Smoky Mountain Murder: The death of 40-year-old Dawn Shannon Hercutt
The OnStar satellite service that connects to millions of vehicles in the United States automatically notifies operators who call police when a vehicle equipped with the system is involved in a rash.
On August 3, 2009 in Sevierville, Tennessee police responded to a report from OnStar of a such a crash.
In a Cadillac SUV, at the bottom of a steep slope, they found the body of Shannon Hercutt age 40. The location was next to one of Hercutt's rental properties at 1506 East Milford Haven Drive in Sevierville.
At first police believed the deth to be an unfortunate accident but soon clues would point elsewhere.
Dawn Shannon Hercutt was a successful businesswoman who owned and operated Auntie Belham’s Realty and Nightly Rentals renting vacation properties the Great Smoky Mountain region.
When Shannon’s family learned details of the crash, subtle clues caused them to be suspicious. She was not known to go driving late at night.
Site where crashed vehicle was located.
Shannon always wore her seat belt(evidence showed she was not wearing a seat belt). She was known to never drive with the windows down.
Her cousin told the media that Shannon was very picky about her hair and did not like to drive with the windows down. After hearing all of this and finding it suspicious, the family requested an autopsy.
The autopsy found that Hercutt suffered head injuries she could not have possibly sustained in the crash. Detectives determined someone likely killed Shannon at her home then placed her in her SUV and sent it 125 feet down the embankment toward the rental cabins she owned.
Shannon was described as strong willed, something it seemed she inherited from her father. She had a rocky relationship with her father Ted. It was characterized by periods of estrangement and reconciliation. At the time of Shannon’s death her father told The Knoxville News-Sentinel that they were involved in litigation over a piece of property.
Family members said Ted was close to cutting Shannon out of his will. Ted Hercutt was on vacation with his then wife and other daughter in Myrtle Beach at the time of Shannon’s death.
Hercutt criticized the law enforcement agencies that handled the crash and investigation. Hercutt said the air bags did not deploy and there were no skid marks at the scene. He said an electronic device in the Escalade showed it only going 7 mph before the crash.
Penny Stephens, Shannon’s sister, said she went to Shannon’s house after the crash and saw a baseball bat, blood on the outside refrigerator and two broken bottles of alcohol on the floor.