing of Bob Siders. After 22 years underground, Shannon was brought to the surface. The letters were there, of course, but they were just the soppy writings of high school kids bidding farewell to a fallen classmate. None of them was a confession to murder.
And then there was the story that would bring investigators full circle, back to the Jones brothers. It came from a close friend of Shannon’s named Julia, who told police that she and Shannon had plans on the night that Shannon was killed. Julia had headed for Shannon’s house after she finished work at 11:45. But the place was quiet and dark when she arrived. She waited a while and then left. She returned several times over the next three hours. In each case, the house was in darkness, and no one answered when she knocked on the door.
This directly contrasted the story that Matt and Paul Jones had told the police. They’d claimed to have dropped Shannon off between 12 and 1 a.m. Had that been the case, Julia would have found her friend at home. Clearly, the Jones boys were lying. It was time for investigators to take another look at them. Once they started doing so, the missing pieces began falling into place.
Paul’s former girlfriend reported that she’d seen a class ring in the ashtray of his car the day after Shannon went missing. She’d confronted him about it, accusing him of seeing another girl. To this, Paul had responded that the owner of the ring was “probably dead.” That would not be the last time that the brothers uttered incriminating statements. In another incident, Matt told a woman who rejected his advances that he’d kill her, just like he’d done to “that bitch up north.” On other occasions, the brothers had bragged about getting away with murder. “They can’t pin anything on us,” one of them told a group of friends. “They had us, and they let us go.”
None of this counted as evidence, of course, but it did let the police know that they were on the right track. They continued digging and eventually unearthed a witness with a terrifying story to tell. Her name was Jenny Corgin and she had held onto a secret for a very long time. On the night of July 17, 1989, Jenny had been driving with her boyfriend, Dean Robinson, when they spotted a red car parked by the roadside, two men standing beside it. Thinking they needed help, Dean pulled over. One of the men told him that they were looking for a girl who’d wandered off and didn’t need their help.
But Jenny and Dean would encounter the men again that night, this time in the company of the girl they had been looking for. She was lying on the ground, apparently unconscious. Dean got out to see what was happening but one of the men attacked him, punching him in the face. Then they noticed Jenny in the car and broke off the attack, allowing Dean to escape. Jenny firmly believed that he would have been killed had she not been there. She now identified the men who’d attacked them as the Jones brothers.
Matt and Paul Jones were arrested and charged with murder. They would face separate trials but in each the prosecution case was the same. The brothers had picked up Shannon Siders, driven her to the woods, and demanded that she have sex with them. When Shannon refused, they attacked her, beat her, and subjected her to a vicious rape. At some point, Shannon must have escaped but they found her and clubbed her to death, leaving her body in the woods. It was a compelling story, the only one that fit the evidence.
Matt Jones was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015, 26 years after the death of Shannon Siders. Bob Siders was there to see his daughter’s killer convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Paul Jones drew a second-degree murder conviction. He was sentenced to 75 years behind bars.