The Reluctant Investigator
By John Fedack, 30 May 2017
I picked up the Priority Express package from the Post Office. It weighed 5.2 lbs. and it was 3.7 inches thick. I kept looking at it all afternoon but did not want to open it. The next morning with my coffee on my desk I opened it. I clearly recall the climax scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis open the Ark and demons pour out from Hell and destroy them. After 20-25 pages that is EXACTLY what I thought I had opened. The more I read and the more crime scene photos I viewed the more it upset me. The combination of sadness, anger, futility and outrage began to take over. I was forced to put it down and two days later I was able to continue studying the files. I had been a Police Officer with DeKalb County Police where I witnessed horrible and cruel acts so I assumed I was probably immune from any major effect. Wrong.
Today, the Cold Cases of Mary Shotwell Little and Diane Marie Shields are both over 50 years old. But opening the packet and reading the police reports read like yesterday’s news. Growing up in Atlanta I can vividly remember the hysteria reported on the evening news and the headlines in the Atlanta Journal newspaper. In 1965, I was allowed to ride the bus with my brother to go downtown to see a movie and have lunch. That completely stopped after Mary disappeared. Reports claimed she had been apparently kidnapped at Lenox Square and taken to North Carolina. Even a young boy knew she died a horrible death and would probably never be found. For months everyone wondered if Atlanta had a madman lurking in the shadows waiting to strike again. Months passed and a calm settled on Atlanta; we all thought it couldn’t happen again. Wrong again.
Seventeen months later a beautiful young girl, Diane Marie Shields was found murdered and stuffed in the trunk of her car. This happened in the Atlanta suburb where I lived. She had worked at the same desk and she shared many of the same roommates as Mary. This time Atlanta knew we had a madman. My father placed a loaded shotgun in both of our bedrooms. He was not a coward nor excitable. A veteran of WWll he was calm and steady. But, this was different. I was too young to drive a car but my job was to protect my Mom and siblings until Dad came home.
Fast forward to 2014. Every Christmas, the DeKalb Police (like all police departments) have an annual reunion. A bunch of old grey haired guys telling war stories. I looked across the bar and saw the son of the APD Homicide Detective who was famous for working on Mary’s case. His son and I had enjoyed working with each other when I was on the force. We spoke for a few minutes and he suggested I call him the following week. So I called and told him I was a film producer and asked if he would help with the disappearance of Mary? [I was well aware that I was wasting my time because with the 50th anniversary of both crimes was very soon. I KNEW many people were far ahead of me.] Wrong again.
To say I was surprised is a gross understatement. So I kept pulling the string. Next call was to the son of the FBI Special Agent who investigated the abduction in 1965 to ask for his help. He was a perfect gentleman and more than happy to help me out.
It is now close to two years and the project has taken on a life of his own. As of May 2017, here is our investigative team:
- Retired APD & Fulton County DA cold case detective
- Retired East Point Police captain
- Criminal Profiler: ex-FBI Behavioral Science Unit, Ph.D. in Criminal Justice
- Assistant, Attorney General Criminal Investigations and ex-FBI clerk
- Retired Atlanta Journal investigative reporter
- Ex – DeKalb Police officer and film producer
I have met with APD Homicide and their Cold Case team. In the meeting a Captain and 3 Sergeants offered any help we may need including an introduction to Crime Stoppers Atlanta for reward handling. At the East Point Police I met with the Major in charge of Investigations and he offered any needed help. Again, at every call and meeting, I expected to be late to the party. Seems we are the party. Like the movie reference above, almost every night another scene plays in my head. Remember the scene in The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery when Elliott Ness asks Malone, a veteran Chicago cop to help catch Capone? Malone says “Ah Mr, Ness, that is what we all fear. After twenty years and twenty pounds it is too late. No sir, I cannot help you.” Again, that is EXACTLY how I feel – too old and the other too. But when I looked in the eyes of our investigative team and realize they will not stop until we find out what happened – how can I say no?
Isaiah Chapter 8 Verse 6 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
In the following chapters I will go in deep detail on the two crimes and our process to discover what happened to these two young women a half a century ago.