HARLAN, Iowa — Months after the release of my best-selling book, DIXIE’s LAST STAND: WAS IT MURDER OR
SELF-DEFENSE? I visited the hometown of Dixie and Scott Shanahan and gave a pair of PowerPoint book presentations in the same community where Dixie’s momentous 2004 murder trial occurred. wildbluepress.dixie
Thursday’s presentations at the Harlan Community Library was a trip down memory lane. Back in 2003 and 2004, I covered the criminal court proceedings involving Dixie Shanahan for the Omaha newspaper. I worked there before joining Gannett Wisconsin Media as an investigative journalist in late 2012.
Many who came for my talks bought a copy of DIXIE and several people also purchased one of my other true-crime books, BLOODY LIES: A CSI SCANDAL IN THE HEARTLAND and BODY OF PROOF: TAINTED EVIDENCE IN THE MURDER OF JESSICA O’GRADY. wbp.bz/bop
Two of the two key law enforcement figures involved in the western Iowa investigation of Scott Shanahan’s murder mystery attended Thursday’s book presentations: retired Sheriff Gene Cavenaugh and current sheriff Mark Hervey, then the chief deputy for Shelby County.
I told the crowd that my primary motivation for writing DIXIE’S LAST STAND was to highlight a murder mystery investigation where a smaller department with few resources was able to do a fabulous job.
I reminded the crowd how Sheriff Cavenaugh and his agency unraveled the Scott Shanahan mystery within a few short months of first becoming aware that Dixie’s husband had vanished from his life-long home in Defiance, the sleepy little town 12 miles up Route 59 midway between Harlan and Denison.
For the first time, I revealed that the day is probably nearing for Dixie Shanahan’s release from the Iowa Women’s Prison in Mitchellville. Dixie has been in Mitchellville the past 11-plus years.
In June, Dixie was denied parole, however, the board decided that it would reconsider Dixie’s case within the next couple of months, provided she undergo a psychological evaluation. For this reason, I believe it’s highly probable Dixie will be released yet this year, or for sure, in 2016, provided Dixie has no additional disciplinary problems at the prison.
Retired Sheriff Cavenaugh, who arrested Dixie for murder on Oct. 20, 2003, also agrees.
“Yes, I believe Dixie will get out of prison, sometime maybe this year possibly … I think she’ll come back to Shelby County, go live with her husband (Jeff Duty who she married in 2004), in the same house, in Defiance, Iowa, and I hope she has a better life for herself, I really do. Like I said, it’s a tragic situation and I hope for the best for her.”