This case took place not far from where I grew up, but I was too young to remember it happening. While I don’t agree with many things on this case, there are sure a lot of interesting details. You never know what you would do in a tough situation until you are in it. To be honest, I had a hard time really picking a side on this case. It was far from black and white.
Dixie Shanahan was born in 1967 in Harlan, Iowa, about an hour outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Growing up, she didn’t have the greatest childhood. Dixie, along with four other kids, were molested by their stepfather in their home in Denison, Iowa. While she tried to tell others what was going on, no one would listen to her.
While in high school at the age of fourteen, she met Scott Shanahan. Soon after, her mom left her stepfather and eventually moved away from the area. However, Dixie didn’t want to go with her. She wanted to stay in Iowa.
In order to stay and complete high school, she moved in with Scott and his mother in Defiance, Iowa. When Dixie graduated in 1986, she got a job in a local warehouse. Scott worked on farm equipment and his cars. He was known by many in town to have a temper.
When Scott’s mother died in 1994, she left him her house, along with $150,000. After being with Dixie for over ten years, he proposed. They got married in 1995 when Dixie was about 27-years-old, and Scott was 33.
The next seven years were hell for Dixie.
Many people in the community knew about the abuse Dixie suffered. It was a small town and word quickly spread. People wanted to help and many tried, but the abuse went on. Scott beat her even when she was pregnant with each of their three children. The violence was evident based on the bruises she tried to hide.
He was arrested multiple times for domestic abuse and convicted twice. At one point, he even tied her up in the basement with wire clothes hangers. This is where police found Dixie, bruised and beaten. This was only one of many incidents.
Dixie tried to leave many times, but she returned each time either on her own or by force. Dixie later stated, “I thought I could change him. I thought I deserved it. I didn’t want to take my kid’s dad away from them.”
He had control over her in a way she couldn’t get away from. He was relentless.
By August 30, 2002, Dixie had had enough. She took Scott’s shotgun and shot him in the back of the head while he was sleeping. At the time, she was pregnant and feared for the safety of herself and her baby.
But Dixie did not call 9-1-1. In fact, she didn’t do anything. She left the scene and shut the bedroom door. Scott’s body rotted in the room for over a year until found in October of 2003.
Throughout that year, people didn’t question Scott’s disappearance much. Dixie had told people he had left town. She gave birth to her daughter seven months after his death and even started dating someone, Jeff Duty.
Someone called the sheriff’s office in July of 2003, and they began investigating. Dixie dodged the questions and told them Scott called occasionally, but he had left town. She wrote checks in Scott’s name and sold some of his property within that year. Dixie transferred the house into her name by forging his signature. She wanted to take over the payments on the house.
In October, after Scott’s body was found, police arrested Dixie. The whole town pulled together to raise money for her bond. The town stood behind her when she was released on bail. They helped with meals and taking care of the kids as well.
Just before her trial, Dixie married Jeff. Throughout their relationship, he didn’t know her husband was dead in the next bedroom. She had told him that the room had too many bad memories for her. Even so, he stood beside her, knowing she might be sent to prison.
The trial took place in Shelby County over two weeks in April of 2004. Greg Steensland represented Dixie. He told the jurors about the abuse Dixie suffered and how she feared for her life. On the other hand, the attorney who prosecuted Dixie, Charles Thoman, stated she had plenty of chances to leave.
On April 30, 2004, the jury found Dixie guilty of second-degree murder. She was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole. Charles Smith, the judge, even believed it was too harsh as he handed down the sentence, but the law tied his hands. Many of the jurors agreed.
Dixie’s children were placed in foster care until they were taken into custody by her sister in Texas.
In 2007, her sentence was commuted to a minimum of 10 years in prison.
In 2018, she was granted work release and will be able to work outside of the prison. In the future, the board will review her case for parole.
What do you think of Dixie’s sentence? Do you think it was too harsh or did the punishment fit the crime? Let me know your thoughts!
The troubled life of Dixie Shanahan Duty. (2018, June 20). Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://eu.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2018/06/20/troubled-life-dixie-shanahan-duty-domestic-abuse-violence-husband-defiance-iowa-work-parole-culver/713488002/
Blanco, J. I. (n.d.). Dixie Shanahan | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://murderpedia.org/female.S/s/shanahan-dixie.htm
Smith, B. (2018, August 31). A Mother Shoots Her Habitually Abusive Husband, Hides Body Under Blanket In Bedroom For Months. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://www.oxygen.com/snapped/crime-time/woman-shoots-abusive-husband-hides-body