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Solved murder and living alone

Illustration by Blair Baskin

1. We begin with an update: In our August 2014 issue, local newsman George Knapp wrote about the 1981 murder of 18-year-old Jamey Walker, officially unsolved all these years. The case haunted Knapp — because the family had waited so long for resolution and because it was his first murder case.

Fast-forward to March 10, 2016. Former heavyweight boxer Willie “The Cannon” Shannon was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Knapp’s story had identified Shannon as the main suspect.

In May 1981, Walker, an honor student, cheerleader and community volunteer, was snatched from her home by Shannon and other unknown suspects. Calls to the Walker family demanded a cash ransom. Before the money could be raised, the kidnappers raped Jamey, then tossed her off of a bridge near Lake Mead. She died when her body smashed onto the desert some 50 feet below.

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Knapp was working his first weekend for KLAS Channel 8 when her body was found. It was the first murder he ever covered, and over the next 30-plus years, he updated the story by interviewing a string of cold-case detectives who inherited the mystery. Jamey’s mother, Eleanor Walker, kept the story alive by engaging with detectives and with Knapp. Eleanor believed from the beginning that Willie Shannon was the likely culprit.

In 2010, because of advances in DNA technology, Metro detectives developed enough information to arrest Shannon, who was living in Florida. The case languished in the courts for five years; Shannon sought and received several delays. Eleanor Walker did not live to see the finale, but more than three dozen of her relatives and loved ones were in court for the sentencing, as was Knapp.

Family members expressed dismay at the plea deal, which credited Shannon with time served, meaning he will serve a maximum of 10 years, and could be eligible for parole much sooner. Prosecutors explained that a trial would have been risky, Knapp tells us. Even though Shannon’s semen was found on Jamey’s underwear, the passage of nearly 35 years would have made it difficult to obtain a conviction for first-degree murder.

Although his criminal record is extensive, including a long stretch for the rape of another young woman two years after Jamey Walker was killed, Shannon’s lawyers described him as a family man and model prisoner, claiming that “all of the corrections officers just love him.”

Shannon had nothing to say in court and did not look at the Walker family as he was led away. 

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2. For March’s Open Topic, Launce Rake wrote a first-person piece about the trend of living alone. Some of the social-media discussion of the piece centered on the illustration, specifically on whether it depicted Launce — and more specifically on the triangular item the Launce figure is holding. “It’s an incense burner!” one said. “Gigantic spleef,” was another guess. “Paper airplane?” one person was overheard asking.

Please. Notwithstanding Launce’s own guess — “Pacific Northwest tree octopus” — it’s clearly a slice of pizza, just what a person living alone might munch on while staring forlornly through the window in his underwear. Lord knows we’ve all been there.