Updated: Jul 17
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New Years Day - 2am, 1994
Location: Henryetta, OK
Shawna, 26 years old at the time, was a single mother of two and had just recently moved back to Henryetta, Oklahoma, to be closer to her family that lived in the area. Both of the fathers of Shawna's children were not in the picture, and she was left to raise the girls - Miracle, 7, and Christina, 9 - alone. Shawna was living in Tulsa for a time. She thought the big city would bring her success and open new doors for her and her kids. However, after a horrible sexual assault outside of her apartment building and in front of her oldest child, she lost hope for Tulsa. Scared and alone, she chose to move back home to Henryetta.
This was not the first instance of a harsh life for Shawna. She grew up with the Have-Nots of Henryetta, although she was reported to be a very happy person despite this. Her relationships were often cold or abusive, but that did not stop her from trying to find her happily ever after.
(Photo: Shawna Jones in pink with her New Year's Eve Crown. Taken the night she disappeared.)
Jessica Barnett, her kid's babysitter, had this to say about Shawna:
Her smile was genuine, loving, and contagious! She was soft and gently spoken. She was a beautiful soul; you could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice. She was fun. I am sure she had her ups and downs, but I did not see them. She was always smiling and beaming in my eyes. I only knew her for a short while, I was just a young girl, and I babysat her two beautiful girls. She had given me a trust that now, as a mother, I understand. I remember the day she asked me to become her babysitter. I was recommended to her by my aunt and uncle. She was diligent in asking me questions and being concerned about my age and the possibility of being a bad influence on her girls. Now, keep in mind she knew my family as well and was a real friend and coworker to them. She was loved and trusted by people I knew, so I 'accepted the challenge,' as she called it.During the next few months, I would babysit for her regularly on Fri and Sat, and sometimes a few hours in the evening during the week. I had to be home by 10 pm during the week, and she always had me home when she said she would. Sometimes, we would stop and pick up something to snack on or a movie to watch. On other nights, we would have dinner and ice cream sundaes for dessert. The girls and I would play games, dress up and just be girls. Just before Christmas 1993, Shawna had come a little earlier than usual to pick me up. I remember how excited she was to give me my present. It was a portable, battery-operated curling iron! She was so excited! She could not wait to show me how to use it. She came prepared with a brush and hairspray. She had already put new batteries in it. She said, all giggly and smiling, "go ahead; open it," as she helped me tear open the package. "Let me show you what it does!" She did my bangs right there in the parking lot of my apartment complex. I loved that thing! It went everywhere with me for years, even prom a few years later!
Shawna had begun dating 27-year-old Uel Slane in 1994. Uel played in a band called The Backroads Band at local bars. His parents owned a successful medical supply company in downtown Henryetta that he worked for as needed.
She and Uel had gotten serious and were talking about marriage. It is unclear if he proposed or if they had come to an agreement that they would be married.
Shawna worked as a bartender and waitress at The New West Club (pictured above - today) and was set to work there that night for their annual New Year's Eve party. Uel was playing with his band that night for a New Year's Eve party at another bar across town. Shawna donned a pink shirt, some blue jeans, a large belt with a larger belt buckle, and some Roper lace-up cowboy boots.
(Photo: Shawna with her daughters)
Jessica Barnett stated:
On December 31, 1993, I had been her sitter for a bit now, and this night was fueled by excitement for the New Year. We had popcorn, snacks, and sparkling grape juice. We played music, danced, and played games. Then shortly after, off to bed, I cleaned up as usual.
Uel borrowed his parent's medical supply van, which was enclosed and large enough to tote his music equipment and instruments to his gig. He then stopped by Shawna's home, picked her up, and took her to work, heading to the musical job that awaited him. With no incidents occurring throughout the night that would indicate anything suspicious at either party, around 2 am, when the bar closes, they get off work and start to clean and pack up for the night. Uel arrives to pick her up shortly after, and they head to her home in the van.
When they arrive, the 15-year-old babysitter, Jessica Barnett, and Shawna's two children are home and waiting for her.
(Photo: Shawna with her daughters)
Shawna’s daughter Miracle remembers that:
I woke up; my sister stayed in bed. When I got up. I went straight to her and wrapped my little arms around her waist; as I hugged her, she let her right arm fall on my back, giving me a hug back. I remember she said, 'Look, I got you and your sister New Year toys; go back to bed.' She patted my head, and I went back to bed.
The babysitter requested a ride home, so Uel stayed with the children while Shawna took his work van to take the babysitter home. The babysitter Jessica does state, “They went straight from Shawna's home to her home in the work van and were dropped off. “
(Photo: Shawna on the day of Miracle's birth.)
Jessica went on to state that:
When she [Shawna] returned home with her boyfriend, I thought nothing of it. Like any other night, she told him she was taking me to my aunt's house and would be right back. As I was walking out the door, she told me she was taking me home in the van with all her boyfriend's musical equipment. That night she pulled into my aunts/uncles' driveway, and she said, 'Happy New Year! See you in a few days!' I got inside, looked out the door window after the door was locked, and saw her, with the inside van light on, waving and smiling - an image I will never forget - as I turned off the porch light and acknowledged my aunt's 'You're back!' from the other room.
Shawna drives the van to Uel's family medical supply business to exchange it for Uel's new '93 Blue Ford F-150 dual cab truck. From there, no one knows precisely what happened next, but no one says to see Shawna alive again. No one saw her at all until later that day.
(Photo: Shawna's trailer today.)
When I woke up later that morning, I went to her room, and I remember it looking the same as it did the night before because I remember her laying on her bed zipping up her pants, and I always laughed, I turned around and went into the front room. Where I see Uel sleeping on the loveseat in an upright slump sleeping. I shook him, and I asked where mom was. He said, 'in bed asleep.' I said, 'No, she isn't; her bed is made.' Uel got up and walked down the hall to her bedroom, then turned and ran out of the trailer. He did not say a word. I just remember watching him run across the trailer park toward trees. The next thing I know, my grandma is picking us up.
That morning, Uel filed a police report. Not a missing person's report, but an Unauthorized Use of Vehicle Report for his missing van.
(Photo Below: Uel's family business where Shawna was to switch the vehicles out front. It directly across from a gas station. Photos were taken in late 2022, but both businesses where there in 1993/1994.)
Later in the day, and just four months shy of Shawna's 27th birthday, according to reports, around 4:30 pm, some local children were playing on their property when they noticed a blue truck sitting near their pond in the backyard. The kids told their mom, who walked down to the truck and found a body lying near the pond's edge. It is assumed here that she flipped the body over that was lying face down. Reports show neither EMS nor Police did this, and there was livor mortis on the abdomen, indicating that she had been on her stomach for some time. It is then that the woman realizes that it was her good friend, Shawna Jones. She then called the police. EMS was dispatched to the property on a possible drowning but noted she had long been gone before they arrived, and there were two footprints near her head alongside her shoulders. The EMS team indicated in their report that drag marks were present on Shawna's body heading from the woods to where she lay.
The Medical Examiner, Dr. Ted Lewis, noted showing up at the scene at 7:30 pm. He notes that she was lying on her back with her hands and arms slightly above her shoulders. Her head was lying in around 3-4" of water. There was mud impacted over her right eye, right nostril, and mouth. He notes cuts and bruises all over the body, but no trauma to the body was bad enough to have caused death. He notes the footprints here as well from her original location. Her things were reported to be scattered around the truck; her purse and the truck keys were missing. They were later found in the pond, though it is not clear how far into the pond or how deep down the items were, and $150.00 in cash was also noted in the purse. She was still wearing the same clothing she was seen at the bar the previous night. However, her jeans were unzipped and unbuttoned, and her belt buckle was missing. She had multiple rings on her fingers that were all still present.
Further inspection of the field the truck had driven through indicated erratic driving. The right side of the truck had paint scratches. The driver's side door had a vertical inward-folding dent near the hinges. The chrome was bent away from the body at the bottom edge of the frame, forward of the driver's door. Damage was also noted in the driver's door lock. It seemed to them that she had driven off the main road at a higher rate of speed, down and back up a 6-foot bar ditch, through a barbed-wire fence, around the pasture, stopped at one point where some of her things fell from the truck, continued and came to a stop at the top of the pond. The truck was noted to be sitting parallel with the pond, with the passenger's side towards the pond itself. She then got out of the truck, dropped some of her things, went to the passenger's side, lost her footing, and fell into the pond. Shawna's windpipe had been crushed, but the assumption was that it happened when the truck was airborne, slamming her neck on the steering wheel when it hit the ground. The dome light cover was missing. Scratches and tears were seen in the ceiling liner around the dome light. Barbed-wire pieces were suspended from the front undercarriage of the truck in the area of the front axle. It is believed that at one point, when the truck collided with something, it forced the driver's side door open, and it remained open.
The items found inside the truck included Shawna's large cowboy belt buckle, a multi-colored striped long-sleeved men's shirt, other clothing, and small things like a tube of lip-gloss.
(Photo Above: The pond where Shawna was found. It was said by the new owner that it wasn't drained properly and never held water for long.)
(Photo Above: The Route Shawna would have taken that night. 1) From her work to 2) home. Then from home to 3) the babysitter's home. Then back down to drop off the van at the 4) medical supply business. From there she ended up at 5) the pond.)
From viewing the scene, everything was chalked up to a vehicle accident with alcohol abuse at that point. Fingerprints were lifted from the driver's side door, but a comparison matched both Shawna and Uel. There were unidentified palm prints on the door that were compared to them as well but did not match. This would be the only evidence obtained until Shawna's autopsy.
Jessica the babysitter recalls the police showing up the day after Shawna dropped her off. She said:
I think it was maybe 6 pm; the police had come to my other aunt and uncle's home to speak with me about Shawna and what happened. They told us that something had happened to her, and they were trying to figure out all the details, and they needed my statement. My family went to get my mom from across town, and my uncle went with me to the police station. I did not understand a single part of what was happening. I had never been in trouble with the law before, but here the police were questioning me about my whereabouts, checking my clothes, my shoes, and my hands. Asking me for directions on how she drove me to my aunt's house, what type of relationship I had with her, what she and her boyfriend's appearance and attitude were like, and what vehicle she was driving. I answered honestly. I let them look at my hands, shoes, and clothes from that night. I was 14 years old, and something felt really off to me about her boyfriend, the police, their questions, and the public information given in the newspaper in the days to come. Some things just did not add up to me. I was young, but I also knew her family. I went to her mother's home, I babysat for her sister, and I cried with and held both her daughters. I saw firsthand their hurt, pain, and all their hearts were broken. Soon, I kind of fell off into my own whirlwind of emotions.
(Photo: Miracle stands in front of the home she shared with her mother and sister 29 years prior.)
Donald Jones Shawna’s brother tells us what he remembers. He states:
January 1, 1994, is a day that I would love to erase from my memories, but I will remember it forever as one of the worst days of my life. I was out the night before on New Year's Eve, as were many Americans celebrating the New Year to come. I was celebrating it with my sister Shawna at the New West Club that night. I remember giving her a kiss on the cheek and a big hug when the clock struck midnight when the new year rang in, and I remember telling her I loved her. We were only 13 months apart in age, and we always had a very strong and loving brother-and-sister relationship. After the club closed at 2 am, I somehow made it to my motel room that I was staying in, and I was intoxicated. Everything seemed fine when I left, not knowing the terror that the day would bring. I was at a bad time in my life where I stayed drunk quite often, but I spent that day resting and recuperating from the night before. For the life of me, I cannot remember who called me to tell me that my sister was found dead on Bald Knob Hill. At first, I could not believe it, and I damn sure did not want to believe it. Not my sister; it was impossible.
Donald continues to say:
Because I did not have a vehicle to drive at the time, I ran to Bald Knob Hill from my motel room, still not believing that my sister could be dead. I arrived at the scene, and there was a lot of commotion going on - many cops, ambulances, and many officials. I did not know who they were, but they would not let me through. I kept telling them that it was my sister and I have get through to see her. I have to know what is going on. I have to know how she could have possibly died. But they would not let me through to see her. I will never forget how empty and angry I felt at that moment. I found out that my family was down at the police station, so I ran down there to be with them, still not believing the scope of what had just happened. I arrived at the police station and saw my family. That was the moment that I realized. I saw their faces and the tears in their eyes. My sister had died. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever felt in my life. What were my nieces, Miracle, and Chrissy, going to do? Their fathers were not in their lives, and now their mother is gone. How could this happen? From the beginning, and for several years, we were always told that her death was accidental. But we always knew the truth. We always knew that she had been murdered. I just hope that someday and somehow, we will find the murderer, and he will pay for what he has done to our family, for what he did to my two young nieces by taking their mother from them. I will say to my sister, who is watching from above - someday, somehow, the evil person that did this to you will pay. I honestly believe that. I love you, sis.
(Above: Shawna's daughters visit her grave site after her death.)
When the Medical Examiner performed Shawna's autopsy, his report had some very interesting findings. He notes petechial hemorrhaging in the eyes, mud in the mouth to the back of the throat, but not in the lungs, nor was there water in the lungs, bruising and hemorrhaging over the right thyrohyoid muscle and on the underside of the strap muscles of the left side overlying the thyroid cartilage in the neck, a fracture of the right side of the hyoid bone, and a possible bite mark on the right forearm. Sperm was also retrieved from her vagina, and a complete panel DNA profile could be obtained from this.
To most in the Medical Field, Law Enforcement, or even true crime fans, we see most of this in manual strangulation. The ME even states as much in his report. It takes much force to fracture or break the hyoid bone. It can also be done using a device or clothing, but it still takes pressure. Petechial hemorrhaging means that the eyes are red, in simple terms, in a way that is usually only achieved via strangulation or asphyxiation.
The DNA seminal test did come back with a result. Although we know the suspect's full name, as this is an ongoing investigation, we have chosen to withhold that information. We can say that when the young man was questioned about it, he claimed that the encounter was mutual. So, somehow, Shawna met a strange, under-18 young man she had never met before while in transit somewhere between when she dropped off the babysitter and transferred to the truck, had sex with him, then, according to the suspect, encountered a couple whom he was staying with at the time after he left Shawna.
He then claims that he went to that couple's home to wait on their return, as they were not there when he arrived. He stayed on the porch, and they returned in the early hours of the morning, where the older male of the couple divulged to him that they had killed a woman and left her in the pond. His statement goes into detail, and we can tell you that he did know some things that were not public knowledge at the time. The couple has never been officially cleared but is not top suspects. Since there was no other evidence to tie the young man to the crime, he was released.
We can also tell you that this young man had plenty of run-ins with the law throughout his life. One such incident occurred the night of Shawna's murder near a gas station in town. Police noticed him walking on foot and questioned him. He claimed he had just come from a New Year's Eve Party and was heading home. The police did not ask him further and sent him on his way. The time of this encounter is not known other than it was well after midnight. Could the gas station have been the one across from the Medical Supplies business where Shawna would have dropped the van off and acquired the truck? That is not known either.
The suspect has gone by multiple names throughout the years, served time on seven different charges, and is currently still serving. However, he is set to be paroled next year. Those charges include stealing vehicles, drug possession, robbery with a dangerous weapon, intent to distribute, and an escape from custody in 2004. These charges steam back to 1997 in the public record, but there is a good chance that there are sealed juvenile records as well, as sources have said he has been in trouble with the law since he was 14 years old.
So, who drove the truck to its resting place at the pond? Was it Shawna and Shawna alone? On the other hand, did someone abduct her while she was getting into the truck, take control of it, and end up at the pond? The pond was a known location for both Shawna and the suspect. It was Shawna's friend's property, but the home the suspect was staying at also sat right next to the property, in view of the pond at the time. Shawna's mother lived on the suspected route to the pond from town. If you keep driving straight instead of turning right to head toward the pond, you will run right into it. If Shawna were driving, would she miss an opportunity to stop at her mother's for help? It could be explained if she were not driving at all.
The pond was also a known party area at the time. Mostly teenagers, but some adults as well. Almost every resident we have spoken to who was present in 1994 can attest to this. A party was suspected to be there that night to celebrate New Year's Eve. Was this the party, the suspect, was leaving when police stopped him? Is this how he knew it would be vacant upon his return with Shawna in tow? Were there stragglers who may have witnessed Shawna's assault? These are all the questions Shawna's daughter, Miracle, would like answered after all these years. Who killed her mother? Who killed Shawna Jones?
(Photo: Miracle visits her mother's grave decades after her mother's death.)
Time is of the essence in finding the answers. If the suspect is, in fact, the correct suspect, Shawna's family or the public could be in danger if this man is released. If you know anything about the party, the incident, the suspect, or Shawna Jones - please contact the Henryetta DA's Office. You can also send anonymous tips through our website at www.thesirenspodcast.com/contact. You never know if you could help solve this case.
Shawna's Daughter, Miracle Lea
All Photos provided by Miracle Lea or taken by Raven Rollins.
Newspaper clippings from The Henryetta Paper and Tulsa World.