Death in a Small Town: Who killed the Concordia, Kansas couple in October 1980?
Updated: Apr 5
Shaun Champlin was busy that Saturday night in October 1980. He’d been goose hunting earlier in the day and was getting ready to pick up Tina Montoy for a dance at the community college.
After Shaun, 18, returned from hunting, he and brother Gary, 17, cleaned the geese. His 16-year-old brother, David, washed and waxed Shaun’s new red car so it would be spotless when he picked up his girlfriend of almost a year.
It was a busy night and the final one when they would all be together.
Gary also was getting ready for his date; David was leaving for a friend’s 16th birthday party. Shaun talked about dove hunting the next day. Just another Saturday night at the Champlin home.
They talked about meeting the next afternoon at a church picnic with their parents, Ron and Susan Champlin, and 11-year-old brother Corey.
They never would.
That Sunday — Oct. 19, 1980 — a sheriff’s detective came to the back door looking for Ron Champlin, a well-respected businessman. Gary Champlin said his father was at the picnic.
His brother hadn’t returned from the homecoming dance at Cloud County Community College. While that wasn’t normal, neither was it a real cause for concern in a this was a small farm community where folks still left front doors unlocked and their keys in the cars.
En route to the picnic, Gary Champlin saw his parents’ car coming toward him, his father driving slowly and looking sad. The vehicles stopped in the road and Gary's mother broke the news
His brother and Montoy had been killed, shot as they sat in Shaun’s car in a wooded area a half-mile west of the college campus sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
Killed by someone who fired several shots and fled; someone whose had remained unidentified to this day.
Over the years, the family has heard just about every theory — some sort of grudge or jealousy, a random act by a stranger, a prank gone terribly wrong.
They left the dance before midnight. Some said they saw them driving around town; others said maybe they were seen at a disco. Nobody can say for certain.
Investigators spent thousands of hours talking to scores of people — family, friends and others in this north-central Kansas area, Nebraska and Texas. Nobody was arrested; nobody was taken into custody.
Shaun Champlin was in his freshman year at Cloud County Community College and had an academic scholarship. In high school, he played football and was a top scholar. He worked part-time at his father’s tire store. Like his brothers, he enjoyed fishing, hunting and camping.
At 20, Montoy, from Salina, had graduated from the same college in May. She wanted a four-year degree, but she stayed in Concordia and worked as a teacher’s aide. The couple had talked of attending Washburn University together in Topeka.
Their bodies had been discovered at 4:30 PM in a wooded area by a man who was collecting firewood. They were still in Shaun's car, both having been shot several times. It appeared that Tina had died instantly from the gunshot wounds, while Shaun remained alive for long enough to start the car, presumably to flee, before going into shock and passing away.
The car drove in circles and landed in a crevice. The man who discovered their bodies is not a suspect. He had passed a polygraph with "flying colors." The Champlin family believes Shaun would not have driven his car to a wooded area under normal circumstances. He would not have wanted to risk scratching his prized Monte Carlo.
The governor of Kansas signed an executive order in October of 1980 creating a $5000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. That reward has never been pursued.
The Kansas Buireau of Investigation still has much of the evidence — the victims’ clothing and bullet fragments, likely from a .38-caliber or .357-caliber Magnum pistol. The case was revisited in 2002 and investigators thiought that new technology might help solve the mystery.
But nine years later, the case remains as cold as it was the day after the bodies were discovered.
Anyine with any infiormatiion that might shine a new light on this pold case is asked to call the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at (785) 296-8200.