Murder or suicide? Forlorn wife drowns in tub on day nanny-turned-mistress moves in
09/28/2017 2:12 pm PDT
A prominent local politician; his doting wife, a mother of two; and their young live-in nanny. It had the makings of a storybook beginning. But it's about to have a gruesome ending, with Lee-Ann Shannon dead in the bathtub of her suburban home.
Did she drown? Was it suicide? An investigation will soon uncover a family's salacious little secrets and hidden affairs. Will it all point to foul play?
On the surface, Tim Shannon and his 34-year-old wife Lee-Ann appeared to have a happy marriage. The pair met in college, and shortly after graduating they tied the knot.
"She felt great influence from her mother that you should get married because you are at a certain age and you've had no other prospects," said Lee-Ann Shannon's cousin Deborah Lariviere.
Tim Shannon's distinguished family was a fixture in the small town of Hart, Michigan, not far from the lake. His father was the only doctor in town, and Tim went into politics, becoming a well-respected city councilman.
"Her mother was all excited because she felt that her daughter was marrying into a very affluent family that was going to take good care of her," said Deborah.
Lee-Ann went on to work part-time as a real estate agent, leaving her time to raise the couple's two children -- only 3 and 4 years old. Their good fortune even allowed for full-time help from a young live-in nanny named Jamie.
"The minister of the church that they all went to had made a plea to the families that this girl needed a place to stay, and spoke specifically to Lee-Ann and Tim about the possibility of them opening their home to this person, which they did," said Deborah.
It all made for a happy All-American life.
"She was a fantastic mother. Her kids were her life. She just loved her children," said Deborah.
But then tragic news changed everything.
"I got a phone call from my aunt on Sunday evening," said Deborah. "She was hysterical, and she's crying, and she says, 'Deb, Lee-Ann's dead!' And I said 'What do you mean Lee-Ann's dead?' She said 'She drank too much and she drowned in the bathtub.'"
At the house, detectives walk into a grim scene. In the bathroom, Lee-Ann's bloated body is lying in the family bathtub, the water drained, her lips a pale blue.
"We talked with the Hart Police Department, who investigated the original case, and after talking with them we did have some concerns of a drowning in a bathtub," said Oceana County Sheriff's Detective Mark Schneider.
And yet after an initial check at the scene, all indications for cops point in the direction of a simple but horrible tragedy.
"We have reason to believe that Lee-Ann got intoxicated that night," said Oceana County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Bizon. "We found the empty bottles in the home, and her blood-alcohol content when they did the autopsy was a 0.23, so that would be consistent with her being intoxicated."
Within days, detectives wrapped up their investigation. Hart County cops reported that Lee-Ann's death was an "accidental drowning."
"They said 'Well, we don't really think anything foul has gone on,'" said Deborah Lariviere.
It all appeared to be a closed case. But not really.
"How often does a person, an adult, drown in a bathtub?" said prosecutor Joseph Bizon. "It sounded funny."
Soon, nearby Oceana County took over the case. Remember, Tim Shannon was an elected official, and his position as councilman posed a conflict of interest.
Once Oceana County investigators are on the case, they uncover startling revelations, clues to Lee-Ann's sudden death that didn't drain from the bathwater that horrible day.
"Timothy was able to get his wife Lee-Ann to agree to move Jamie in to assist with raising of the two kids and be a nanny at the residence," said Oceana County Sheriff's Detective Shane Hasty, the lead investigator on the case.
Behind closed suburban doors at the Shannon home, cops discover a situation brewing that's ripe for a scandal. At the center: Jamie Hathaway, the 20-year-old woman who Lee-Ann and Tim had invited into their home.
"Her mother told Lee-Ann, 'No, Lee-Ann, you don't invite another woman into your home. This is going to, this could cause problems,'" said Lee-Ann's cousin Deborah.
At the time no one knew just how many. But Deborah Lariviere claims the relationship between Tim, Lee-Ann and Jamie had some eyebrow-raising conditions.
"The thing that was very disturbing, apparently this girl was calling Tim and Lee-Ann 'mom and dad,' which was sort of odd because she wasn't a child, she was a woman, and she would refer to them as mom and dad not only in the house, but out publicly," Deborah tells Crime Watch Daily.
And interestingly, Deborah says the couple seemed to be taking it even one step further.
"Lee-Ann told her mother 'We're going to adopt Jamie,'" said Lee-Ann's cousin Deborah. "They took steps and even went to see a lawyer to do this."
But Lee-Ann was about to get the shock of her life from the very woman she now considered a daughter. The loving mother learned the nanny had taken on some extra duties, igniting a sizzling romance with the man of the house, right under Lee-Ann's nose.
Investigators soon learn Tim Shannon desperately wants out of his marriage.
"He claimed that his marriage had fallen apart. He was going to be filing for divorce," said prosecutor Joseph Bizon.
But Lee-Ann is distraught, and drinking. Before Tim can file for divorce, she turns up dead.
"The largest amount of evidence was the fact that we had a woman dead in the bathtub," said Bizon.
Was it an accident, or did someone kill her?
On a hunch, a prosecutor decided to take a closer look, and even he was shocked by what he would find.
A woman's body found dead in the drained bathtub of her suburban home. At first, it looks like an accidental drowning, but when cops take a closer look:
"There's really no feasible way for a 280-pound person in a small 5-foot tub with an inclined back, that their head could even get below the water line," said Det. Shane Hasty.
But who could possibly want Lee-Ann Shannon, a doting wife and mother of two young children, dead?
"Her kids were her life. She just loved her children," said Lee-Ann's cousin Deborah Lariviere.
Detectives learned this family of four had a new fifth member: The 20-year-old nanny, Jamie Hathaway.
"All of a sudden we find out that he's having an affair with this girl," said Deborah.
And apparently Tim Shannon, a prominent local councilman, came clean about the affair to Lee-Ann.
"Apparently there were arguments," said Deborah. "The word has it that Tim was seeing a lawyer to divorce her. Between him and Jamie, I guess they felt they could just say to Lee-Ann, 'OK, you're going to pack up your things and you're going to leave.' Tim had asked her to move out."
The whole sordid betrayal threw Lee-Ann into a downward emotional spiral.
"Lee-Ann struggled with depression and other issues related to that, developed we believe a drinking issue. Tim Shannon ultimately decided he wanted to be with the younger woman," said prosecutor Joseph Bizon.
Cops say that on the last night of Lee-Ann's life, Dec. 28, 2012, she was drowning her heartbroken sorrows in hard liquor.
"The night of December 28th, we believe that Lee-Ann bought several bottles of Boone's Farm and Everclear and got drunk," said Bizon. "We are told when she was drinking, she would take a bath."
But what exactly happened next is a mystery. Until it wasn't.
Tim Shannon finds Lee-Ann and calls 911.
911: "How warm or cold is she?"
Shannon: "Um, cold."
911: "Cold? What's the water temperature?"
Shannon: "Oh, I drained it."
Cops arrive at the house and question Tim.
"He claimed she had slipped under the water on her own due to her intoxication, and that he found her that way," said Joseph Bizon.
Detectives quickly learn the nanny Jamie Hathaway happened to be out of the house with the kids the morning Lee-Ann was found in the tub.
"So we felt it was imperative to get some information from her," said Det. Shane Hasty.
Investigators immediately bring Jamie down to the station and grill her about Lee-Ann's sudden death. That interrogation was captured on an audio recording.
Detective: "What was your relationship with Tim?"
Jamie Hathaway: "He's one of my best friends."
As soon as detectives press further, Jamie openly admits to the sexual affair with Tim.
Detective: "Is there something that sparked between you and he..."
Hathaway: "Depends on what you mean."
Detective: "Was there an affair between you two?"
Detective: "Would you say you and Tim are in love?"
Hathaway: "I am."
Detective: "With Tim?"
Suddenly cops wondered: Could their love affair be a motive for murder?
"Well, that fact that they had an extramarital affair alone is a reason for suspicion," said Shane Hasty.
And if that's not enough to cast doubt in the detectives' minds, the next clue was about to drop.
"She also informed us that the 29th, the date that Lee-Ann was found dead, was the day that she and Timothy had decided that she would be moving into the residence, and Lee-Ann would not be there anymore," said Det. Shane Hasty.
Detective: "So was the plan then that day that after Lee-Ann moved out, was gone out of the house, you were coming to stay?"
But Jamie claims a monkey-wrench was thrown into their plan when Lee-Ann accidentally drowned. Cops aren't buying Jamie's story and the case is quickly turning into a homicide investigation.
Detective: "If you want to help clear this up for yourself or any other questions we may have down the line, by all means this is your shining moment right here today."
Hathaway: "You think he killed her, is what you're telling me."
But what detectives were really thinking at the time is that a plan for divorce had long been underway. Others connected to Jamie Hathaway and Tim Shannon also believed something was up.
"I thought they were planning something," said Stacy Skorupa, Jamie's former roommate.
At one time, Jamie rented a room from Stacy Skorupa, who says she recalls the couple being there together and acting very suspiciously on several occasions.
"The feeling I got about Timothy and Jamie being together were a very unsettling, it was abnormal quiet with them in the room together," said Skorupa.
Detective: "Jamie, have you ever thought of drowning or hurting Lee-Ann?"
Hathaway: "There are times when I want to smack her, but to actually kill her, not really."
Detective: "Has Tim ever communicated to you that he wanted to harm Lee-Ann at any point?"
Hathaway: "None that I can recall."
"She stated that she did not have any involvement or that this was not a planned incident, but we were getting the feeling that it was, that this may have been premeditated," said Det. Hasty.
Detective: "Did you have anything to do with her death?"
Detective: "Did Tim have anything to do with her death?"
Hathaway: "I don't think he did."
But could detectives prove otherwise? Jamie revealed that she had already moved her personal belongings to the residence, packed in bins, sitting in Tim's storage shed. When cops raided the shed, they found a treasure trove of what could be incriminating evidence.
"We discovered documents in her handwriting where they were planning to go to Las Vegas for marriage," said Det. Hasty. "She had a checklist of things to do prior to being married. Our belief was the obvious reason is that she needed to be removed for their relationship to continue."
"She had diaries, and in these diaries she had one particular saying that I remembered: 'Burn after dying,'" said Oceana County Sheriff's Detective Mark Schneider. "It could have been 'burn after Lee-Ann Shannon was killed.'"
Then there were even more references. Were they possibly predicting Lee-Ann's last breaths? On a piece of notebook paper, an ominous list with "death surrounds the mother" and "suicide" in Jamie's handwriting. There's also a box labeled "go through last after Lee-Ann leaves."
Detectives also found jewelry that belonged to Lee-Ann's mother that had gone missing from the house. There's even a family photo, but Lee-Ann is folded out of the picture. Cops also scoured computers, where they found racy messages between Jamie and Tim.
"Tim and Jamie were very prolific chatters," said Bizon. "They would make plans for where they would meet for getting together, sex talk, pictures, clothed and naked, at least one picture of them being intimate together."
It's a long, hot, seemingly incriminating list of evidence. But now cops wondered: Did sexual intimacy and suspicious diary entries tucked away by the nanny add up to murder?
"We pored over everything we could looking for any evidence of collusion, any evidence that this was a plan, that there was some premeditation," said Bizon.
Despite the sizzling clues, cops had no physical evidence to hold Jamie on murder charges. Back at the station, they wrapped up their interview with the nanny.
They then set their sights on Tim.
"Jamie Hathaway left the building, we had a unit available and we informed that patrol officer that we wanted him to follow her to see where she goes," said Det. Hasty. "Because we needed to get to the Shannon residence, knocked upon the main door of the residence, could see Mr. Shannon inside and asked him to come down, and he did so voluntarily."
In the recorded interview, detectives question Tim about his relationship with Lee-Ann and his affair with Jamie -- then they go in for the jugular.
Detective: "You kind of see the problem we're developing here, Tim? You got the 'movie of the week' goin' on. Things don't make a whole lotta sense."
Hart, Michigan City Councilman Tim Shannon is about to hit the hot seat, facing serious questions after finding his wife's cold body in the family's bathtub. Detectives hauled Tim Shannon down to the station.
Detective: "I asked you to come down her because honestly we wanted to speak with you."
And right off the bat they ask about the steamy affair in an audio-recorded interrogation.
Detective: "Tim, there's a rumor going around that you had a sexual affair with Jamie."
"Almost immediately he inserted her into the role of the mother of those children, taking them places and doing things with them like a mother would," said Bizon.
Tim doesn't deny he saw Jamie as more than a second "mother" to his children. He was filing for divorce from his wife and he and Jamie planned to tie the knot in Vegas. But he claims coincidentally, Lee-Ann accidently drowned in the tub the very day Jamie was permanently moving in.
"Timothy Shannon had explained to Hart P.D. that his wife was a larger woman, I believe approximately 280 pounds, and that it was a smaller tub, and that when she did take a bath that she would have to scootch up against the shower wall above the nozzle," said Det. Hasty. "Well that just didn't seem logical. Nobody takes a bath like that. That also raised some suspicion."
And it didn't take long for cops to turn suspicion into some stunning admissions.
Detective: "Tell me what happened, OK, because what I've read so far I think is a bunch of B.S. If you've made a mistake, let's talk about that mistake you made. Let's get it out, get it out in front of us."
After only 30 minutes of increasingly tough police questioning, Tim suddenly seems to start caving.
Tim Shannon: "I didn't intend for her to die. We were intending on moving her out to her mother's, went to get her out of the tub, and she was staying there, staying drunk, started hitting me, so I just sit on her."
Detectives ears are perking up, hanging on his every word. They knew Tim was about to come clean and confess every dirty detail.
Detective: "Tim, I'm going to stop you right now. I'm going to read you your rights."
They read him his rights and urge him to keep talking. And he does.
Detective: "So she's drunk, she's in the tub."
Shannon: "She's drunk and she's flat on her back. Just trying to get her up, get her moving. She grabs, pulled me in."
Detective: "So you're on top of her, and then what?"
Detective: "You gotta tell us Tim."
From there, like water from a faucet, the truth comes pouring out.
Detective: "But you remained on top of her?"
Shannon: "I refocused, I get up, and she's out, not breathing. I don't know because I was out for a minute."
"He then states that he was holding her under the water and he then states that the only thing he can recall is that Lee-Ann began floating in the bathtub," said Det. Shane Hasty.
Detective: "When you come to?"
Shannon: "When I refocus, she's not breathing."
"He 'regained his focus,' is the term that he used, he realized what he had done," said Joseph Bizon.
Detective: "But by the time you stopped she was already deceased?
Detective: "And she remained under the water?"
Shannon: "She floated up, but no breathing."
Prosecutor Joseph Bizon says that after Tim Shannon drowned his wife, Tim changed his clothes, then callously waited several hours before calling 911.
"We believe that between him pushing her under the water and calling 911, that he changed his clothes and put his clothes in the laundry because they were wet," said Bizon.
Tim Shannon was arrested and held without bail, charged with one count of murder.
But despite all the secret diary entries and other suspicious evidence cops found in plastic bins at the home that day, Jamie Hathaway was not charged in connection with Lee-Ann Shannon's murder.
"Having gone over all the evidence we're not able to determine premeditation or plan that she was supposed to die," said Bizon.
Tim Shannon pleaded no contest and was convicted of second-degree murder.
"I don't think he is an evil person by nature," said Det. Mark Schneider. "I think he got to the point of being coaxed. I think he was at his wits' end, didn't know what else to do as far as juggling his wife and his girlfriend."
"Our belief was that Jamie Hathaway was infatuated with Timothy Shannon," said Det. Shane Hasty. "You could see that she was the person giving Timothy orders, whether that was right down to the point that Lee-Ann had to die, we're still unsure of today."
And Jamie became a witness for the prosecution. Despite not being able to pin any charges on her, investigators still have their doubts about the nanny's involvement.
"Jamie is still out, and follow-up conversations with Timothy Shannon, he was offered to tell us the whole truth, and he chose not to," said Det. Hasty. "I believe he's still protecting Jamie to this day."
Jamie Hathaway is reportedly living two hours away in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while Tim will serve 13 and a half to 25 years behind bars -- not eligible for freedom until he's well into his 50s.
At his sentencing, Lee-Ann's cousin Deborah Lariviere told Tim Shannon exactly what she hopes his future holds in prison.
"What happens in jail is not kindly, and that's the worst fate that I wished for him," said Deborah. "That someone would take him as a bride and really teach him what life's about."
Tim and Lee-Ann's kids are now living with his parents, and Tim is left with plenty of time to think about the path he chose, a path that tore apart a family, leaving his children without a mother or a father.