Rachelle Ranae "Shelley" Shannon (born March 31, 1956) is an American Christian anti-abortionist from Grants Pass, Oregon, known for her several criminal acts targeting abortion providers, most notably the shooting of George Tiller in both arms outside his abortion clinic in Wichita on August 19, 1993. After her conviction for attempted murder she later pleaded guilty to setting fires at several abortion clinics on the West Coast, and is serving her sentence at FCI Waseca in Minnesota. Her projected release date is November 7, 2018.
Involvement in anti-abortion movement
After the murder of an abortion provider in Pensacola in 1993, Shannon wrote at least 25 letters to the perpetrator, calling him a "hero" and "brave soldier" and describing her disillusionment with nonviolence. She also traveled to Kentucky to visit John Brockhoeft, convicted of firebombing a Cincinnati abortion clinic.
Attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller
At the time she shot Tiller, Shannon had been a part of the anti-abortion movement for at least five years. She had written in support of Michael Griffin, the murderer of David Gunn, calling Griffin "the awesomest, greatest hero of our time." Tiller's Wichita clinic was the site of frequent demonstrations and incidents of direct action by those opposed to abortion and of counter-demonstrations by abortion rights activists. Under cover of such a fracas, Shannon shot Tiller with a semiautomatic pistol.
Trial and imprisonment
At her trial in state court, Shannon testified that there was nothing immoral about trying to kill Tiller. The jurors needed only an hour to convict her of attempted murder. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
On June 4, 1995, she pleaded guilty to setting fires at several abortion clinics in Oregon, California and Nevada. She had been indicted by federal grand juries on 30 counts in connection with fires and butyric acid attacks at nine clinics. Charges included arson, interference with commerce by force and interstate travel in aid of racketeering. On September 9, 1995, U.S. Federal District Court Judge James A. Redden sentenced Shannon to 20 years in prison—a substantial upward departure from sentencing guidelines. In sentencing her, Redden called her a terrorist. He sided with prosecutors who contended that Shannon was a threat even from behind bars. The federal sentence was set to begin only after the completion of Shannon's 11-year state incarceration for shooting Tiller.
Her daughter, Angela Shannon (born c. 1974), was prosecuted for sending a death threat in 1993 to George Woodward, a Milwaukee doctor who performed abortions. (The letter arrived on March 3, 1993 — a week before the murder of David Gunn.) The elder Shannon attempted to take the blame for the death threat, but in view of Angela's fingerprints having been found on the letter, Angela was convicted and sentenced to 46 months' incarceration in 1997.
In 1998, Shelley Shannon filed a lawsuit contending that the sewerage system in the Kansas prison was inadequate, and that sewage backups created unhealthful conditions for the inmates. Her lawsuit was dismissed by Federal District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil in Kansas City, Kansas. The dismissal was upheld by a 2-1 vote of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, stating there wasn't sufficient proof the warden knew about the sewer problems. Before Shannon's attorney could refile, the sewer system and other problems were corrected.
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- "Woman Gets 20-Year Sentence In Attacks on Abortion Clinics". Oregon; California; Nevada: NYTimes.com. 1995-09-09. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- Denny Walsh, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, '93 LETTER, Jun 6, 1996. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
- FindLaw.com, USA v SHANNON 97-10057. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
- Robert Boczkiewicz, The Topeka Capital-Journal, Sewage lawsuit dismissal upheld, Jul 11, 2001. Retrieved January 9, 2007.[dead link]