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Many things don’t add up in 21-year-old Douglas James Shondel II’s mysterious March 2001 death.
Shondel’s pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Knight, told officials on Sunday, March 11, 2001, that she’d found him unresponsive in the bathtub of the couple’s 100 N. 16th St. apartment in Fairfield, Iowa, the water still running from the shower.
Rather than ask to use the next-door neighbor’s telephone to call 911, Knight walked one and one-half blocks to gather some of the couple’s friends, who returned to the 16th Street apartment with her to allegedly clean everything before anyone called EMTs.
First responders said things seemed “strangely out-of-place” and “didn’t coincide with stories provided to them by Knight and Shondel’s friends.”
Medics transferred Shondel to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, where Shondel was pronounced dead on arrival.
The medical examiner ruled “cause of death” as blunt force trauma (to the head), and ruptured vertebrae in the upper cervical spine (a broken neck).
Toxicology reports indicated Shondel had a small amount of marijuana in his system, but the medical examiner said no drugs of any kind played any role in Shondel’s death.
Shondel’s “manner of death,” however, is classified as “Undetermined.”
Neighbors told the media they were well aware of some type of ongoing feud between the couple who lived in the upstairs apartment and the people who lived just down the block … the same people Ms. Knight brought back to the apartment about two hours before medics arrived.
Just 10 days before his death, Shondel sustained other injuries while visiting the alleged “friends,” said one neighbor who knew the couple.
One witness told police that earlier on Sunday — the day Shondel died — he’d seen some men carrying Shondel’s body up the apartment stairs. “Blood ran freely from the victim’s ears,” the witness said, though he didn’t know if Shondel was already deceased at that time.
Police searched the couple’s Fairfield apartment, but those questioned by police gave conflicting versions of what happened in the hours before medics received the call for help. Additionally, someone had clearly destroyed or taken critical evidence that should have still been present at the scene given the method and circumstances under which the decedent died.
Police and family members had many concerns and more questions than answers. Some of those concerns include:
Some of the questions include:
Shortly after arriving at University Hospitals, an emergency room nurse asked Knight — a certified nursing aid — whether she’d attempted to perform CPR; Knight allegedly responded she didn’t know how to do it.
According to reports from individuals close to the couple (names on file and available to investigating agencies), Knight did not want the child she carried and allegedly “had people punch her in the stomach” after Shondel’s death.
Less than two weeks after Shondel’s suspected homicide, Knight gave birth to a stillborn infant — a baby boy.
A Fairfield Ledger article dated Monday, March 26, 2001, provided the infant’s obituary:
Damen Michael SHONDEL
Damen Michael SHONDEL, still-born infant of Crystal KNIGHT and Douglas James SHONDEL, died Thursday, March 22, 2001, at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City.
Graveside services were held at 1 p.m. today at the Evergreen Cemetery in Fairfield.
Raymond Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
He is survived by his mother, Crystal KNIGHT; one brother, Kameron KNIGHT; maternal grandmother, Penny ROCKWELL; paternal grandfather, Douglas J. SHONDEL, all of Fairfield; and his paternal grandmother, Pamela Sue COTO of Lincoln, Neb.
He was preceded in death by his father March 11, 2001.
~ Fairfield Ledger, Monday, March 26, 2001
The infant was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Fairfield.
Douglas James “DJ” Shondel, II, was born April 30, 1979, to Douglas and Pamela Shondel.
He died from a broken neck and blunt force head trauma injuries sustained on Sunday, March 11, 2001.
In addition to his parents, survivors included two siblings, Deena and Josh.
Funeral services were held at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 15 at Raymond Funeral Home.
Douglas Shondel was laid to rest at the Evergreen Cemetery in Fairfield about a month before his 22nd birthday.
If you have any information about Douglas Shondel’s suspected homicide, please contact the Fairfield Police Department at (641) 472-4146.