Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Read the transcript below.

Learn more about the case with original videos, archival photos, and documents from our reporting in our episode guide.

They said, “Well, it’s not going to be pretty.” I said, “It hadn’t been pretty since they disappeared, but I told my son I’d find him.”

Marshall Stewart

On July 4, 1988, sixteen-year-old Shane Stewart and eighteen-year-old Sally McNelly went out for the night in their West Texas hometown of San Angelo. They watched the fireworks, stopped for burgers, and drove out to the lake outside of town. They were never seen alive again.

That summer, as their parents waited for news from the authorities, Shane’s father, Marshall, began an investigation of his own, discovering that the teens may have been swept up in the town’s darkest undercurrents: drugs, human trafficking, and Satanism.

Shane and Sally is produced and cowritten by Patrick Michels and produced and engineered by Brian Standefer. Assistant producer is Aisling Ayers. Story editing by Rafe Bartholomew. Executive producer is Megan Creydt. Fact-checking by Doyin Oyeniyi. Studio musician is Jon Sanchez. Artwork is by Emily Kimbro and Victoria Millner.

Get in Touch

If you’d like to share any thoughts about the podcast, or about the murders of Shane Stewart and Sally McNelly, let us know in the form below.


[Truck starting, truck doors slamming]

Marshall Stewart: All right . . . shotgun, or whatever you call it?

Karen Jacobs: Yep.

Marshall Stewart: All right, you give me directions . . .

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): It’s late June 2023, and along with my cohost, Karen, I’m in San Angelo, Texas, with Marshall Stewart—piling into his truck, about to head out of town. Marshall is in his mid-seventies, with neatly combed gray hair and a thick mustache. And he’s driving us out to see a place he knows probably better than anyone else on earth. A place he wishes he didn’t know so well.

Karen Jacobs: We were talking about that, how you were walking the land out there.

Marshall Stewart: Lemme tell you what, that was a long, hot summer.

On July Fourth, 1988, Marshall’s son Shane, who was a month shy of seventeen years old, went out with his girlfriend, Sally McNelly. She was eighteen. Neither of them came home that night.

Marshall spent the evening driving all over San Angelo, looking for Shane. The next morning, by a lake northwest of town, a park ranger found Shane’s burnt orange Camaro, abandoned.

Officers guessed that Shane and Sally had run off together, but Marshall didn’t believe it.

Marshall was convinced that something awful had happened to them. But Shane’s car, and where Shane left it, were the only leads he had to go on. So Marshall went back to the park, night after night. For weeks.

Marshall Stewart: And you can just look around and imagine, I walked this twice—and the lake goes all the way around for six or seven miles on the north side—looking for anything.

Marshall discovered that at night, it was a popular hangout for San Angelo teenagers.

Marshall Stewart: And this is what I would do at night.

Karen Jacobs: Just sit there, and . . .

Marshall Stewart: Just sit there.

Karen Jacobs: And what would they do?

Marshall Stewart: They would get real nervous, it looked like, and they would look at me for a little bit, and then they would start up their cars, and then they would leave the park. I’d follow ’em out out of the park, and I’d come back in and look at something else.

Back on the morning of July fifth, Marshall had noticed thick tire tracks in the dirt next to Shane’s Camaro. So whenever he went back out there, Marshall keyed in on every big truck he saw.

And one night, he spotted a familiar Ford pickup. He says it was yellow, or maybe brown. He’d seen it out here before.

Marshall Stewart: And he saw, he saw . . . in my mind, he recognized me. Okay. Because I had a big Ford pickup with a camper on the back, and he was backed in the brush. And so I did like I did the others. I just pulled up there and waited. And he took out again. He immediately left the lake. And that’s when we started the chase.

Marshall hauled after the yellow truck, training on its taillights, as the truck led him out of the park and toward town. On the outskirts of San Angelo, Marshall looked down and saw they were each going almost a hundred miles an hour. But he wasn’t going to let the truck get away. Eventually, the chase took them to a different reservoir, further south.

Marshall Stewart: We come around the lake, just like we did right now. And he came in here. And this road’s always been like this. It’s never been a smooth, flat, get-in-and-out road. So if you want to come in here, you gotta want to come in here. Whoever came in here knew this road. Because you can break an axle, you can run off a cliff. You can have all kinds of mechanical problems. And you’re gonna have to walk out.

As Marshall raced after the truck, he thought about where they might be going, and who he might be chasing.

Marshall Stewart: So, put together that this pickup is always at the lake. He’s always backed in the brush. He leaves when I pull up. But, you know, in my brain, putting it together, you get the kids there—you’re gonna bring them all the way out here, you know where you’re going and you know what you’re going to do.

Karen Jacobs: But why would he lead you here?

Marshall Stewart: We’re at twelve o’clock at night. He’s probably got weapons. Don’t know what’s going on in his mind. But in my mind, I said, “This is a trap. He’s fixing to go up here and turn around and confront me.” And I stopped. I didn’t have a phone to call my brother. I didn’t have a weapon with me. And I said, “This is as far as I go.”

For 35 years, Marshall Stewart has been searching for the truth about what happened to Shane and Sally on that sweltering night of July Fourth, 1988. He’s collected evidence, interviewed witnesses, confronted suspects . . . and found that the closer he looks, the more baffling the case becomes. 

And that’s how it’s been for everyone who’s tried to solve this mystery. 

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): I first began looking into this case five years ago, interviewing investigators and reviewing their notes. At the time, I was working with the Texas Rangers to publicize cold cases and develop new leads. 

And right away, the murders of Shane Stewart and Sally McNelly stuck out. Not just because of the brutality, but because I felt like they might be solvable. And the Rangers seemed to agree.

Nick Hanna: You’ve heard the old saying, “When three or more people know a secret, it’s not a secret”? And this is kind of the exception. I feel like there’s a group, and it’s not been leaked out.

And that secret . . . we found that it involves more than just two brutal murders. There were satanic rituals and accusations that the police were involved. Key evidence that disappeared. Missing evidence that, out of nowhere, reappeared.

There was a whole series of unsolved crimes—sexual assaults and violent robberies—with a striking similarity to this case. And there was a trail of suspects that led halfway around the world.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): And I’ve spent the last year chasing every lead in those old notes. Checking every alibi. Covering hundreds of miles across West Texas to track down anyone who might have more to say. And together, we’re going to follow those threads . . . down every dark road . . . to wherever they lead.

Steve Schafer’s aunt: This is the devil’s playground down here, and you have to be very careful.

Nick Hanna: It’s just, there’s something ominous about this whole case.

And after 35 years, there are some people who’d rather not be reminded of it . . . 

Sally’s friend: We weren’t going to go harm nobody; none of us was.

Chris Cherry: It brought back sleepless nights for me after you called me. For the first couple of nights, I had a hard time sleeping. I dreamt about it.

Kristen Bill: There’s a lot of fear. But I don’t want to die. I don’t want to have to face these people again.

And then . . . there’s someone out there who has gotten away with these murders.

Valerie Castillo: She said, “If you don’t hear from us in a couple of months, then we’re dead.”

Lee Parker: Me and my brother told him, “Just leave that one alone. Just live your life. Leave it the f— alone. You don’t want to find him.”

Michael Heath: And I recall telling them, “You guys better be careful. You’re going to piss off the wrong people.”

There are so many maddening details in this case. It almost became an obsession for me, to try and find out what really happened. The answers have always seemed just out of reach.

Now, we’re hoping that by piecing together the evidence, we can finally get a clearer picture of what happened to Shane and Sally. And if we tell their story, maybe someone out there will speak up . . .

Kristen Bill: I want to do this. I want this case solved so this town can get past it.

 . . . and finally bring some answers to the people who need them most.

Pat Wade: Oh, we’ve never given up hope. Even after thirty years, people have said, “Move on; God will take care of it,” and it’s like, “Oh, no. We’re not moving on.”

Kristen Bill: So I almost backed out of this. I really did. But I can’t do that. Not for myself. I’m not gonna do that. And these other girls deserve it too. They deserve justice. These guys all need to go to jail, every one of them.

Nick Hanna: You haven’t asked, Is this most screwed-up case I’ve ever seen?

Producer: Is it?

Nick Hanna: Yeah.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): From Texas Monthly, this is Shane and Sally. I’m Rob D’Amico . . .

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): And I’m Karen Jacobs. This is episode one: “A Long, Hot Summer.”

Karen Jacobs: Can you see me okay?

David Jones: Yes, ma’am. 

Karen Jacobs: Can you hear me?

David Jones: Yes, ma’am.

Karen Jacobs: Yeah—straighten your tie a little bit.

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): I first started working on this story in 2018, as part of a documentary series on cold cases in Texas. I’m a producer on TV and film. And my team and I spent days interviewing Shane and Sally’s parents and following investigators who’d worked this case.

Karen Jacobs: All right. Okay, so we’re gonna get started. So I guess, go ahead and start, and tell me what’s your name, what do you do here in San Angelo?

We never got to make the show—we’ll say a little more about that later—and afterward, of all the cases I’d looked into, this one stayed with me. I couldn’t shake the thought of how long Shane and Sally’s parents have been waiting for answers . . . and it really did feel like there were answers within reach. So I asked an old high school friend—Rob—if he wanted to look into this with me.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): Karen and I both grew up in the Dallas suburbs, but today I’m a reporter based in far West Texas. I write a lot about criminal justice, and injustice in rural parts of Texas, where there’s not a lot of oversight. 

On the Fourth of July a couple years ago, Karen and I were at a barbecue, and, it being the same holiday that Shane and Sally disappeared, she told me about the case. Then she said, “Well, you’re the reporter. Can you take a look at it?” So I poked around. I found some intriguing leads, but they all seemed to go nowhere, and it wasn’t clear why. Maybe I was being arrogant, but I thought, “I can figure some of this out.” I told Karen I wanted to dive in, do a full investigation. 

Looking over the case files and news stories, it seemed like there were promising leads that had never been explored. And I felt that someone needed to take another look, to ensure everything possible had been done to solve these murders. In the case records, I saw hints of corruption and bizarre tips. It wasn’t clear that anyone had followed up on them. I saw a community of young people who’d spent years trading rumors about what happened to their friends.

Behind the cold facts in the case files, I saw two teenagers robbed of their lives. Parents who’d been agonizing for more than three decades. And I agreed with Karen: something had to be done. 

At the least, we figured that by bringing attention to the case, we might convince someone to speak up with new information. And we knew Shane and Sally’s parents—and even some investigators—felt the same way.

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): So let’s start with the basics. Because for all the confusing twists and turns in this case, there are some things we know for sure about what happened to Shane Stewart and Sally McNelly on the night of July Fourth, 1988.

The teens had been dating since the fall of 1987. And then they broke up. Both of them left San Angelo to work—Sally to Lubbock, and Shane to Kansas—but by the summer of 1988, they’d returned home, and they’d gotten back together. And this time, their relationship seemed stronger than ever. That’s where things stood early in the evening of July Fourth, 1988.

Shane was staying with Marshall, who had divorced from Shane’s mom a couple years before.

Marshall Stewart: So, that evening, when he started to leave, he said, “I’m going to go pick up my girlfriend, and we’re going to go out and watch the fireworks.” 

And he said, “I won’t stay out late.” So, he got up to leave the house, and as he did, I stood up, and I said, “Son, I love you.” He goes, “I love you too, Dad.” And went out the front door. 

That was around 6 p.m. Shane promised his dad he’d be home by 11. From there, Shane drove about five miles to pick up Sally.

Sally was eighteen years old and living with her mother and her stepdad, Pat and Bill Wade. Pat and Bill were recently married. Their baby was four months old that July, and Pat says Sally loved her new little brother.

Pat Wade: So she was crazy about him, and so she wanted to move back; she wanted to live back at home. And she worked in a nursing home part-time. The day she left, the very last day that I saw her, she sat in the living room, and we visited. And she told me, she said, “I bet you thought I’d never get my life together,” and I said, “Well, I was having doubts about you, Sally,” and we just laughed and visited. And that is so precious.

On her way out the door, Sally said she’d be spending the night with a friend. That was just a teenage ruse, since she actually got together with Shane.

Together, they drove just south of town, to Lake Nasworthy. It was the most popular place in town to get a view of the fireworks over the water.

After the show, they stopped at Whataburger. A receipt in the car showed that was at 11:40 p.m. Then they drove out to another lake—O. C. Fisher—which was another popular hangout. They were there around midnight, parked and sitting on the hood of Shane’s Camaro. We know that because two fishermen on the lake happened to spot them. Eventually, one of them called Pat.

[Phone beep]

Pat Wade: Hello?

Randall Littlefield: Okay, I tried to call Mr. Stewart just a minute ago, and I left a message on his machine.

Pat Wade: Yes, sir?

Randall Littlefield: My name is Randall Littlefield, and I work for San Angelo Independent School District.

Pat Wade: Yes, sir?

He told Pat that he and his buddy had been out on the water at O. C. Fisher that night, checking their trotlines for catfish. At one point, he happened to look up and see Shane and Sally sitting on Shane’s car.

And, he said, they had company. A pickup truck had pulled up, and it was shining its KC lights—a row of bright lights along the top of the cab—right at Shane and Sally.

Randall Littlefield: And we heard your daughter and some other people arguing—two other guys—arguing.

Pat Wade: Could you make out what she was saying? 

Randall Littlefield: She did say that no, she would not do it again. That she was leaving ’em, that she would not have nothing to do with ’em. Well, the pickup backed up, with its big cowboy lights; it backed up and it left. This was a little after midnight, ’cause I was running my trotlines. And that was the last I heard or seen anything about it.

Late that night, when Shane still hadn’t come home, Marshall got in the car with his son Sean, Shane’s older brother. Together, they went looking for Shane. Shane’s orange Camaro, with a black stripe down the hood, was always easy to spot around town. And Marshall had an idea where to look.

Marshall Stewart: We drove around the streets over on our side, the west side of town. All the houses that I knew that his car had been to and where I had found him in the past. We drove for probably an hour, round and around, and didn’t find the car, didn’t know what was going on.

They went home, hoping maybe Shane was already back, or that he’d left a message—but there was nothing.

Marshall Stewart: And then it began to hit in your heart, and in your gut, your stomach, that this is not right, something’s wrong, something’s wrong.

Around seven the next morning, a lake ranger found the Camaro near where it had been around midnight. Police traced the license plate to Marshall and called to say they’d found the car by the lake.

Marshall Stewart: And I said, “Well, are the kids there?” And they said, “No, it looks like it’s abandoned. Can you meet us out there?” And I said, “Absolutely, I can meet you out there.”

At the park, Marshall drove past rows of concrete picnic tables. Next to one of them, he spotted his son’s car. The driver’s side door was open, and the keys were sitting on the dash. A lake ranger and a deputy with the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office were there waiting for him.

Marshall Stewart: There wasn’t any evidence [tape] around on the outside of the ground, so I asked the detectives and the lake ranger, “Don’t be walking around the car. Let’s start looking for footprints. Let’s look for some kind of evidence that there might have been a problem, a fight. I don’t know what. But let’s try and gather evidence as we can.”

They said, “Well, we think they just walked off.” And I said, “Well no, here’s another set of tire prints.” I said, “This is off of a bigger vehicle. If y’all would, don’t get on these tire prints, because you might be able to make a casting and protect those, might be able to identify a vehicle.”

Marshall actually worked at the Goodyear tire-testing ground in San Angelo, so this was something he knew about. 

Marshall Stewart: I keep insisting that Shane did not walk off and leave his car. You know, “We need to start looking. Search this area and see what we can find. Anything that will lead us to why did they leave this area, how did they leave this area.”

We didn’t find anything in the way of shell casings, or things like that, that would have indicated that had happened. And they kept going, “No, we think they just walked away.”

They spent less than an hour at the park. Marshall doesn’t remember the officers taking any photographs or measurements that morning. And we haven’t seen any in the case files.

Marshall Stewart: When we finished looking at the car, and they thought that they had everything that they needed with me there in my pickup, and Sean there, they said, “Well, why don’t you go ahead and take the car and take it back to your house, secure it.” Which is what we did. We brought it home.

Back at home, Marshall searched the car for clues. He found the Whataburger bag with the time-stamped receipt. He also found Sally’s work uniform, folded neatly in the back seat.

Marshall Stewart: And it was a day or two later that they called, and they said, “We need you to go ahead and bring the car down to the sheriff’s office. We want to go through it, see if we can find any evidence.”

He brought in the car to let the deputies search it. Then he drove it home again later that day. Two days passed with no sign of Shane or Sally. Then, finally, the sheriff’s office put out a notice that they were missing.

But Marshall said he seemed to be the only one bringing up possible forensic leads. What about the tire tracks? Maybe fingerprints on the car? Or traces of blood, or hair?

Karen Jacobs: Didn’t you think it was weird that you were having to suggest what to do to the police?

Marshall Stewart: Well, I did, but you’re a concerned parent. Your anxiety level is over the roof. You know, your kids are gone; you end up almost in a panic mode. So everything is like, “This could be important; this could be important.” And they’ve seen it so often; it’s so routine. And you can’t offend them. You’ve got to have them doing what they need to do as a professional. So you just keep making suggestions, and because you’re pushed back, excluded from being part of this, you’re just kind of a bystander.

Still, as far as Marshall could tell, nobody else was doing much investigating. And so, that morning, he began an investigation of his own.

He started a new routine. He’d go to work at the tire yard, maybe work a half shift so he could get started early, and then he’d hit the road, searching San Angelo for clues. 

Marshall made his nighttime rounds at the lake, past rows of picnic tables, searching alone in the dark. During the day, he went out with a camcorder, to film evidence of whatever shady business had been happening out there—like some graffiti he found on the picnic tables.

Marshall Stewart on home video: It’s about a quarter mile from where the car was found. Nice little graffiti on the ground. Not quite sure what it means, but we’ll look at it, try and figure it out. 

In the video, Marshall pans across concrete tables that have been spray-painted with slogans and symbols. There are pentagrams and swastikas. One table says, “Cops for fertilizer.”

Marshall Stewart on home video: That’s always nice for the police to know.

Another says, “Metallica.”

Marshall was gathering all this material and passing it along to the sheriff’s office. And it’s hard to know just how helpful they found it. But then one day, he found something that was harder for the police to ignore. He found a body, right out at the lake.

Marshall Stewart: So Shane and them were one, two, three, four. Probably this one.

Marshall showed us where he found it, not far from the picnic table where Shane’s Camaro had been parked that night.

Marshall Stewart: I think it was right here.

Sean Stewart: Because they were—this is the channel that had water in it, right here.

Marshall Stewart: Exactly.

Sean Stewart: And they were parked parallel to it.

Marshall Stewart: A little bit of brush has grown up. So we—we gonna bail out?

Karen Jacobs: Yeah, I think Rob’s gonna take some pictures.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): It was dusty and hot. We were standing in a field of dirt scattered with grass and prickly pear cactus. The lake is so low, the only water you can see is in the far distance.

That night Marshall came out here alone, he couldn’t see a thing. But he smelled something. And with his flashlight, he walked out to see what it was.

Rob D’Amico: Right. And it would’ve been the dead of night. No one out here, and so they could’ve heard . . .

Marshall pointed out where the waterline used to be. The channel is down a steep embankment and beyond a stand of tall, dry grass.

Marshall Stewart: And so, I walked out in the brush, and it was just past that end tree, down there about fifteen foot.

Alone in the dark that night—while he was out looking for signs of his missing son—this is where Marshall found another man’s body.

Marshall Stewart: I’m just shivering, because it was that close to this scene, and the aroma was like, there’s a problem.

Karen Jacobs: And does the story of that tie at all?

Marshall Stewart: They said it was a drug deal that went wrong. Whether he owed some people for drugs or he overdosed, they don’t know.

Investigators later told us it was a drug overdose, with no links they could find to Shane and Sally.

Meanwhile that summer, people came to Marshall with their own theories about what had happened to Shane and Sally. Marshall grew up in San Angelo, so plenty of people knew him and wanted to share anything that might help. 

Marshall took notes on all of it, and he shared these notes with us. Mostly, they just looked like a lot of rumors. One of them said Marshall’s cousin’s wife’s friend’s daughter heard a particular guy was there when somebody else named Spider shot Shane and Sally. The tip said, quote, “Spider has lots of tattoos . . .”

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): Some of the tips ran to some pretty dark places. One said there were girls being hypnotized and held hostage by a group of local teenagers. Another told Marshall to check out a ranch south of San Angelo where there were, quote, “child porn and rituals being done.”

Marshall talked with some of these people face-to-face. 

He talked with two men who worried that their kids were involved with the same dangerous people. The men believed these suspects had also been dealing drugs in San Angelo schools. They got together and tried to figure out what was going on.

Man on tape: What I’m saying right now, that within the hierarchy of Lee Junior High is where your second- and third-line echelon of the drug problem is.

Marshall Stewart on tape: satanism.

Man on tape: No, it’s not satanism. Well, it may be satanism, but it’s right in that group—right in that hierarchy. Now, we know that heroin, cocaine, poppy growing, and all the rest of this goes back into biblical times. It is something that has never, ever been a lid put on. We do what we can. And devil-worship has been ever since biblical times.

Second man on tape: Yes, since the time of the beginning.

Marshall Stewart on tape: But the key to the whole thing is, we do something. We don’t do nothing.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): The more Marshall had looked into the case, the more he began to believe that a shadow had descended on San Angelo: a bad crowd of kids and young adults who messed with pentagrams and drugs, and rituals where they really were abusing young women and girls. And that Shane and Sally were somehow involved with them.

Marshall Stewart on tape: And I’m telling you, within that group, there’s a force that does not mind killing children. These kids weren’t killed just because Shane come in for July Fourth weekend. They were killed as a statement to the rest of the kids . . . that you don’t get out.

This was right in the middle of what people today call the Satanic panic, when people all over the U.S. were becoming worried about a coming wave of violent devil worship. It was stirred up in the media and fueled by parents’ anxiety over their children’s interests in things like  Dungeons and Dragons or heavy metal music. 

Marshall picked up books like Cults That Kill, the Necronomicon, and even The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. He even got a handbook for deciphering satanic   symbols.

Marshall was also pretty sure he knew where to find this crowd of teenagers that Shane and Sally were mixed up with: the houses where he’d often gone looking for Shane late at night, to tell him to come home. Those same houses where he’d searched for Shane’s car on the night of the Fourth of July. This time, he went up to the doors and knocked. 

Marshall Stewart: One of the doors I knocked on, a guy that come to the door, he had a big rash on the side of his face, and almost a black eye. It looked like he had been hit in the face.

This was just a few days after Shane disappeared. The guy at the door was Steve Schafer, a seventeen-year-old classmate of Shane’s, who also hung around a bit with Sally. Marshall says that, just before Shane went missing that summer, Shane said he and Steve really didn’t like one another, and if they saw each other, they’d probably get in a fight.

And then there’s this: Steve also drove a truck with four KC lights on top of a roll bar over the cab, similar to the truck that the fisherman saw driving up to Shane and Sally on July Fourth.

Now, here he was in front of Marshall, covered in bruises. Marshall pressed him for what he knew and where he had been on the Fourth. But Steve said he’d been home all night, playing cards with his grandmother.

Marshall Stewart: And so, he said, “No, I haven’t seen them at all.” And I said, “Well, I know through Sean that you and Shane are enemies.” And I said, “Now that the kids are missing, it’s pretty obvious to me that you’ve been in a fight. So I’d like to know who you’ve been in a fight with.” “Oh, no, this is just a rash I have. It’s a reaction on my face.” And I said, “No, you’ve been in a fight with somebody.” And he said, “No, no, I haven’t been in a fight.” I said, “Okay.” You know, you can’t just shove your way into somebody’s house and start grilling people. So as we were leaving, my brother-in-law goes, “They need to come talk to this guy. He’s been in a fight.”

According to a report we’ve got, a sheriff’s deputy finally visited Steve Schafer on July sixteenth. The case records we’ve seen don’t include any details of the interview, so we don’t know what they discussed. But there didn’t seem to be any follow-up after that. To Marshall, it was hard to see just what the sheriff’s office was doing to solve the case that summer.

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): In 2018, while I was filming my series on cold cases, I went back to that same house where Marshall found Steve Schafer with the bruised face, a little home built from fitted stone, what they call a rock house. It occupied a corner lot in a neighborhood of small bungalows just south of downtown.

I was riding along with a Texas Ranger named Nick Hanna. Nick was part of a unit assigned to cold cases across Texas, and he’d been retracing the initial investigation into what happened to Shane and Sally. He told us about the first time he’d come to search the place.

Nick Hanna: Well, we were just doing a neighborhood canvass, and we knocked on a neighbor’s door—I think it was this house right here. And they answered the door, and they said, “Are you here about the devil house?”

Nick is in his mid-fifties. He’s tall enough that—even without his big white hat on—his short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair almost grazes the ceiling of the pickup. He comes across as a pretty tough, no-nonsense kind of guy. But he said this place, this little rock house, it left him shaken.

Nick Hanna: It was just overgrown—the limbs and stuff, it just gave it a kind of a . . . like, you can look at the limbs now; you just almost can’t create how creepy it is, just naturally creepy.

Terry Lowe: It looks like a Hansel and Gretel house, you know?

Nick Hanna: Yeah.

By the time we got there, Schafer was long gone. But Nick had learned that during the eighties, this was a gathering place for a circle of friends that Shane and Sally were mixed up in.

In 2015, Nick had searched the house, along with an investigator for the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, Terry Lowe, just in case they might find something earlier investigators had missed. During separate interviews at each of their offices, they told me how it went. Here’s Terry:

Terry Lowe: We went in, Nick and I did, a couple of years ago. It was pretty “make your hair stand up on the back of your neck” type of deal, satanic-wise. There was a lot of satanic items that were in the house, and pentagrams. We actually took a police chaplain with us when we went in and had him bless the house before we went in.

Nick Hanna: Not because we were so intimidated by the satanic vibe in the house, but I just wanted a person educated in Scripture to interpret some things that he might see. And it was beneficial.

When you entered the home, there was a large mirror on the living room floor, surrounded by candles in a circle, as if some sort of séance had occurred there. And immediately adjacent to that was probably a hundred and twenty violent movies. Just violent-themed movies and satanic-themed movies. Immediately to the left was a bedroom, and when you entered the room, the floor was black, the ceiling was black, the walls were black, the windows were black. They had some things, eyelets, where maybe chains or some sort of restraining device could be affixed.

I know what you’re thinking: Satanic panic. But there really was evidence that Shane and Sally were hanging out with some dangerous people—and that occult rituals were part of the group’s identity. And it’s possible this house held some answers.

Nick Hanna: You know, in 1988, in the late eighties, there was a surge in the satanic cult activity in the region. And whether it was a fad or there was a little passing interest among young people—but there was definitely a presence of that type behavior within the community of San Angelo. Now San Angelo is probably as Bible Belt as you’re going to get, as far as, you know, the number of churches per capita and really good people. But it just seems that in any element of society, there’s always those that want to step out on the fringe, and be a little different, and explore.

While Marshall was making his rounds, back in the summer of 1988, he heard that Steve Schafer was a kind of leader in a group that held satanic rituals. Some people said those “rituals” were just lighting candles and playing with a Ouija board. But other people said they’d seen these kids sacrificing animals in a firepit.

I asked Marshall about this when he and I first spoke.

Karen Jacobs: Had you heard about the cult stuff at this point?

Marshall Stewart: Yes, I realized through their friends that there was a cult, and they had been involved in it. Were trying to get away from it. They had talked about satanic rituals and things like that. Had never observed or seen any evidence here in town, but several times at the lake, when I would get out and walk, I would actually find their sites where they had done some of their rituals.

If this was what Shane and Sally got mixed up in, Marshall couldn’t understand why law enforcement wasn’t taking this more seriously. He described one conversation he had with a lake ranger.

Marshall Stewart: And I said, “So, do you ever notice anything unusual going on out here?” He goes, “Well, occasionally there’s a group of kids. They got a fire going; they’re doing different things.” I said, “Well, have you ever taken a look at the campfires?” He goes, “No, we just drive by, make sure there’s not a big problem.” I said, “Well, what about here?” And he says, “What do you mean, here?” I said, “Well, what about there?”

And just over the fence inside there is where they had drawn their satanic circle and they’d had their fire, and they had their glass and their other things that they use in some of the rituals. He says, “Oh my gosh, that looks like a ritual site.” I said, “That’s exactly what that is.”

For so much of that summer, it was just Marshall, on his own, looking for answers, trying to make sure that nobody else out there met the same fate as Shane and Sally—whatever fate that was.

Marshall Stewart: A lot of nights out there, I was like, “Probably shouldn’t be out here by myself, but . . . ”

Karen Jacobs: Were you scared?

Marshall Stewart: Not really. It’s unusual to say that, but I felt like I was in control. So I pretty much stayed with the mind frame that I’ll be okay out here, and I’ll get back home, I’ll be all right.

The night that Marshall chased the yellow truck, out of the park and down the dark road into the wilderness, it was that voice in his head that told him to turn back home.

But later, in the daylight, he returned. And he expanded his search out to the wilderness where that truck had been leading him.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): Twin Buttes Reservoir is another man-made lake outside San Angelo, formed by a dam along the Concho River. It’s not far from the lake where Shane and Sally went to watch the fireworks. And it’s about a fifteen-mile drive south of O. C. Fisher Lake, where they’d gone after the fireworks. Twin Buttes is more secluded, surrounded by tall brush, and it’s a popular hunting spot.

Marshall Stewart: And it was on, actually, Friday afternoon. Was at work, and I heard over a police scanner, which I had bought, just trying to catch conversation or anything, and a hunter was out at the far south pool and had found something that he needed the detectives to come look at.

This was November twelfth. Investigators told us the hunter saw his dog bound off into the brush, chasing a scent. The hunter followed along and saw what the dog had found: a human skull. Next to it was a pile of brush, and beneath the brush were tattered, faded blue jeans, a light purple blouse . . . and bones.

Authorities arrived, and—based on the clothes—they believed these were indeed Sally’s remains, but they didn’t find any sign of Shane. They delivered these remains to a medical examiner in San Antonio. The medical examiner concluded that Sally had been shot.

According to investigators, the medical examiner also told detectives that there were actually some teeth missing from Sally’s skull, and suggested they go back and search the site again. Which they did the following Monday. And it was that day, while he was sitting at work, that Marshall turned on his police scanner to listen in.

Marshall Stewart: And I hear a call that they need a justice of the peace to come to the lake. And so, I said, “They found Shane. They’ve got two bodies out there, and they’ve found the kids. So, I’m going.”

At last, Marshall knew his search was over.

Marshall Stewart: Of course there was detectives, and DPS officers, and justice of the peaces out there. And they stopped me a block or so away from the site, and they said, “You need to turn around and leave.” And I said, “No, sir, I’m not turning around. And I’m not going to leave.” And they said, “Well, you need to leave; this is a crime scene.” And I said, “I totally understand that.” I said, “They found my son down there, and I’m going to see my son.”

So anyway, a couple of them, detectives and DPS, they recognized me. And so one of them walked up and they said, “You let him come on down here.” So, they told me, they said, “Well, it’s not going to be pretty.” And I said, “It hasn’t been pretty since they disappeared, but I told my son I’d find him.” And so once I got up there, I knelt down, and it was Shane, exactly like he’d left the house. Dressed exactly like he’d left the house, just laid out. Two kids murdered for no reason, for no reason at all. Laid out like animals.

After four months out in the West Texas sun, the remains didn’t offer many clues as to what happened to Shane and Sally, except that they had been shot. 

Sally’s mom, Pat, says there are long stretches of the following months that her mind blocked out—days and weeks that she can’t even remember.

Pat Wade: When this happened, I don’t really know what happened after that.

She had her eight-month-old son, and a job as a home health nurse. She worked sixty hours a week taking care of other people. Which meant driving all over the county.

Pat Wade: I would see vultures coming down on roadkill and have to pull off on the side of the road and scream for thirty minutes, because this is what happened to my child. She was literally devoured by animals, okay? So just surviving from one day to the next, and trying to care for a baby, was all I could muster. That was it.

[KLST News theme music]

Lou Kordek: The investigation continues into circumstances leading to the brutal murders of two San Angelo teenagers last summer.

Marshall and Pat turned to the local news to broadcast their pleas for help, and to offer a cash reward for information on the killer.

Pat Wade at press conference: Whoever took the lives of our kids and left us with nothing but memories. And I pray that no one out there ever has to experience this.

Marshall Stewart at press conference: Our case isn’t a TV show, which only has sixty minutes to find the murderer to bring them to justice. It’s real life. Therefore, today we’re asking for your assistance to help in the case.

Lou Kordek: The Tom Green County sheriff’s officials said today they will neither confirm nor deny any suspicions that the murders may be cult-related.

The TV show Unsolved Mysteries even came to San Angelo to film a segment on Shane and Sally.

Robert Stack: Next, the murder of two teenage sweethearts. Some say they were the victims of a bizarre cult.

Of course, Marshall taped all of this too, behind the scenes.

Actress at TV set: Hey, Marshall!

Crew member: You guys don’t congregate; come on, move forward! Keep moving, keep moving!

The episode included some reenactments, of an occult ritual around a Ouija board, Shane leaving home on the Fourth of July, and their encounter with the pickup truck at the lake.

Actor playing Sally on TV set: “I said we’re not going to come with you anymore. Look man, we’re not into that stuff anymore; just leave us alone!”

And in these reenactments, on national television, Pat and Marshall actually play themselves.

Robert Stack: Sally began sneaking out late at night, and on one occasion, Pat stayed up to confront her.

Pat Wade: Sally—

Actor as Sally: Pat!

Pat Wade: Where have you been?

Actor as Sally: Oh, you scared me.

It had to be gut-wrenching, reliving the events around their children’s deaths. I think it’s a testament to how desperately they wanted answers. They hoped all that attention might convince someone to call the tip line, take their reward money, and finally say who killed their children.

The coverage generated hundreds of tips to authorities, and to Shane and Sally’s parents.

Marshall Stewart: And I would get threatening letters in the mail, and letters from other people that knew about the case, and they could solve the case if I would just bail them out of jail. And the detectives told me, “Don’t waste your time. These people are just trying to look for a plea bargain or something to get out, and they don’t need to be out.”

But then, one day, Marshall got a message from a teenage guy who’d known Shane.

[Phone beep]

John Gilbreath: Marshall, this is John Gilbreath—we met at the funeral. I was wondering if we’d be okay if I talked to you for a little bit.

He didn’t just have a tip. He wanted to team up to solve the case. 

John Gilbreath: Now, I figured maybe both of us, if we put our heads together, could come up with something. I’ve been working on it on my own for a good deal and got a lot of stuff that you might be interested in.

Marshall was desperate for answers. But something just didn’t seem right. He got the sense that Gilbreath was just fishing for information. Marshall never called him back.

Gilbreath also reached out to Sally’s mom, Pat.

Pat Wade: John called me and told me that he had information and he knew who did it—could he come to my house and tell me? And I said yes. And I told my husband about it. And he says, “No, we can’t do that—he has to go to law enforcement.”

 Here’s Sally’s stepdad, Bill Wade: 

Bill Wade: That was a really weird situation. And my response at the time was, “It won’t do him any good to talk to us. We can’t do anything with it. The only people that can do anything with it is the sheriff’s department, because they’ve got the case.”

But Gilbreath was already on his way over.

Pat Wade: So when he got to the door, we sent him away and told him to talk to law enforcement. And obviously, he didn’t do that. Or if he did, they didn’t listen to him.

They didn’t hear from Gilbreath again. And they didn’t hear much more from the investigators around that time, either. Pat and Bill said it was never clear to them just what the authorities were doing back then. But over the years, they’ve heard from a series of new sheriffs and investigators, who each said they wanted to solve the murders.

When Nick Hanna and Terry Lowe started looking into the case years later, new people came forward. And it gave them hope.

Bill Wade: Yeah, I mean, it’s surprising how many people are coming out of the woodwork with information about, “Yeah, I saw this,” or “I heard that,” and it’s like, “Where were you people thirty years ago?” Come on. But it’s the hope that we’ll elicit that kind of information that keeps us willing to appear in front of a camera, because otherwise, we have no interest in being in the public eye.

But it’s also been six years since Karen sat down with Bill for that interview. And he told me recently, it seems to him like the new leads have dried up. Today, they just want answers. They’re not angry at the current investigators or blaming them for past mistakes. But they are tired of sitting around without hearing of any new work on the case.

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): And after 35 years of wondering what happened to his son, Marshall thinks a lot about the people out there who do have answers but haven’t come forward. Who’ve kept somebody else’s secret for all these years.

Marshall Stewart: And they are just as guilty as the ones that pulled the trigger. Just as guilty as the ones that may have enticed them, or abducted them and carried them, to that site. And they’re going to have to get their life right. For me, that’s what I want to see done out of this. They’re going to have to get right with the Lord. 

You need to act like an adult, and just say, “Let’s get this off my chest. Let’s get it on the table and deal with the consequences, and let these families have the closure that they’re really looking for.”

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): I think Marshall is right. And that’s why we set out to talk to everyone we can find who might be involved.

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): The hope is that someone out there, who may have been afraid to come forward for all these years, is finally ready to help bring closure for Shane and Sally—and their families.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): Investigators have interviewed dozens of people connected to this case—some of them many, many times. But not everyone. And we thought maybe someone would tell us something they wouldn’t tell a police officer. We were lucky to have case reports that Karen got during her initial work. And I started making calls to pretty much everyone mentioned in those reports. 

[Phone ringing]

Woman on phone: Hello?

Rob D’Amico: Oh hi, it’s Rob D’Amico.

[Voicemail beep]

Rob D’Amico: Hey Lee, it’s Rob D’Amico, just bugging you again.

[Voicemail beep]

Rob D’Amico:  . . . Sally and Shane murders from long ago.

Man on phone: I thought about them a week ago. I drive by there, where we found their bodies. How funny that you’re calling about them.

Woman on phone: Yeah, I mean we get these emails from the public daily about the same kind of thing—you know, “Can you help us?” And God, I wish we could help every single one of ’em.

Man on phone: San Angelo, it’s been described as, it lost its innocence.

Man on phone: We spent a lot of time talking about it. And trying to figure a way to get someone to flip, or to talk, or whatever.

Rob D’Amico: He said, “That trail you’re going down, I’ve been down that trail three times, and I’m not going down it with you again.”

Woman on phone: There could be other evidence that they didn’t look at that might connect.

Rob D’Amico: Exactly.

Rob D’Amico: Okay, thanks, Carol. I appreciate it.

Woman on phone: Okay, God bless. 

Rob D’Amico: You too. Bye-bye.

You’ll be hearing from them in the coming episodes. And we’ll also walk you through the investigation so far.

Terry Lowe: Is it solvable? I think it’s solvable. Like I said before, I think we’re one phone call, one tip, away from solving it.

You’ll also hear about how new DNA technology might play a role in solving the case.

Nick Hanna: I’ve told them, if they just want to review the evidence, the DNA evidence—I don’t care what they test, they can test anything. This case has nothing to lose.

After 35 years, San Angelo has moved on. Shane and Sally’s classmates have grown up, gone on to start families, maybe moved out of town. For many of them, the memory of what happened that summer has faded away. But for a few, the questions about what happened have just simmered beneath the surface, always in the background of the rest of their lives. 

And then a few years ago, something happened that brought it all back . . .

Adam Schumes: And a cold case from the 1980s that also led to some shocking discoveries. Thanks for joining us . . .

. . . when John Gilbreath—the tipster who’d offered to help Marshall investigate the case—was arrested.

Senora Scott: In this home on Raney Street, where Gilbreath lives, court documents show that investigators found three audiotapes with “SS” written on them, handwritten documents and ledgers mentioning Shane and Sally, and possibly the most disturbing discovery: a lock of hair and a fingernail.

That’s all coming up, on Shane and Sally.