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$45,000 reward offered in Eugene murder case from 1969

Shanahan_Car_CrimeScene1969_Comp.jpg
Photo provided by the Eugene Police Department.
Murder victim Janet Lynn Shanahan (inset), and authorities investigating the crime scene where she was found in the trunk of her 1951 Plymouth sedan (dark vehicle, left side of photo.)

Investigators and relatives are hoping a cash reward will help solve a 53-year-old Eugene area murder case.

On April 21st, 1969, 22-year-old Janet Lynn Shanahan went missing after her brother’s birthday party. Two days later, her husband and sister found Shanahan’s body in the trunk of her 1951 Plymouth sedan. She’d been strangled.

victims_1951_Plymouth_Color.jpg
Photo provided by Eugene Police Department.
A color photo of Stranahan's 1951 Plymouth.

Eugene Police Cold Case Squad investigator Rick Gilliam says there’s now a $45,000 reward for anyone who can lead them to the killer.

“The importance is, the fact this is 53 years old, and individuals out there are getting older, and the suspect may not have many more years to live,” Gilliam told KLCC. “And the friends and family members would just like to resolve this case once and for all, so that’s why that reward’s out there. ”

Investigators believe Shanahan’s murderer was someone she knew. Tips can be called in to (541)682-5588 or emailed to coldcasesquad@eugene-or.gov.

EPD summary of Shanahan’s disappearance and murder:

“In April 1969, Janet had been married to 23-year-old Christopher John Shanahan for about 10 months. Janet was attending spring term at the University of Oregon with the goal of becoming a teacher. On April 21, 1969 Janet attended an evening birthday party for her 15-year-old brother held at her family’s house, located on Rutledge Street in west Eugene. According to her husband, Janet did not return to their campus area apartment after the birthday party. The next day Janet was reported missing.

Janet_Shanahans_May_24th_1968_wedding_day.jpg
Photo provided by Eugene Police Department.
Janet Lynn Shanahan, on her wedding day, May 24, 1968.

“It wasn’t until April 23, 1969, that her body was found. That morning, Christopher had contacted Janet’s sister asking her to drive around with him in hopes of finding Janet’s 1951 Plymouth sedan. After approximately 10 minutes of looking, Christopher noticed the car parked partially in the ditch on Cross Street, near Roosevelt Boulevard and Maple Street. This area, in 1969, was an industrial area. When Christopher approached the car, he opened the trunk and found Janet’s body. She had been strangled to death.

“From the initial investigation through follow-up investigations over the years, investigators have interviewed and re-interviewed many individuals. In reviewing the case, current cold case investigators believe Janet’s killer is someone known to her. The case, unfortunately, is still an unsolved case.

“Recently, family and friends have approached investigators offering reward money. The family members and friends do not wish to be identified. They do believe, like the current investigators, because of the passage of 53 years, time is short and now may be the last realistic effort to identify the suspect and solve the case. Therefore, Janet’s family and friends are offering a $45,000 reward for the identification, arrest and conviction of Janet’s killer.

“EPD cold case investigators believe that any and all tips are important. If you know something related to the case, please call the Eugene Police Cold Case Squad at 541-682-5588 or leave a message at coldcasesquad@eugene-or.gov.”

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Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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