Who killed Shana?: Family members still seek answers, justice a year after her body was found

Who killed Shana?: Family members still seek answers, justice a year after her body was found

From the Las Vegas Optic

Shana Storey grew up in Pecos. She played volleyball in school, and she liked to ride horses. A wrestling fan, she’d make championship belts out of cardboard and aluminum foil. She was kind, and smiled a lot. She’d also make you laugh, sometimes so much your stomach hurt.

These are the things her family members think about daily. But too often, these memories of Shana are clouded by questions. Nagging questions that permeate all other thoughts. Questions like who killed Shana, and why?

“The unanswered questions are what really eat at me,” said Katrina Stansbury, one of Shana’s sisters. “Knowing that other people are out there who know exactly what happened to her, and why — I guess for me, that’s the struggle. Not knowing why they did this.”

It’s been one year since Shana’s body was recovered, and to date, no one has been arrested or charged in her death.

Family members reported Shana missing on Jan. 18, 2020. On May 6, 2020, two city enforcement service specialists made a gruesome discovery: Shana’s badly decaying body hidden beneath the floorboards of a vacant building on the city’s west side — her head covered with a plastic bag; her body wrapped in a tarp and blanket, secured with wire.

Stansbury learned of her sister’s death not from police, but from someone on Facebook. Throughout the past 12 months, Stansbury has been trying to get updates on the investigation from the Las Vegas Police Department, but few details have been provided. Stansbury, who now lives in Illinois, told the Optic by phone that about every two weeks, she sends a text message to the lead investigator, Antonio Salazar, seeking an update.

“It’s basically the same thing every time: We’ve interviewed them; nothing’s come back; still investigating; still working the case. It’s frustrating to hear the same thing month after month with no progress,” she said.

A year with no answers has taken a toll on Stansbury’s mental health, too.

“I’ve had to resort to antidepressant and anxiety meds,” she said through tears.

Following a brief pause, Stansbury continued.

“It’s been tough. Everyone says, ‘Time will heal.’ I think with a normal death, I could understand that. But when someone is taken from you in this way, it bugs you. It bugs me because I don’t know why,” Stansbury said. “And knowing that she was suffering during it, I guess that’s what bothers me the most.”

Stansbury is not alone in her anguish or frustration. Her sister Lindsay Varela wants answers, too.

Varela used to speak to Shana regularly, and through tears, she had only one thing to say about Shana: “I miss her.”

Shana was raised in Pecos by her grandmother Lou Storey. Lou has suffered loss many times in her life, she said, like when she lost her husband to cancer. She said that while cancer didn’t make the loss easier to accept, at least it made some sense.

“Somehow you can accept it better. You don’t have all these questions in your head, like I do with Shana,” she said. “Who killed her? Because somebody killed her, and maybe more than one person killed her. I’d like to know who.”

Lou said the worst part of not knowing who killed Shana, or why, is having those unanswered questions in your thoughts at all times. While she expects to think about Shana often, sometimes, the unanswered questions cause her to relive the events of May 6, 2020, almost like they’re happening again in real time. And it can happen without warning.

“You go along, and you’re doing fine, and then all at once it’ll hit you,” she said. “Like the other day, it hit me all over again. Out of nowhere. It’s not that something reminds you, because it’s always there. I’ve lost my husband, I’ve lost my son, I’ve now lost my granddaughter. I’m going to tell you straight up, you never get over it. There isn’t such a thing as closure. You’d don’t get over it. You get used to the pain.”

 

Seven visits

Shana Storey’s body was found stuffed under the floorboards of a bathroom in a small building on a piece of land sandwiched between Romero Street and Salazar Street.

Police were familiar with the property, and its owner, because officers had been dispatched to the property six times between Jan. 21, 2020, and May 3, 2020, according to calls for service reports and police dispatch audio obtained by the Optic through a records request.

Calls ranged from reports of suspicious activity to two calls  — one in January and one in February — that a body was inside the home.

The seventh visit to the home came May 6, 2020. Two enforcement service specialists — city employees who assist with animal control and code enforcement violations — found what police had failed to find in six visits.

The ESS officers called LVPD upon finding Shana’s body, badly decomposed, covered in flies and maggots. They also encountered an “unbearable smell,” according to reports filed by the ESS officers.

Police reports obtained by the Optic as part of the records request further paint the horrific picture of Shana’s final days. Officers found the building emptied of its contents except for one mattress. The toilet was filled with human waste. Flies covered the walls. Any furniture that was once inside the building had been tossed onto the lawn.

Officers pried the flooring open to find “a blue tarp and a brown blanket which appeared to have something wrapped inside,” according to LVPD incident reports. The tarp was also wrapped in wire, possibly fencing material. Inside the wrapped tarp they found Shana’s remains.

Though an autopsy was performed, the results have not brought closure to Shana’s family. Both the cause and manner of death are listed as “undetermined.”

 

More unanswered questions

While many questions about Shana’s death remain unanswered, obtaining answers about the investigation into those responsible for her death is difficult as well.

The Optic contacted Chief of Police Adrian Crespin April 29 asking to speak with someone about the investigation into Shana’s death.

Investigator Antonio Salazar called April 30 and left a voicemail, but did not return a follow-up call placed an hour later. Since then, multiple attempts have been made to speak with Salazar, including a second phone call and one email on April 30, four calls and an email on Tuesday and four calls on Wednesday.

By 1 p.m. Wednesday, Salazar’s voicemail box was full and would not allow new messages to be recorded.

Chief Crespin told the Optic Wednesday he didn’t have specific details on the case, but said it is still active and being investigated. Crespin said he didn’t know of any set standard for when an unsolved case is considered a cold case.

“I wouldn’t set a standard for the Las Vegas Police Department while I’m in command. I don’t believe in that,” he said.

Crespin said it is possible for LVPD to get assistance from other law enforcement agencies if needed, but the department would have to request that help.

“It’s an undetermined death right now by the autopsy, and I don’t know what the investigator believes,” Crespin said. “We don’t shy away from asking for assistance. Do we need assistance right now? I would say not because they’ve turned over every rock out there.”

Crespin also pointed out that he was not in his current role as chief of police when Shana went missing or when her body was located.

“Keep in mind I wasn’t in this position as the chief when this occurred. Whatever the past administration did, it’s still going to reflect on me because it follows you when you take over,” Crespin said. “I just want to make that clear. I know there’s a lot of talk of ‘fire the chief,’ and everything else, but I was not in this position, so I can’t change what happened in the past, but we can change what’s happening in the present, and in the future while I’m here.”

 

Closure and justice

Shana’s family members say they know police have several cases to investigate and other crimes to respond to, but they don’t want Shana to be forgotten.

Stansbury said she understands that police need to have proof a crime was committed before they can file charges against someone, but at the same time, she feels police aren’t putting enough effort into finding that proof.

She’s also certain someone killed her sister.

“If she overdosed, what’s the point of wrapping her in a blanket, tarp and barbed wire, and putting a plastic bag over her head?” Stansbury said. “As her family, we’re struggling day to day. It’s hard because for the police, I feel, it’s not a priority.”

For Lou Storey, finding out who killed Shana, and why, is about making sure those involved see some sort of punishment for their actions.

“I just wish we could find some justice for her,” she said. “What they did to her, that wasn’t right.”

Stansbury said she feels that someone in the community knows what happened to Shana, and she wants them to share that information with police.

“There’s always options to give information anonymously,” she said. “If people would realize how much pain it causes, then they would help bring the truth out, so the family can move on.”

Until then, Stansbury clings to memories of Shana. Of the wrestling belts, the jokes, the smile on Shana’s face.

“I think of her every day, and I wear her ashes around my neck,” Stansbury said through tears, her anguish palpable, even over the phone and across multiple states. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her, or think about what more I could do to help find who did this. But obviously, I can’t. I can’t do anything. The police have to do it.”