February 23, 2010
Shannon Olson was a friendly 15 year-old attending Wichita Southeast High School. She made friends with what some of would probably call a click. But those friends turned out to be much more than that and she wanted out.
Halloween, 1987. Olson lived in southeast Wichita and had decided to go trick-or-treating with her friends. She wasn't wearing a costume that night, but just wanted to go out and do something.
"Her friends recall that she was talking on the phone. She went outside for about five minutes, came back in and got her purse, and said 'I'll be back,'" said Wichita Police Detective Tim Relph. "That was the last time anybody ever saw her alive."
Olson had recently gotten caught up with a group of friends at Southeast High School. Her family thought they were a little odd. She hung out with them for a few months before deciding she needed to leave.
"She decided that just wasn't what she wanted to do," said Michelle Hathaway, Shannon's younger sister. "She realized kinda what these people were about. I remember having conversations with her that, you know, she said 'I don't want to be with these people. They scare me.'"
That's when the problems started. Shannon dropped out of high school. The family even moved across town to get away. Detectives say they believe the group was involved in some sort of religious cult. Even after moving away, though, Shannon continued to encounter her old friends. On that fateful Halloween night, Hathaway sensed something was wrong.
"I remember it down to the T," Hathaway said. "She asked 'How do I look?' I told her she looked great. When she left she said I love you, I just want you to know that. She didn't really say that often, so it was a little strange... Almost like her inner self knew something was going to happen."
That was the last time Michelle saw her sister. Olson never showed up to go trick-or-treating with her friends. The next day, they began calling and asking if anyone had seen Shannon.
"My mom's friend had just come back from Omaha that day and asked if we knew they found a girl," said Hathaway. "Then the news came on. One look at the screen and my mom knew it was her."
Olson had been brutally murdered. Her hands were tied behind her back with her bra. She had been stabbed more than 40 times. As investigators combed the scene of the KDOT pond near what is now I-135 and K-96 in North Wichita, they found her shoes and her purse, but no sign of the killer. It appears she had been dumped there.
"She was with someone she may have been acquainted with," said Detective Relph. "We still haven't been able to discover who that acquaintance was that she was with at 11:15 and, if indeed, that was the last person to see her alive."
That one piece of information could help solve the case. If you have anything to offer detectives, call Crime Stoppers at 267-2111. You can also submit a tip by using your mobile phone. Simply text TIP217, then your message, to CRIMES (274637). If your tip leads to an arrest, you'll be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 and nobody will ever ask your name.
Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County is a non-profit organization of citizens against crime.