Murdered – 2001 – Prattville
August 16, 2001, started out like any other summer day for 11-year-old Shannon Paulk in the Candlestick Park mobile home community in Prattville, Alabama. Shannon was a ball of energy, eager to play outside and visit with her friends and neighbors. She was known for her infectious smile and kind-hearted nature, making her a favorite among the locals.
It was just another typical morning in the Paulk household. Shannon’s mom, Marie Stroud, left for work early, leaving Shannon and her 16-year-old sister at home. Shannon was an early bird and had already bounded out the door to start her day of playing and exploring well before her sister stirred from her slumber around 9 am.
Shannon was an adventurous soul, and it wasn’t unusual for her to spend hours on end out and about, visiting with her friends and neighbors. Her sister thought nothing of her absence and assumed that Shannon was off on one of her many adventures.
But as the hours ticked by and Shannon didn’t return, Marie began to grow worried. By the time she got home from work around 3 pm, Shannon was still nowhere to be found. But Marie tried not to panic, thinking that maybe Shannon was just caught up in some fun with her friends. Little did she know that this day would be the start of a nightmare that would last for weeks, months, and years to come.
As the sun began to set on that fateful day, the Paulk family grew increasingly anxious about Shannon’s whereabouts. By 7:15 pm, they knew something was terribly wrong. They started to contact neighbors and friends, hoping that someone had seen or heard from their beloved little girl.
But as the hours dragged on with no sign of Shannon, their fear turned to desperation. By 9:00 pm, the police had been called, and the whole community rallied together to search for her. Every nook and cranny was combed, every lead followed up on, but still, there was no sign of Shannon.
Days turned into weeks, and the search for Shannon consumed the small community. Flyers were posted, volunteers scoured the surrounding area, and her story even made it onto the national news. Shannon’s face was plastered all over America’s Most Wanted, and a composite of a potential witness was shared with the public.
But one lead would eventually turn out to be a false alarm. An over-anxious young witness in their mobile park had given a tip that led nowhere, adding even more frustration and heartbreak to an already devastating situation.
And then, on October 6, 2001, two rabbit hunters made a gruesome discovery. They stumbled upon the remains of a small girl, encased in a black garbage bag and left off the side of an old fire lane in a hunting preserve, about 15 miles north of Prattville. It was a horrific find, and authorities would eventually confirm what the Paulk family had been dreading – the remains belonged to Shannon.
It was a tragedy that shook the community to its core, and one that still haunts them to this day. Shannon’s case remains unsolved, and her family still waits for answers and justice.