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“I want this case solved for their family. . . . And these other girls deserve it too. They deserve justice. These guys all need to go to jail, every one of ’em.”

—Kristen McLaughlin-Bill

In this episode, we explore the last of four suspects investigators have named in their investigation into Shane Stewart and Sally McNelly’s murders. In the eighties, Heath Davis was a violent drug dealer with a tough reputation around town who associated with other main suspects in this case. Davis says he’s turned his life around today and that he has been unfairly targeted by investigators. But a witness in the investigation tells us there’s more about Davis’s past that he hasn’t answered for, and she says it’s time for the truth to come out.

Shane and Sally is produced and cowritten by Patrick Michels and produced and engineered by Brian Standefer. Additional reporting in this episode by Guill Ramos. 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.

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Karen Jacobs (voice-over): A note before we begin: this episode includes descriptions of sexual assault.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): Sheriff Nick Hanna gave us four names of men he considered prime suspects in the murders of Shane Stewart and Sally McNelly: Steve Schafer, John Gilbreath, Jimmy Burnett, and Heath Davis.

We wanted to speak with all of them. But Steve Schafer only gave that brief interview in 2018, and John Gilbreath declined our interview requests. Jimmy Burnett, we’ve now learned, died ten years ago. That still left Heath Davis.

Heath moved around a lot over the years. I talked to his ex-wife, his son, even an old landlord. None of them knew how to find him. 

One day, though, I found his girlfriend on Facebook. Her name is Trinity Roberts. I saw that she had posted a photo from a winter storm in San Angelo. The picture showed a large stone fountain, with two tiers of water that had overflowed and frozen into eerie, daggerlike icicles. In a comment on the post, she said this fountain was at the place where she worked.

I went looking for other news coverage of the storm—I figured maybe someone else took the same picture and could tell me where it was. And in a local news story, I found it. A frozen fountain that looked a lot like the one in Trinity’s picture. The story said it was at a hotel in San Angelo. So I called the hotel.

Trinity Roberts: This is Trinity; how may I help you?

Rob D’Amico: Oh, hi, this is Rob D’Amico calling back. I got disconnected.

Trinity Roberts: I’m so sorry about that.

Rob D’Amico: It’s okay.

Trinity Roberts: I am sorry about that. Okay. So yes, I am—I am his girlfriend. 

Not much came from that first call, but we kept in touch. A while later, Trinity gave me a call, and I could tell Heath was listening in. At one point I mentioned Jimmy Burnett, and I could hear Heath say, “He’s the one who did it.”

A few days after that, they’d decided they did want to sit down and set things straight. They suggested meeting at the hotel.

[car door slamming, wind blowing]

It was right by downtown, on the south bank of the Concho River. It was another day of triple-digit temperatures. We walked across the boiling parking lot, right by that fountain. It was hard to imagine it covered in ice.

We waited inside for a few minutes, and then we spotted them.

Heath was tall. He looked hot and sweaty, like he’d come straight from working outside. We stepped into the hotel ballroom and sat down at a table.

At first, they asked to talk with the tape recorder off. Then after a while, they said we could record.

It’s a little hard to understand Heath sometimes. He has some injuries from a couple of serious car accidents.

He told us that, yes, he had done some bad things as a teenager. Things that might lead investigators to believe he was capable of killing Shane and Sally.

Heath Davis: Yeah, I mean, I do feel like there’s some repercussions of my youth, you know? But I don’t believe that I get a fair deal when it comes to the law. You know, I ain’t done nothing. They’ve taken my DNA five or six times.

He says back in the late eighties, he even liked the way he was known, and feared, around town. Trinity got him talking about this.

Trinity Roberts: Because that plays an important part of . . . They hyped you up.

Heath Davis: Well, I mean, they told all the lies, you know? “Heath does this. Heath does that.”

Karen Jacobs: And you would go along with the lies because you were . . . 

Heath Davis: It made me bigger and badder. You know, build the character. At the time, that’s what I wanted to do.

Karen Jacobs: And did that improve your position against Jimmy Burnett?

Heath Davis: Well, sure. Sure.

Rob D’Amico: So there’s people that are still afraid of Jimmy Burnett. Do you think people are afraid of you, still?

Heath Davis: Oh, well, I hope not. I hope not. There’s no need of being scared of me. Back then we really didn’t think about old karma. But now that I’ve got older, and I pay for all them dumbass things I done back then? That ain’t no good.

Back then, Heath Davis ran a small drug-distribution ring in San Angelo. He and Jimmy Burnett were two of the baddest guys in town. The “biggest dogs on the block” is how Heath put it. And a lot of the time, they were at each other’s throats.

But other times, they got along. Before the tape recorder was on, he told us about one of these occasions. He said he and Jimmy were driving. They were in a big black Cadillac, on the road together for hours, headed to Mexico. 

And that’s when he says Jimmy Burnett confessed to killing Shane and Sally. 

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): From Texas Monthly, this is Shane and Sally. I’m Karen Jacobs.

Rob D’Amico (voice-over): And I’m Rob D’Amico. This is episode six: “The Edge of Town.”

Investigators have heard this before from Heath—that he thinks Jimmy was behind the murders. But they still say Heath is a suspect too. So in this episode, we’re going to explore why.

Heath Davis—“Big Heath” is how people knew him back then—first turns up in the case notes in 1995. That July, Davis was in jail in San Angelo. He had been on probation for a previous robbery conviction. Then a recent charge for sexual assault put him back behind bars.

Investigator David Jones went to talk with him about Shane and Sally’s murders, along with a city police detective. 

In that interview, Heath told them that—back in 1988—one of the drug dealers who worked for him was late on his payments. So Heath paid him a visit.

And that dealer opened up his books. He had a ledger showing who owed him money for drugs. And Heath said one of the names on that list was Sally McNelly. According to the dealer, Sally owed a couple thousand dollars for marijuana and cocaine.

It seems strange that a San Angelo drug dealer would’ve fronted two thousand dollars’ worth of weed and coke to an eighteen-year-old girl who, according to her friends, hadn’t been a serious drug user or dealer.

Still, remember that phone call Marshall Stewart overheard? That argument, where it sounded like Shane owed someone money—even though he’d just gotten back to town.

It’s another possible explanation for why Shane and Sally were killed. One of many.

Nick Hanna: And it’s always been my experience that usually the most simple explanation is the truth.

Here’s Sheriff Nick Hanna . . .

Nick Hanna: That he owed him money for drugs, and they were sending a message. Or he was sleeping with his girlfriend, and he was mad about it. It’s drugs, sex, money. This, you’ve got the drugs. Sally was rumored to be with several different of these guys—sex. Supposedly owed people money. There’s a prior conflict; they got in a fight with black eye. There’s a satanism aspect, which is crazy and somewhat validated. They go out there and they find, you know, the stupid black cat, and the pile of dirt with all the stuff, and the Dungeons and Dragons. It is a labyrinth of rabbit trails.

One of the most frustrating things about digging into this case in 2024 is that there are a lot of witnesses referenced in the case file who aren’t around anymore.

There’s James Caldwell, John Gilbreath’s friend, who died by suicide. And one of Heath Davis’s distributors, a guy they called Ponyboy, who died a few years ago, after suffering severe injuries from a fire in his trailer. And Levi Ball, Steve Schafer’s friend. He passed away just a few weeks after I spoke with him. And there’s Jimmy Burnett, who died in the Philippines in his early forties.

Thirty-some years ago, they were cruising around Central High School. Knowing how their lives unfolded from there, it’s easy to forget that back when Shane and Sally were killed, they were all just teenagers, with teenage problems and teenage notions of how to solve them, making a lot of bad decisions.

Heath Davis was eighteen years old that summer. About 25 years passed before Terry Lowe talked to him. By then, Heath had been in and out of prison more than once. But he always denied being involved in Shane and Sally’s murders.

Here’s Terry.

Terry Lowe: From the get-go, he told me that Jimmy did it. 

One of these interviews was while Heath was in jail.

Terry Lowe: And he was brought over from the jail and had on ankle bracelets and a chain, body chain. So he got in there in the room with us; we’re sitting around the conference table. We took all that stuff off of him, and it was just us sitting there talking. 

But Terry says Heath got angry, convinced the investigators were trying to trick him somehow.

Terry Lowe: And he got up and put his own handcuffs on, buckled himself up, and said, “I’m ready to go back to jail.”

Then Sheriff Nick Hanna suggested that Heath might have told someone that he was involved in the murders.

Nick Hanna: This segment of society, those males, they like the “I’m a badass” kind of image, and so they’ll brag about doing this kind of stuff when they had nothing to do with it. And so when they brag about it and you hear about it, well, now they’re on your radar. 

So once Heath was on Nick’s radar, he and Terry Lowe arranged a sting to get Heath talking about the murders on tape. Just like Laura said previous investigators had tried to do with Jimmy Burnett.

Nick Hanna: And so we did a covert recording of him talking to a female in a restaurant and trying to get him to talk about the crime, ’cause that would be a third-party confession.

But Nick says Heath didn’t give them anything that day, either.

So last summer, when Heath agreed to sit down with us and talk, we were hopeful that he’d open up. When Heath went on the record, though, he was more interested in talking about how he’d become a changed man—and the day he almost died.

When Heath Davis was 23, he was riding in a pickup on the rough roads by Twin Buttes. The truck crashed and rolled over onto him. He spent four days in a coma. 

Since then, he and Trinity both say he’s turned his life around. He says he’s an ordained Christian minister now. Even so, Trinity says she’s seen how his past has followed him.

Trinity Roberts: We got pulled over, just literally six days after I met him. And he said, “I’m probably going to jail for traffic tickets.” And I was like “Okay.” You know? “All right, see ya.” No. And the cops pulled me out—well, they pulled him out first. And then they went ahead and put him in cuffs. But then they were like, “Do you know who you’re with? Do you know that guy?” And I’m like, “Well, I think so. We just met.” They said, “Well, he’s part of a big gang. He’s a bad, bad-news troublemaker. You should not be with him.” Made it seem like he was the worst of the worst.

Karen Jacobs: Was that in San Angelo?

Trinity Roberts: It was.

Heath Davis: That was Nick Hanna.

Trinity Roberts: Yeah, that was Nick Hanna that night that talked to me. But they let him out. They questioned him forever. And ever and ever and ever.

Karen Jacobs: Did they ask you about Shane and Sally then?

Heath Davis: Sure. They’ve asked me every time they’ve pulled me over about it, you know? Every time they take me to jail. Terry Lowe? He had told me, said, “Well, why don’t you just tell us so we can tell their parents,” and all that? “So they can get closure on it.” I said, “Dude, I am a dad myself. If any—anything like this happened to one of my kids, I’d want to know. There’s no doubt about it. And do you think I could live with myself knowing something like that, and not telling their parents?” I tell them, “Man, y’all got to be f—ed up, because there ain’t no way that I could live with myself.” I mean, it just ain’t possible.

But Heath also said he couldn’t have been involved in the murders, because he wasn’t even in San Angelo that night. He was in jail, two hundred miles away in Wichita Falls.

Heath Davis: And I was supposed to meet my wife down there, but I was in jail and I couldn’t. And she didn’t know where I was. She didn’t know I was in jail. You know, and I ain’t even told the police this. Go back and look. 

So we did. We looked for records with the county jail in Wichita Falls and law enforcement agencies nearby. But there was no record of Heath. 

Heath also told us it was raining so much that night in Wichita Falls, the fireworks were canceled. We checked the Wichita Falls weather records that July Fourth. In fact, that day, and the days leading up to it, had been sunny and hot.

We tracked down his wife at the time. She told us Heath was supposed to come get her from work on July Fourth. But he never showed up. She said Heath disappeared for a couple of days. When he got back, he’d told her he was hanging out with a friend.

A few months after Shane and Sally’s murders, Heath had moved back to San Angelo and left his wife. That’s when he reentered the life of an old childhood friend, someone who would end up seeing signs that seemed to tie him to Shane and Sally’s murders.

We tracked her down. And what she revealed to us was a much bigger story than Heath had let on.

Karen Jacobs (voice-over): Kristen McLaughlin-Bill shows up in Nick Hanna’s notes in October 2014. He and Terry had gone to meet her in Midland, at the Department of Public Safety office. And they wanted to talk to Kristen because of her relationship with Heath Davis.  

Last summer, when Rob reached out to Kristen, he told her we were looking into Shane and Sally’s murders, that we’d seen her name in the file, and he asked if she’d talk with us.

Today she’s a DJ on a country radio station in Big Spring. And even though it’s only about an hour away, she doesn’t often come back to her hometown.

She agreed to meet us back in San Angelo and tell us about those years. We sat down with her around a coffee table in a house we’d rented on the north side of town.

Right away, she said she didn’t know much about the murders, but she could tell us about Heath. And she told us it was time to hold him accountable. It took a lot of courage for her to come talk to us. 

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: He actually came into my world when I was about eight or nine years old. He was a school friend of my older sister’s, and he just kind of became part of the family. He’d come over, play Uno with us, and things like that. He was Big Brother Heath. You know, we called him Bubba. In fact, there’s a Ray Stevens song, every time he’d say the word “Bubba” in that song, my mama would kind of nudge Heath. 

But in 1988, in the summer months when Shane and Sally were missing, she says he changed.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: I don’t remember, really, how we reconnected, but the next time I saw him, he went from being a normal guy, you know, wearing the Wranglers and the cowboy boots and T-shirts, to never taking off a black Stetson hat. He had the attitude, like, “I’m untouchable.” And he was running things, pretty much, around here. Everybody was scared of him by that point. It was a very big switch in him that summer, big switch.

Kristen was barely a teenager, but she’d known Heath for years. She figured she knew the real Heath. And she was happy he’d started coming around again.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: And we got really close really quick. And I thought, “I’m getting attention from this guy who I’ve trusted all these years. And he’s a big guy on campus now.” As a thirteen-year-old girl, that’s pretty big stuff.

Kristen says she didn’t feel safe at home. Heath was just eighteen, but he had his own place, and his own money.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: It was real easy for Heath Davis to come in as my savior, somebody I trusted all those years as a kid. And that’s how he got us all, was he took advantage of what we were going through as kids.

Kristen wasn’t friends with Shane and Sally. And she doesn’t know anything about where Heath was on July Fourth, 1988. But she does know what Heath and his friends were like back then—what they were capable of.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: And I told my husband, I said, “Look, I want to do this. I want this case solved for their family. I can’t even imagine that. Not just that, but so this town can get past it. But I don’t want to die. I don’t want to have to face these people again in that capacity.” So I almost backed out of this. I really did. But I can’t do that. Not for myself; I’m not going to do that. And these other girls deserve it too. They deserve justice. These guys all need to go to jail, every one of ’em.

Kristen told us that, in the late eighties, Heath and his friends held young girls against their will and arranged meetings for other men to have sex with them. She said that Heath kept her captive too. That he beat her. And that he had sex with her, when he was nineteen years old and she was just fourteen.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: And which seat am I gonna be in?

Producer: You can be in shotgun here.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: All right.

[cart starting]

She agreed to show us Heath’s old place, where she had gone to hang out with him, and where she says she was held against her will.

[door slamming]

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: You’re just going to take a right at that street right there.

Karen Jacobs: Okay.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: This is the first time I’ve been back here since that happened.

Rob D’Amico: Really?

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: Yeah. I’ve stayed clear of this. It’s just, yeah. [exhales] I get it that people are still scared. I’m still a little bit leery that they are going to come retaliate against me for talking to you guys, and that’s fine. I don’t even have information about what happened to Shane and Sally, so there’s no reason for anybody to get upset about me having this conversation.

We were on the northwest side of town. We passed open fields, houses, and a couple of churches.  

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: So we’re looking for Cactus Lane . . .

We reached the outskirts of the city. We drove past big, dusty lots with goats in the yards. And a trailer park came into view up ahead.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: It’ll be on the right-hand side of the road up here. Pull in the first little road. Golly, I don’t think they’ve updated these trailers.

Karen Jacobs: You all right?

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: Yeah. Whoa. A lot came back all of a sudden. Yeah, that brown one right there. God, it looks like the same one. Certainly it’s not the same trailer. Oh God, it looks just like it. I think it is, y’all. That’s it. It’s this bedroom right here that he kept me in most of the time.

Kristen said this is where Heath and his friends kept her confined, along with one or two other girls. She didn’t have the word for it then, but now she does: she says the girls were trafficked.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: You know, we didn’t even know. We came over here to party, and just never got to leave. So it wasn’t like they came and grabbed us up. It was just an everyday thing. We were going to go hang out and party, and they just never let us go.

The blinds were drawn on the windows. The lawn was covered in dry grass and dirt. Tall bushes grew against the corrugated siding.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: We’d come sit out here to do hot dogs or whatever, and so we’d all just kind of sit outside sometimes.

As we pulled up alongside the trailer, Kristen mentioned there was one way to be sure this was the same place where she’d been held all those years ago. Rob spotted it first.

Rob D’Amico: If you back up, it’s on the front of the trailer.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: Oh my God. Yes. There it is.

She said she and another girl had spray-painted a heart in faded white paint on the brown metal skirting, about two feet tall. 

Back at our place, Kristen told us more about what happened.  

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: There was a whole year, 1989, that is almost a blur to me, because I remember getting beat up a lot. I was scared out of my mind.

Girls as young as twelve stayed with her. Sometimes, she’d see them led out of the trailer with Heath’s friends.

She told Nick Hanna about this as well, ten years ago. It’s in his report. His notes say Kristen, quote, “associated with a group directed by Heath in which young girls were passed around from boy to boy, including sexual activities.”

He also wrote that Kristen believed Heath and his friends were involved in burglaries and were using and dealing drugs.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: I didn’t know a whole lot about what they were doing. But I was considered protected by Heath, so I wasn’t passed around to anybody else. He was very protective of me and kept me right by him if he was in the trailer.

And she knew what would happen if she left.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: He always had shotguns. I remember the twelve-gauge because I heard them say it. But I’m not sure what other guns they did have. I remember a twenty-gauge being mentioned. I also remember a nine-millimeter handgun being mentioned. But there was always a shotgun behind the door at that trailer. And if I needed to go to the restroom, or if I needed to leave that bedroom, he would tell me, “Don’t make me.” And he’d point at that gun. “Don’t make me.”

Kristen says Heath was tight with Jimmy Burnett. She says Steve Schafer came over, and she went with Heath to Schafer’s house.

She doesn’t remember Heath mentioning Shane and Sally, but she says the threat of violence felt ever-present.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: He was really good at talking about how easily it would be to just take care of us and nobody would know where we were. He’d make comments like that, and almost to a point where you would believe that he had done it and wasn’t afraid to do it again.

Kristen learned later that her mom was looking for her during this time, and even went to the police.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: My mom had called me in missing, and they told her, “She’s involved with a bad group, and she’s out prostituting for them. That’s what she’s doing.” So they had my mom believing that’s what was up the whole time I was being held captive by these guys.

In January 1990, Kristen turned fifteen. She says soon after that, she and two other girls saw a chance to go get help, and decided to risk it.

Kristen and another girl helped a third girl to crawl out the bathroom window. The girl made it back home and told her mom, who called the sheriff’s office. A sheriff’s deputy came to the trailer door and asked to look around.

Kristen says the guys made her hide in a space behind a bed.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: They put me behind a waterbed, under the headboard, because you can pull the headboard off, and there’s a space back there. So that’s where they hid me. And I could see that sheriff walking around the room, and I was scared to say anything because I was afraid they were going to kill the sheriff. And so after the sheriff left and told them, “I’m coming back, y’all, and I’m bringing a search warrant,” they loaded me up in the back of the car, threw blankets on me, and we drove all day long.

They finally stopped at a motel in town, and Kristen spent the night there. 

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: And I don’t know how the cops found us there. I have no memory after the guys got back that night from the bar. I don’t remember anything until the cops got there the next morning.

Kristen doesn’t know what they did with Heath and his friends when police arrived at the hotel that morning. They took Kristen to the police department to wait for her mom. And, she says, they gave her a choice: she could press charges and stay in San Angelo, surrounded by Heath and his friends, or she could leave them behind and go to a treatment center in Abilene. She says they put the decision on her.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: They said, “You can go on to treatment and handle it. We’ll leave it alone.” He never got in trouble. None of those men ever got in trouble. I’ll never understand that. Even though you’re asking me, “Do you want to file charges?” I’m a kid who obviously was just rescued, beat up to the point my mother walked right past me in that police department, didn’t even know it was me. Why are you giving me that choice? Of course I’m going to . . . Well, I don’t want any more trouble with him, so I went and did that.

Rob D’Amico: After some time away, Kristen did move back to San Angelo for a time. Then she moved to Big Spring and tried to move on with her life.

In her story, Kristen mentions two other women by name, other girls who were in the trailer with her. We wanted to hear what they remembered too.

One of them told Kristen she didn’t want to talk. But one of them did. She’s left Texas. She was twelve when all this happened, and like Kristen, she said her life at home was terrible at the time. She remembered spending time with Heath and his friends, along with other young girls. But she said she’s blocked out as much as she can from that time. She says she believes Kristen, but she couldn’t remember these details herself.

I asked the city police and the sheriff’s office for any records about what Kristen went through. The police couldn’t find any. Neither could the sheriff’s department, though they already told me that they had destroyed almost all their records from the eighties. 

We also tried to reach four other guys Kristen remembered coming to the trailer. They either didn’t respond or told me they didn’t want to talk. One texted me that he knows Heath and his friends, but he denied trafficking girls or holding them against their will.

But there is this: a conviction on Heath Davis’s record, in May 1989. This was during the time Kristen says she was being held in the trailer, and months before her rescue. The charge was “enticing a child,” which state law defines as enticing or taking a child from their parents. It can be a felony or a misdemeanor. The document I found doesn’t explain the circumstances of this crime, only that Heath pled guilty to the misdemeanor and accepted a fine for $150.

We didn’t know all of Kristen’s story when we sat down with Heath. And, just before we went to meet with him, we heard that another woman—a woman Kristen says was held in the trailer with her—was getting threatened not to talk to us about Heath.

So at the hotel with Heath and Trinity, we didn’t mention Kristen’s story. It didn’t seem safe for her—or for this other woman—for us to bring it up with Heath until we knew more.

Near the end of our conversation, Trinity and Heath asked us if they’d get to hear the show before it aired—because Heath said there were stories going around about him that weren’t true.

Heath Davis: Because I don’t want certain people that I know that’ll come in here, and they’ll feed you full of bullshit.

Rob D’Amico: Yeah, I was going to add that. If someone says something about you, or something you did, we’re not going to publish it without me coming to you and saying—

Heath Davis: You can put us on three-way speaker, and I could hear what they had to say about me. And I can tell you if it’s yes or no.

A little later, once we’d been able to report out Kristen’s story, I told Trinity and Heath we were ready to have that conversation. To tell Heath what we’d heard about him and get his response. I didn’t hear back.

Then I wrote them an email and sent them texts. I explained the trafficking allegations against Heath and asked whether they were true. I also mentioned that we couldn’t find records that he’d been in jail in Wichita Falls, like he said, on July Fourth, 1988. I sent the email a month before the show’s first episode published. I’m still waiting for a response.

By the time Terry Lowe arrived in 2013, any records of this at the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office probably would have been destroyed. Both Nick and Terry told us Kristen is credible. But ultimately, it wasn’t her case they were trying to solve. 

Some of what she told investigators about Heath did sound relevant to Shane and Sally. One important detail was that black cowboy hat that Heath wore. Kristen showed Nick and Terry a photo of Heath in the hat. She said he started wearing it in the fall of 1988, a couple of months after Shane and Sally went missing.

The timing was significant because in August 1988, while Marshall Stewart was out searching for his missing son, someone broke into Marshall’s home. Twice. Whoever broke in took Marshall’s baseball card collection. Marshall says it was a huge collection, worth a lot of money. And they took a black cowboy hat that belonged to Shane.

So was Heath walking around that fall wearing Shane’s stolen hat?

Kristen also told investigators that Heath mentioned a collection of baseball cards in his trunk. He said they were his “get-out-of-jail-free cards” if he ever got arrested. She never knew just what he meant by that.

Despite the fear she still felt, Kristen agreed to help Nick Hanna and Terry Lowe in their investigation. Remember when Nick said they’d made a covert recording of Heath talking to a woman in a restaurant? That was Kristen.

Kristen McLaughlin-Bill: And I’m sure you guys know that they put a wire on me and made me go talk to Heath Davis. They did. At Denny’s. And I was scared out of my mind, and I begged them not to make me do it. And they were like, “Well, we think he’s going to react to you, and we think he’s going to talk.” They put a wire on me and sat in a black truck in the Denny’s parking lot. And Heath kept saying, “Let’s go outside. Let’s go outside.” “No, I’m good. I’m good. I’m sitting right here drinking my Dr Pepper.” “No, let’s go outside. I want a cigarette. I want a cigarette.” And he just kept going. And so he stood up after about the fifth time and grabbed my arm, said, “We’re going outside, girl.” And I was shaking, and I kept thinking, “Oh my God, they’re just going to let this man take me.” He didn’t take me. And I just real quick made up excuses. “Look, Heath, I got to go. It was so good to see you.” And got in my car. As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot, Heath is right behind me, so I just took a random turn, so he didn’t know I was going back to the sheriff’s station. But that was a terrible predicament for them to put me in.

The version of this story we got from Nick Hanna was very different. Matter-of-fact. One more attempt to get a suspect talking. And one more dead end.

What the case notes don’t tell you is what it was like for Kristen to sit across from Heath Davis, wearing a wire, trying to get him talking about Shane and Sally.

Kristen decided it was worth the risk to try to help. But, given what she went through as a girl, she doubted whether the police could keep her safe. 

And she’s not the only one.

Over the past year, we’ve heard about a pattern of impunity for violent criminals in San Angelo in the eighties. We’ve heard other victims who tell us they saw so many mistakes, so much apparent indifference by the authorities, that they’ve lost hope that their attackers would ever be brought to justice. 

In fact, throughout the eighties, there was a whole series of attacks at the lakes around San Angelo, running right up until the summer of 1988. And to this day, none of them have been solved.

The circumstances of these crimes are so similar to the attack on July Fourth that investigators today think it’s possible that these crimes are connected—that they could offer an entirely different explanation for what happened to Shane and Sally.

Sandy Neatherlin: And they busted out the window, got to me, handcuffed me, and gagged me. Threw he and I both in the back end of the pickup, and asked me, they said, “Have you ever heard of Charles Manson?” And I shook my head, because I couldn’t talk; I had a gag in my mouth. And they said, “Well, I’m three times worse than that, and this is your worst nightmare.”

Chris Cherry: And in the back of everyone’s minds was the possibility that these guys were either involved in law enforcement or had previously been in law enforcement. I will tell you this. There is more about this than you know. And unfortunately, they aren’t things that I can tell you on the record.

That’s next . . . on the final episode of Shane and Sally.