But in 2003, Shannon was arrested for walking into a home in Kenner, Louisiana, and stealing $14 from an elderly couple. He insisted police had the wrong man — the couple had not seen his face — but his clothes closely resembled the description of the culprit, and the cops discovered $14 when they found him soon after the robbery. Despite his relatively minor crime, at trial the state cast Shannon as “the worst kind of defendant. He’s a predator.” In a 11-1 split, the jury found him guilty. He was given 30 years in prison.
But Jefferson Parish prosecutors weren’t satisfied. On September 10, 2004, according to court records, “the state introduced fingerprint cards, certified copies of convictions, and arrest registers” from Shannon’s previous run-ins with the law. They dated back to the 1990s. One was for unauthorized entry. Another was for “theft over $500.” A third, in 1997, was possession of a firearm by a felon. On December 4, 2004, under Louisiana’s habitual offender law, Shannon was resentenced to life without parole.
Ilene was incredulous — “Life for $14? Come on, seriously?” — but she couldn’t help but be mad at her brother. “I kind of like cut off communication with him,” she admitted. For years, Shannon kept writing to her anyway, certain that she would respond eventually. That moment came suddenly, when Ilene opened a letter in April 2014. Shannon was gravely ill. He had long complained about a pain in his side, but prison doctors dismissed the symptoms. By the time he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, the tumors had spread to his brain. “Please don’t think I’m playing games with y’all,” Shannon wrote in his letter to his sister. “I’m sick and I don’t want to die alone.”
On Sunday, March 5, at age 42, Shannon died at Angola. Ilene was by his side, along with her older sister. Ilene’s 20-year-old daughter made the drive too, but was barred from seeing him despite being on his visiting list. (“They’re like, he didn’t put her on this list.”) Prison officials wanted to bury Shannon quickly, on Tuesday, but he had repeatedly begged them not to leave his body at Angola. Bringing his body home was an expense the siblings could hardly afford, a reality for many families. It is one major reason half of the men who die at Angola are buried there. Still, Ilene was determined to try. The day after her brother’s death, the family put up a crowdfunding webpage seeking money to cover the transportation and funeral expenses. “Shannon was well loved by all, and he was never thrown away,” Ilene wrote. “He was our brother — not just another inmate — and we want to remember him as such.”
On a side note, one cannot but wonder what pain relief is being provided when you're doing hard porridge and dying, like Shannon?