This True Crime Story Will Make You Feel for the Victim AND Murderer


The LA Times has a great feature called “The Homicide Report,” which chronicles the lives of LA County’s murder victims. The latest entry is fascinating in how it humanizes one of the murderers, Shannon Burns, who shot her husband Chip to death almost four years ago.

Since “The Homicide Report” chronicled Chip’s death in 2010, that particular entry has garnered a wide range of comments, some declaring Shannon as a killer and nothing else, and others, declaring her predicament a tragic accident. Incredibly, Shannon herself weighed in last year with comments like this:

I am Chips wife and still his wife.. I have had the last 3 years in a lot of pain over this for what both families have gone through but most important CHIP, this loving and caring man meant the world to me.

The pronouncement is at once defiant and remorseful. The LA Times then flesh out this story by recounting the day of the murder, when the couple, who met in AA, went on a bender to cope with being evicted, all after Shannon lost her job and mobile home and Chip had just gotten out of prison. That day marked the first day of drinking for her, after seven-and-a-half years of sobriety.

Later that day, Shannon’s daughter begged Chip to take away the loaded gun Shannon had been carrying around, afraid that she would hurt herself. This is what happened when Chip complied:

Chip walked into the bedroom. Bree heard Chip tell Shannon to give him the gun.
A single gunshot rang out.

In the meantime, the article weaves in details about Shannon the long, hard road that she has traversed in moving on. For example, she has been back on the wagon for nine months, but has stopped sponsoring other alcoholic women as she used to do because of the “noise in her head.”

We’re tempted to believe that people who have killed are one-dimensional monsters, but this story challenges that. A combination of personal demons and desperate circumstances had a hand in what Shannon did, which may inspire people to judgment, but which also engenders compassion and empathy, at least for me. And while there are the commenters who’d like the story to stop at “she’s a killer,” there are a lot of other ones who see the shades of gray.

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