The Deck - Shannon Michelle Aumock (6 of Clubs, Arizona)

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Our card this week is Shannon Amok, the 6th of Clubs from Arizona.

In February 2011, the Phoenix Police Department finally ID’d a Jane Doe whose case they’d

been working for nearly two decades.

But learning who their victim was was only half the battle.

Investigators have spent the last 11 years since determined to solve her murder.

And their work has led to major breakthroughs in recent years.

And now, some speculate that her tragic ending is connected to three similar crimes.

And a captured serial killer still awaiting trial.

I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.

On May 27th, 1992, a young man was riding his ATV through the northern outskirts of

Phoenix, Arizona, like he did on many occasions.

He was local to the heart of Maricopa County, and had driven to an area near the Arizona

canal that had desert terrain perfect for his frequent joy rides.

But this day was different, because on his ride, a small object on the ground caught

his eye.

And honestly, this was strange, because this unincorporated neighborhood he was in was

isolated and underdeveloped and known by local landscapers as a good dumping ground for waste.

So with the amount of discarded objects, it was by complete chance that this small object

even caught the rider’s attention.

It was a thick pair of glasses with wide, round lenses.

As he stopped to pick them up, the rider suddenly got a whiff of a horrific smell and realized

that he had stumbled upon more than another piece of trash.

There, amongst the sand and discarded waste, was a heavily decomposed body.

Partially skeletal, the remains were dressed in a long-sleeve floral top and black jeans

with a matching black bow.

According to Detective Stuart Sommershue at the Phoenix Police Department, the man instantly

thought that he knew whose body he’d found.

We actually kind of have to go back a couple days.

On May 26, 1992, a 13-year-old girl named Brandi Myers went missing.

She had left her home to collect money for a school book drive in the neighborhood in

the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix.

So Brandi went missing and was never seen again.

There was a massive search effort for Brandi, it was all over the news and all that.

So an ATV rider was in the desert north of Phoenix and that’s when he discovered the

decomposing body of, at the time, of Jane Doe.

He thought he had found Brandi Myers.

Despite his shocking discovery, the man wasn’t rushing to call 911 like most people would

if they had found a body.

You see, at the time, he had a warrant out for his arrest, so the last thing he wanted

to do was deal with the police.

Instead, he took the glasses and went home to tell his roommate what he’d found.

Fortunately for investigators, the man’s roommate convinced him to call about the body.

So he made an anonymous call to a tip line and tried his best to assist in recovery efforts

without giving himself away too much.

Initially, he agreed to meet officers at the scene, but then he never showed up.

So he did continue calling back, and he was even connected to officers at the site through

dispatch to give directions, but he became increasingly worried about his own criminal


Backpedaling in a panic, the man actually threw away the glasses that he had found by

the body in fear that his fingerprints, now covering the delicate frames, would incriminate


Still, investigators didn’t give up their search.

Horseshoe says that they kept calling the ATV rider, and even brought out canine units.

He was trying to describe it to the officers, so there’s hours and hours of him communicating

with the police, trying to direct them to where this body was at.

In one of those truth is stranger than fiction situations, at the time, there was a convention

of canine search dogs in the Phoenix area.

So they joined the search for Brandy, and so they were called in to help locate this body.

As far as they knew, Brandy Myers and the answers to her disappearance were mere minutes

from being recovered, though in reality, it took more than just a few minutes.

Officers located the body around 1 a.m. on May 28, only two days after Brandy went missing.

But in a surprising twist to everyone, officers immediately determined that the body was not

that of Brandy Myers.

They knew right away, just based on the level of the condition of the body, like I said,

it was mostly skeletal.

So a body doesn’t get that skeletal that quickly, you know, within a day, unless there’s some

other means or some way of making the body decompose more or something like that.

There was no indication of that.

So amid the countywide search, investigators were suddenly met with a whole new set of


If this body didn’t belong to Brandy, who was it?

Investigators quickly got to work on an autopsy.

But in cases with heavy decomposition like this one, additional exams are needed.

So the department’s anthropologist and odontologist, basically a forensic dentist, Dr. John Piakos,

also conducted exams.

Their examinations determined that the body was female, most likely white, and her cause

of death was strangulation.

Dr. Piakos estimated that she was between 11 and 18 years old based on her unique dental

features, that she still had some of her baby teeth, and there was evidence of some dental


It was Maricopa County.

The odontologist who examined her was Dr. Piakos.

He’s actually still with the medical examiner’s office.

He was very familiar with this case and had worked it years and years trying to identify

this female.

He had sent out charts of her teeth to the area dental associations, trying to find if

somebody might recognize the work that was done on the teeth and all that.

Did anyone recognize it?


But the autopsy didn’t provide any additional clues.

And since there were no other missing person reports matching the body’s description in

the area at the time, investigators turned to what little evidence they had collected

for answers.

Right from the start, Detective Sommershue says investigators were drawn to Jane Doe’s

unusual clothing.

I mean, springtime temperatures in Arizona were already reaching well over 80 and 90

degrees, way too warm for long sleeves and pants.

Officers even looked into the manufacturer to see if they could narrow down like a specific

location where the clothes had been sold.

But it was another dead end since the clothes were a fairly common brand.

I couldn’t pinpoint an exact timeframe from our source material, but eventually police

tracked down the ATV rider for an interview, even taking him to an eyeglass shop to pick

out a pair that was closest to the one that he had disposed of from the original scene.

We asked who he was, but Detective Sommershue didn’t want to identify him as he’s not

a suspect in the case.

With the similar pair of glasses, investigators had a full composite of Jane Doe’s outfit,

which they released to the media for help identifying her.

All of her information was also entered into the National Crime Information Center and

multiple composites were created over the years, including a full body sketch from 1992

that can be seen online at

Yet in every search, officers kept coming up empty handed.

This went on for years, trying to figure out who she was.

I mean, that’s one of the stumbling blocks when you have a homicide, you’re not going

to, if you don’t know who your victim is, you’re kind of, you hit a wall.

That’s generally where the first step of a homicide investigation, who is your victim?

And then from there you build, you know, who would have a reason to harm this person?

So the case kind of, without knowing who your victim was, the case really didn’t proceed

much further than initially.

Eventually, Jane Doe’s body was buried in Twin Buttes Cemetery in Tempe, Arizona, just

13 miles southwest of Phoenix.

Given a blank headstone, she joined about 2,000 bodies buried there, about 10% of which

are unidentified, according to Mike Sikal’s reporting for the East Valley Tribune.

Investigators spent the next 19 years doing everything they could to identify Jane Doe,

and her story gained some public attention.

She was profiled in America’s Most Wanted and featured on the National Center for Missing

and Exploited Children’s website.

Finally, in 2004, thanks to the progression of DNA technology, Jane Doe’s DNA was uploaded

into CODIS.

Still, the case slowly grew colder and colder and colder.

But in 2011, one year after Detective Somershu was assigned the case, new resources helped

investigators unravel clues to the crucial piece of information that they’d been searching

for since 1992.

Somershu, who has actually been with the Phoenix Police Department since 96 and joined the

Missing Persons Unit in 2007, began to take note of the roughly 2,000 unidentified remains

in Arizona alone.

And he initiated steps within the department to review cases like Jane Doe’s.

So we kind of renamed the unit from the Missing Persons Unit to the Missing and Unidentified

Persons Unit.

And we began to gather all these cases and incorporate them into our work unit.

At the time, I believe we had about 125 unidentified remains in Phoenix.

So that was just a matter of looking at them again, reviewing what evidence there was and

trying to give these people their name back.

When I approached my supervisor, it was Brian Chapman at the time, and I brought in a selection

of some of the cases that were there to try to explain to him what the problem was.

And he reviewed them.

And then he picked up this case and said, you know, if we do nothing else, we’re going

to identify this girl.

Somershu and his team reviewed Jane Doe’s case files from the beginning.

And one detail stood out from the rest.

In 20 years, they had never found a matching missing persons report.

He knew that someone had to be missing a child.

So he developed three different theories.

One, this was a parental homicide.

A parent who had killed and dumped their own child wouldn’t necessarily file a report

if they didn’t want to be caught.

His second theory, while less heartbreaking, was just as frustrating.

What if law enforcement had made a mistake?

As we’ve seen in many cases on this show and others, police officers are human.

And human error, whether intentional or unintentional, does occur within investigations.

Somershu says it could have been as simple as not closing a file correctly or filing

the report in the wrong place and losing it.

And then there’s the third and, unfortunately, most common option.

The concept of what officials call a quote-unquote throwaway child.

I use the terms that other people use, that they’re horrible terms.

In the world of missings, there is the concept of the throwaway child.

And these are children who get into the system, they’re abused at home, and they end up going

to child protective services.

And they get placed in group homes, foster homes.

And it’s a vicious cycle of these children just going from place to place.

And a lot of times they end up starting doing criminal activity just to survive on the streets.

And a lot of these kids, you know, they fall between the cracks sometimes because there’s

nobody really looking out for them.

Detective Somershu decided to put this theory to the test.

He initially gathered more than 1,600 reports of missing girls and runaways who fit Jane

Doe’s description within two years before the discovery of her body.

One by one, Somershu, along with two colleagues, Detective Jack Nielsen and Officer Ricky Sullivan,

reviewed each report.

They ran background checks, read runaway reports, looked for criminal records, found

issued driver’s licenses, and whatever other documented information they could gather.

Basically, they were looking for proof of life beyond May 28th, 1992.

They did this over a three-month time span during every spare moment they had between

incoming cases.

And they were able to narrow down their stack to only 100 reports marked with a question

mark for further review.

Continuing with the A’s, Detective Somershu went back through the list.

And there, where she had been for almost 20 years, was Shannon Ahma.

Shannon was the definition of a runaway.

Under the care of CPS since she was three years old, she had been entered into NCIC

40 times from 1990 to 1992.

Whether it was foster homes or group homes, Shannon had run away, been returned, and moved

to a new home, and then repeated the process.

Constantly being, running away, then being found and returned, and just back and forth.

It was kind of a very turbulent part of her life, a very sad chapter of her life.

But for Shannon, that instability had been a defining trait of her life.

According to more of Mike Sikal’s reporting, a family in Flagstaff adopted Shannon when

she was three years old.

By the time she was 12, the family had relocated to Scottsdale and had given custody of the

preteen back to CPS, citing uncontrollable behavioral issues.

You can only imagine the effect that would have on a 12-year-old girl, to be kind of

living with a family for most of her life, and then to be put into this new environment

of foster families and group homes and that life.

So I can only surmise that that partly explained why she was constantly running away, constantly

having issues because of, you know, the trauma of losing everything she knew at that age.

In interviews with Detective Sommershue, people from Shannon’s life didn’t shy away from

her challenging side, but they also described her as intelligent and social.

She was Jewish and very religious, and her CPS files said her IQ was 123.

When they talked to her friends, they all said that Shannon liked everybody and didn’t

have any enemies.

She organized the student council at the group home, was that active in that, you know, trying

to do things and, you know, she loved to swim.

She was intelligent, smart, described as very nice.

It was just this life that she was thrown into that probably led to her, you know, what

happened to her.

At 16, with no driver’s license or social security card, Shannon had fallen into sex

work and drug use while living on the street.

And Detective Sommershue says that she even spent time at a juvenile prison center, Adobe

Mount School.

After being released, CPS placed Shannon at her final foster home in Mesa, Arizona, where

she ran away two weeks later.

That was on April 28th of 92.

She ran away under the guise of walking the family’s dogs.

Though even in running away, Shannon’s tender heart comes through.

She actually tied the dogs to a tree outside of a nearby store and risked capture to call

her foster parents and tell them where to pick up the dogs.

It was the last time any of the adults responsible for her care would hear from her, and exactly

one month, the day before Jane Doe’s body was discovered.

The family reported her missing to CPS, but investigators didn’t have access to the same


Only six months later, CPS petitioned the courts to relinquish responsibility of Shannon,

citing her prior run-ins with the law and her disappearance as reasons to let her go.

And just like that, Shannon’s records were gone and no one was looking for her.

I mean, obviously this is back in the 1990s, so things are done a little differently, but

my experience, CPS will often, when a juvenile turns 18, they will close reports, close their

file on that juvenile just because the juvenile is now an adult.

Shannon’s case is unusual in that she was only 16 when they closed their file on her.

So the court granted that?

Yeah, the court granted it, and her file was closed.

CPS was no longer responsible for her.

Somershu was sure that Shannon was his Jane Doe.

But circumstance and gut feeling weren’t enough for a positive ID.

He needed scientific proof.

Identifications are generally made using three methods, fingerprinting, dental records, or DNA.

The first two weren’t an option for Shannon due to her lack of records, but Detective

Somershu says that DNA was a potential method if he could locate a biological family member

for sample comparison.

And as had been the case with all of the progress in Shannon’s investigation, officers’ persistence

and a little bit of luck led to the confirmation Detective Somershu needed.

He reached out to Shannon’s adoptive parents in his hopes that they might have some insight

into her life before her adoption.

And miraculously, they did.

Her adoptive mother told him that she had happened to see some paperwork that listed

Shannon’s biological mother’s name while Shannon lived with them.

And somehow she still remembered it.

So with name in hand, investigators launched into action.

Somershu located and visited Shannon’s mom and collected a DNA sample in February 2011.

Shannon’s birth mother told him that she had been sexually assaulted and gave birth

to Shannon when she was only 16 years old.

When Shannon turned three, her mom gave her to CPS in hopes of giving her a better life.

Crime lab technician Kelly Moran, who did Jane Doe’s original DNA collection in 2004,

still had the files on her desk ready to go, and she rushed the samples through the testing

process as fast as possible.

A few weeks later, Detective Somershu had the results.

Jane Doe was, in fact, Shannon Amok.

Investigators were relieved, but Somershu had to be the one to tell Shannon’s mom what

happened to the toddler that she gave up in hopes of a brighter future.

And, um, so she said she’d always wondered what happened to her.

And she, you know, gave us the, um, the DNA sample.

When we finally got the results, obviously that, that’s not a, that was a painful meeting

with her to tell her, you know, you know where Shannon’s at, this is what happened

to her.

So it was very devastating for her.

Still, giving Shannon, who had been lost in both life and death, her identity back was

a victory for Somershu and his team.

Reading further into her CPS files, Somershu dug deeper into the teen’s troubled life

and considered what her identification might mean to the girl who once said that she wanted

her headstone to be blank.

After minor suicidal actions and superficial self-harming during one of her many times

on the run, CPS made Shannon see a psychologist upon her return.

So when she was brought in to talk to a psychologist, I think the psychologist was trying to give

her like a kind of a shock and say, you know, Shannon, you can’t do this.

And one of the things he said, you know, if you die, what would you want on your, your


The answer that she would want it to be blank, kind of ironic, because that’s what happened

for 19 years.

She didn’t have a name on her headstone.

One of those things that kind of sticks in my mind about her, how sad her life turned

out to be.

I think she felt that nobody cared about her and nobody wanted her.

That was her reply to that, that, you know, she wanted her headstone to be blank so nobody

would miss her.

A lot of us had worked on this case, a lot of us were very invested in it.

And the sad story of Shannon’s life impacted a lot of us.

And because Shannon didn’t have a home in her life, we wanted her to have a home when

she was dead.

In March 2011, investigators worked with a local church and funeral home to exhume Shannon’s

body and give her a proper burial.

Detective Sommershue, her biological mother, and friends from her group homes attended

the funeral ceremony and the installation of her new gravestone marked with her name

and information.

But even though it had taken years to identify Shannon, it was only the beginning of solving

this case.

No longer cold, but not exactly hot either, Detective Sommershue and his team knew they

still had work to do.

A killer was still walking free.

A few months after Detective Sommershue identified Shannon, new tips and leads started to slow

once again.

And then a new witness was uncovered who had seen Shannon after she ran away.

It was someone who had run away with her.

The person who had run away with Shannon was another girl about Shannon’s age who also

had lived at the last group home.

They didn’t know each other well, but Sommershue says that they had similar stories.

There’s indications she was following the same pattern as Shannon and getting placed

in homes and foster homes and group homes and running away.

She was through some of the paperwork, the records that we found on Shannon, we were

able to identify the foster family that she was with.

And once we interviewed them, that led us to this other girl.

But after almost 30 years, the girl who was now a woman and who Sommershue didn’t want

to identify, told him her memory was shaky.

She remembered that she and Shannon left the dogs and then left Mesa making the roughly

20 mile journey to Phoenix, but then they split up sometime soon after that.

Eventually, the lead would become a dead end.

Still, it had opened up other questions for investigators.

After interviewing more sources from Shannon’s life, Detective Sommershue circled back to

the clothing that she was found in.

Remember, it had seemed unusual to officers and the anthropologist in the initial investigation.

Described by many as a skater girl, Shannon had an edgier style, which was depicted in

photos from her teenage years.

And you can actually see those photos on our website,

She often wore baggy shirts or t-shirts with the sleeves cut off.

Both her last foster family and the girl that she ran away with didn’t recognize the clothing

that she was found in.

And other sources told Sommershue it doesn’t look like something Shannon would wear.

It’s possible that Shannon changed at some point, but with so much time lost before her

identification, investigators had to follow every lead they found, no matter how small

it seemed.

Again, I don’t want to go into the details of what evidence we have, but obviously, you

know, it’s things we would look at, you know, as leads develop.

Sommershue and his fellow investigators aren’t committing to any circulating theories or

ruling any out.

But since her identification, police haven’t announced any official suspects or persons

of interest in Shannon’s case.

There are people that we are looking at as possible suspects and other cases that might

be related to hers.

But right now, I don’t have any, you know, clear identified suspects.

Over the years, the community has developed its own theories about what happened to Shannon.

One popular speculation is that her death actually was connected to the disappearance

of Brandi Myers, who, by the way, her body has still never been found.

And both cases could be connected with a number of other young women.

See, while Brandi and Shannon’s cases may have gone cold after 1992, violence against

girls and young women in Phoenix that year was just heating up.

On November 8th, 1992, 21-year-old Angela Brasso left her Phoenix home for an afternoon

bike ride.

When Angela didn’t return by nightfall, her boyfriend and mother rushed to file a

missing person report.

The next day, her nude, decapitated and mutilated body was found in a grassy area near 25th

Avenue and Cactus Road beside the Arizona Canal.

But officers wouldn’t find the rest of her until two weeks later on November 20th, when

witnesses called investigators about a head floating in the canal.

Just under a year later, 17-year-old Arcadia High School student Melanie Bernass would

go missing in an eerily similar way.

Her family says that she also left her home for a bike ride around her neighborhood.

According to John Lucy’s reporting for PennLive, Melanie frequently liked to ride along the

trail next to the canal, and the afternoon of September 22nd, 1993 was no different.

But unlike all the times that she safely returned home, Melanie’s family never saw their daughter

alive again.

And the very next day, her intact and bloodied body was found floating in the Arizona Canal.

Now the women’s bikes were never recovered, but investigators did find more substantial


They found matching semen samples that were collected from both bodies, officially tying

their cases together.

It wasn’t until January 13th, 2015, when officials arrested local man Brian Patrick

Miller that the investigations truly made any headway.

The 43-year-old divorced father, who local media dubbed the Canal Killer, lived with

his teenage daughter in Phoenix up until his arrest.

According to an article from AZ Central, officers caught Brian with the help of a profile from

the VDOC Society, an organization of forensic experts dedicated to solving cold cases.

The profile said that the suspect likely still lived in the Phoenix area and had crossed

paths with law enforcement before.

Officers then staged a meeting between Brian and an undercover cop to obtain his DNA from

a coffee mug that he left at their meeting.

While he pled not guilty on all charges, Brian’s criminal record made it no surprise when he

matched the DNA in Angela and Melanie’s murders.

In 1990, while he was still a minor, Brian was convicted for stabbing a woman near Paradise

Valley Mall.

He was later acquitted for a 2002 stabbing of a different woman in Everett, Washington,

where he lived for several years before returning to Phoenix.

While both women survived, it begs the question, how many other women could Brian have hurt?

How many, besides Angela and Melanie, didn’t survive?

Brian’s ex-wife Amy told AZ Central that Brian admitted to killing a young girl who

matched Brandy’s description, and the story he told her matched the circumstances around

Brandy’s disappearance.

The Myers family told Adam Bagni of 12 News they have no doubts that Brian was involved.

Brandy’s sister, Kristen Thielen, said, quote,

“‘He lived three blocks from our house.

He lives one block from our school.

So we walked by his house every single day, going back and forth to school,’ end quote.

Brian is also a suspect in the case of another Everett woman who was stabbed in 2000.

While his original trial was scheduled for April 28th of 2017, it’s been delayed almost

five years in total.

His lawyers have cited everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to Brian being mentally

unfit to stand trial in order to keep him out of the courtroom, especially since the

death penalty is on the table.

On January 6th, 2022, Jacques Billoud reported for Fox 10 Phoenix that Superior Court Judge

Suzanne Cohen ruled that Brian was psychologically competent to be tried, but no further updates

have been announced.

It’s no surprise that Shannon’s name also comes up often in the articles and reports

discussing the Canal Killer, and the similarities are hard to miss.

Young women, ages 13 to 22, they were all found near the Arizona Canal in Phoenix within

a two-year span.

But there is a stark difference as well.

Most of Brian’s victims were stabbed or cut and mutilated in some way, while Shannon was


Whether the public is right about Shannon’s murder or not, someone out there holds the

key to unlocking the undeniable truth about what happened to her in her final moments.

And exposure is the best thing for a case like Shannon’s, where it only takes one

person to bust the investigation wide open.

Every article about Angela, Melanie, or Brandy that Shannon’s name is attached to is an

opportunity for someone to remember a forgotten detail, or for a witness to gain the courage

to finally come forward.

You know, I don’t want to get into that.

I mean, the important thing is if people have information about Shannon, you know, or they

recognize his clothing, or have, you know, somebody out there knows what happened to


I’m hoping that person will come forward and provide that information, give us answers

to what happened and why it happened.

In an effort to encourage witnesses, or anyone with information, to come forward, Detective

Sommershue listed Shannon’s case on Silent Witness, which is a non-profit MetroPhoenix

program that allows the public to provide anonymous tips.

Their slogan is, it pays to fight crime.

And when we started reporting on this story, Silent Witness was offering up to $2,000 as

a reward for information that would lead to the arrest or the indictment of Shannon’s


As of today’s release of this episode, we are proud to say that the reward has been

increased to $7,000 because of a donation made by one of our AudioChuck producers, Alyssa.

Alyssa sits in with me on all of our recordings and reviews all of our scripts.

And to give you a little bit of context, as an employee benefit, every year on every employee’s

work anniversary, they get a set amount of money to donate to a cause of their choosing

so that their work with the company directly impacts cases and organizations that they

care about.

And Alyssa was so touched by Shannon’s story, and so saddened by how she had been forgotten

and tossed aside all those years, that she put $5,000 of her donation money toward upping

the reward.

And Silent Witness will hold that money for a year.

So until July of 2023, you can find info about how to submit a tip to claim that reward in

our show notes.

Still resting in Tempe Butte today, Shannon’s case is ongoing, but her story is no longer


And thanks to Detective Sommershue, neither is she.

In 2011, he had her new headstone engraved with a quote that describes the case best.

I once was lost, but now am found.

I get a little emotional just because it’s one of the…

I’ve been doing this job for 25 years, and I look back at my career now, and like one

of the…

I guess, you look back and you try to figure out, what have I done that was good, and what

were the accomplishments?

Giving Shannon her name back was one of the things I’m proudest of in my career.

If you have any information about the murder of Shannon Amok, you’re asked to contact Silent

Witness anonymously at 480-948-6377 or 480-837-8446.

The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.

To learn more about The Deck, visit

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