July 31, 2023 | By Aubrey Lowery
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and the University of North Florida’s Applied Journalism class.
On the afternoon of Dec. 28, 2017, when Christmas lights were still hung in windows, Shannon Steele was at home with two of her youngest of four children.
What should have been a normal Thursday afternoon took a devastating turn.
When police in the Demopolis, Alabama, area were delivering civil papers to a guest in the home, they were led by Steele’s 4-year-old son to the room where his mother had been shot. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Just days earlier, on Christmas morning, the commotion of where the Christmas gift for her mother went was the talk of the day. Steele was a giver and always had to make sure that everyone had something, so misplacing a gift for a loved one was a Christmas disaster.
Little did her family know that would be the last time they would see her.
Shannon Steele was a loving mom of four, and according to her mother, Germaine Steele- sanders, Shannon often opted for tough love, making sure her kids were respectful.
“She was strict with them, very stern, and always tried to raise them right, a few times if the kids were acting up, they weren’t allowed to go to grandmas house until they did their chores”.
That determination was one that Steele had since she was little. As a reserved little girl who rarely talked, Steele could still command a room, especially all her brothers.
Her mother recalls, “Shannon was able to convince her brothers to do anything, including countless beauty makeovers, I still don’t know how she did it.”
Shannon was active in the church, active in her school and loved to play basketball and track.
Demopolis is a small town where everyone knows everyone, but there have been no revelations as to who killed Shannon.
On the day of her murder Shannon’s aunt, Valada, was working as a 911 dispatcher when the call came into the Marengo County Police Department. She remembers breaking down after leaving her desk, as she processed what had just happened.
Steele left behind four children, who are now cared for by her mother. While struggling with her own grief, the children were what kept her moving forward.
“I knew that I had to be strong for her (Shannon) and the kids, I couldn’t let myself fall apart, because then I would fail them,” Germaine said.
Every day is a battle with grief for the family, as they pray for an answer to come through.
But on July 23, Shannon’s birthday, as well as Dec. 28 the anniversary of her death, family, and friends gather around to remember the incredible friend, mother, sister, and daughter they had the privilege of knowing.
These events are not only to honor Shannon but also a way to raise awareness, that her family will never give up on looking for answers.
“We will always be looking for answers, to help bring our family a little bit of peace,” Germaine said.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Shannon Steele, please call the Demopolis Police Department at (334) 289-3073 or the DPD Tip Line at (334) 216-4077. According to a 2020 news article, authorities had increased the reward to $20,000.
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