Pamela Shadle gravestoneCourtesy photo Robbie Decker,
Pamela C. Shadle

Pamela C. Shadle


Suicide — or Murder?


Pamela C. Shadle
48 YOA
201 4th St. S.
Dakota City, IA
Humboldt County
January 14, 2009


Case Summary by Jody Ewing

For two years prior to her death, Pamela Shadle insisted someone was trying to kill her. She told her family she “knew too much” about local political corruption, and said if she ended up dead or shot, it wouldn’t be because she’d taken her own life.

Under normal circumstances, it may have seemed odd talk for the Dakota City, Iowa, wife and mother of two who enjoyed caring for her pets, attending garage sales and auctions, or visiting with friends and enjoying music. But in the seven years before her death – particularly the last two – Pamela Shadle’s life had become anything but normal.

Humboldt County in Iowa
Humboldt County in Iowa
Dakota City in Humboldt CountyDakota City in Humboldt County

Shortly after graduating from Ft. Dodge High School in 1978, Pam married her “best friend,” Dorman “Dean” Shadle, and the couple had made their home in the Thor and Bode areas before moving to Dakota City. For many years Pam was employed in the Chantland’s South Plant, and later worked for Casey’s General Store in Dakota City.

Dean, eight years older than Pam, had proven himself a hard worker of the first order. Although he’d left high school before graduating, he eventually earned his GED while serving with the U.S. Army. Following his military service, he worked for several different employers, ran his own welding business and also worked as a construction worker and laborer.

In the early 1990s Dean enrolled at Iowa Central Community College, received a degree in digital electronics, and went to work installing security and fire systems for a number of businesses.

Life for the Shadle family got even better in 1997 when Dean secured a position with the Snap-On Tools Corporation. His primary job involved equipment maintenance and troubleshooting problems via a laptap computer, and while working for the company he enrolled in and completed an advanced computer programming class. He enjoyed the work and its challenges, and there seemed to be no stopping how far he might go.

Pam and Dean began remodeling their older home, restoring the old woodwork and updating the plumbing. They also had a second home they planned to fix up and keep as a rental.

In August 2001, however, life came tumbling down all around the Shadles, and this time, there would be no climbing back up.

Fractured Lives

The beginning of the end arrived on August 4, 2001.

While at work, Dean fell approximately 10-12 feet from a ladder, sustaining in the fall a right clavicle fracture, fractured ribs and an occipital skull fracture. He was flown by life-flight to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and on August 5 underwent a decompression of a subdural hematoma related to the skull fracture.

Dean did not recall the fall and his fragmented memory would not return until some time later.

Once Dean began occupational therapy, Mayo Clinic officials were better able to gauge his cognitive impairments, which they called “significant.”

One therapist noted on August 22, 2001, that Dean not only was unaware of the level of his cognitive impairment, but that he required 24-hour supervision for safety.

The former computer programmer also showed deficits in problem solving and short-term memory; Dean still believed he’d be able to return to work for Snap-On Tools, even though the therapist noted he no longer had the complex problem solving and cognitive skills needed for his position.

By September, medical reports cited a number of other deficits: Dean had severe problems with auditory recall and recognition; severe problems with math and money skills; complex problem solving skills involving mental flexibility; and problems involving safety, judgment and abstract thinking.

Dean, however, continued to insist he was ready to return to his regular employment.

In May 2002 he was allowed to return to his job, where problems surfaced almost immediately. He also began having problems sleeping and developed severe bi-frontal headaches.

Much to their credit, Snap-On Tools made every effort to work with Dean, who continued his downward spiral.

Following another admission to the Mayo Clinic, Dr. David Johnson noted in December 2002 that Dean was having “very unrealistic and paranoid” thoughts. And by January 2003, Dean had begun to believe family members connected with his employer were not only conspiring to find out something detrimental about him, but that e-mails from friends and former employees contained hidden messages intended to create trouble for him.

In May 2003, Dr. S.O. Lee stated the following: “He may improve to the point of engaging in some gainful activities, but in my judgment, not enough to hold any job to maintain any gainful employment.”

Dr. Johnson said Dean seemed most comfortable in a fairly reclusive lifestyle and that as a result it seemed highly unlikely he would be able to function in a work setting and feel even minimally comfortable. In September 2003, Johnson wrote that Dean Shadle continued to express and evidence paranoid and delusional thoughts concerning a variety of matters, and that these thoughts and tendencies were not present prior to the work injury.

Based on a conference with Dr. Lee, who stated Shadle would not be able to return to work, Snap-On Tools terminated Shadle’s employment with them on October 3, 2003.

On October 20, 2003, in a letter to Dean Shadle’s attorney, signed by both Dr. Lee and Dr. Johnson, the following opinion was set forth:

It is our judgment that Mr. Shadle will continue for the foreseeable future to require daily custodial care and supervision due to his persistent and severe paranoia, and also because his memory problems prevent him from being able to take care of himself safely at home by himself. If it were necessary for Mrs. Shadle to find employment to meet the family’s expenses, this would create a serious dilemma, since Mr. Shadle does not trust anyone other than his wife. If his wife were to return to the work force, Mr. Shadle would then require daily custodial care and supervision above and beyond what could be provided by a spouse in the usual course of daily events.

Lives Descend into Madness

Pamela Shadle could no longer work and spent full-time hours caring for her husband. He became more forgetful, had problems sleeping and became paranoid with “outsiders,” including his own daughter, Dixie.

When he couldn’t remember to take his medications, Pam took over that responsibility. She got him up in the morning and prepared his meals; he wouldn’t eat unless she had made them. He trusted no one but her. Pam also began handling the family’s financial needs and responsibilities.

The home renovations, not yet finished, came to a standstill.

Things then took an even stranger turn. Pamela’s own behavior grew more and more erratic. She insisted Dean had a gun and was going to shoot her. She told one of Dean’s friends she was afraid of her husband, and the friend gave her a shotgun to protect herself. Finally, Pam was admitted to a Mason City hospital for treatment of what doctors called Bi-Polar disorder.

At the hospital, Pam met Patrick McPherren, a patient receiving treatment for alcoholism, and the two became fast friends. Pam’s life was about to become even more tumultuous.

Once Pam and Patrick were released from the hospital, Pam moved out of the house she shared with Dean and moved into the couple’s rental home at 201 4th St. South — with McPherren. The two got by on their disability checks.

At 4:43 a.m. on Wednesday, January 14, 2009, a 911 call came in to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department. The caller: Patrick McPherren, of 201 4th St. South, Dakota City. The information relayed to the sheriff’s department: Pamela Shadle had just shot herself.

Humboldt County Sheriff Dean Kruger said when law enforcement authorities arrived, they discovered a female suffering from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He confirmed the female was Pamela Shadle, 48, of 201 4th St. S., Dakota City. Humboldt County Medical Examiner Mike Sexe pronounced Shadle dead at the scene.

McPherren — quite intoxicated in the morning’s early hours — told officials he had gone upstairs to Shadle’s bedroom to awaken her so they could watch the 5 o’clock news. He said he found her lying face down on the floor in her room, and first thought she was sleeping. He’d rolled her over, he said, saw blood and thought she had a bloody nose, and said he then saw the shotgun by her feet and called 911. McPherren also told authorities he’d been sleeping downstairs but did not hear the shotgun go off and didn’t know what “woke him up.”

When officials pressed the drunken McPherren for more details, he became combative, took a couple of swings at officers, and was arrested and charged with assault and interference with official acts.

One of Pamela Shadle’s family members said she had never been an early riser, and questioned McPherren’s account of wanting to wake her to watch the 5 a.m. news. They also wondered how McPherren could not have heard a gun go off in a closed house in the middle of January. And, despite Pam’s earlier rantings about her husband Dean wanting to shoot her, said they found it hard to believe he would ever want to harm her.

They are convinced of only one thing — that Pam did not shoot herself.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was called in to assist the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to determine if foul play was involved in Pamela Shadle’s death.

About Pamela

Pamela Captola (Hahn) Shadle, the daughter of Thomas L. and Naomi Hahn, was born March 25, 1960 at Iowa City. She received her education in Fort Dodge and graduated from Fort Dodge High School in 1978. She was united in marriage to Dorman Dean Shadle — her “best friend” — on June 24, 1978.

Pamela was survived by her son, Dustin Jon Shadle; daughter and son-in-law, Dixie and Latham Hedeen; husband Dean Shadle of Dakota City; brother Gary (Rhonda) Barger of Savage, MN; and sister, Sandy (Chuck) Marienau of Hawarden. She was preceded in death by her parents and brother, Robert Hahn.

Funeral services were held Tuesday, January 20, 2009, in the chapel of the Mason-Lindhart Funeral Home in Humboldt, with interment in the Union Cemetery in Humboldt.

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5 Responses to Pamela Shadle

  1. Chris says:

    Was this in 2009 or 2004? It says 2009 at the top of the page, but reading the case summary, it states 2004.

  2. Sandy Marienau says:

    Thank You so Much Jody for taking the time to write your comments. My little sister has been gone 2 years now but I think about her each and every day. I was the one rocking her when she was 2 days old, dressing her feeding her and caring a life time for her. I walked her to kindergarten, watched her graduate from high school. Was ther when she married Dean, and was in the waiting room when her babies were born. She was always there for anyone and everyone who she thought she could help in any way. She had a hard time dealing with her and Dean’s struggles. I will never believe she took her own life. She was the most caring person I could have had the privilige of knowing, she never gave up on anything or anyone, especially her family. This world lost a Treasure when she left. Thank You Sandy Marienau

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Thank *you* Sandy, for taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment. Reading it made me realize even more what a very special little girl Pamela was and what an amazing woman she had become.

      Do you have any photos you could scan and send me for inclusion on her page? (I will provide proper attribution.) Pictures do indeed capture a thousand words. These could be photos from her childhood (with family members, with her pets, etc.) and also those from her adult life: her marriage to Dean, the birth of her first child, and so on. (Size is no problem, so the bigger the KB or MB, the better.) You may e-mail them to: jody at

      I’d also like to invite you to write — at any time — a guest post for our blog. We try to remember victims on his/her anniversary dates (birthday, date of death), but in families there are always *many* anniversary dates…. the birth of a first child, a graduation day, or any other event that held meaning for Pamela and/or her family members. You can find more info about guest blogging here:

      Thanks again, Sandy, and know how much your words meant to me. I’m so sorry you lost such a lovely part of your world.

      All best,

  3. Michael says:

    This is not a ‘COLD CASE’ . Although it was clearly a tragedy, it is
    a CLOSED CASE.. I strongly suggest you re- check you “resources’. And in the spirit of full diclosure, why did fail to speak to Patrick and allow him to respond to your libelous allegations? Even though your intention may have been honorable, you have inferred that Patrick murderd Pamela, and have defamed Mr McPherren,
    Sheriff Kruger and his investigation regarding this incident. Your style of ‘journalism’ is nauseating and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Jody Ewing says:


      Thank you for taking the time to comment on the Pamela Shadle story, and I’m sorry it offended you to the extent it did. Our goal here at Iowa Cold Cases is not to write opinion-based articles on crimes, but rather put together “case summaries” about the victims that include as many facts about the cases as we can find. (Thus the “Sources” listed at the bottom of each summary.) We try our very best to include relevant details and, at the same time, word information in ways that will not bring embarrassment or shame to either the victim or his or her surviving family members.

      We purposely do not use article titles for our case summaries (article titles alone have the ability to “slant” a story), but instead use only the victim’s name, followed directly by the type of case (Homicide, Missing Person, Triple Homicide, etc.). On Pamela’s page, I drew a clear distinction by using instead the phrase “Suicide – or Murder?” This is how we approach summaries in cases where police have ruled a death accidental or a suicide, BUT where family members have personally contacted us to state they are convinced it wasn’t a suicide or accidental death and would like us to please include their loved one’s case on our website. (We *never* seek out cases ruled suicides on our own or add them to the site without having first been asked to do so by the victim’s family, which was the case with Pamela Shadle.)

      As I’m sure you know, many deaths initially ruled suicides have often been reversed and reclassified as homicides after new details surface. I am not implying this is the case with Pamela Shadle, but nowhere in the case summary did I question Sheriff Kruger’s handling of the case or his investigation. Additionally, the only (brief) details I included about Patrick McPherren were those released to the media immediately following Pamela’s death and McPherren’s arrest for assault (and interference with official acts), which makes them “not” libelous allegations but matters of public record.

      Nor did I question McPherren’s account of wanting to wake Pamela to watch the 5 o’clock news; Pamela’s family did, and that fact is also made very clear in the case summary. As for me “inferring” Patrick McPherren killed Pamela Shadle, I did no such thing and, quite frankly, would have no reason to do so. If the circumstances surrounding Pamela’s death seemed to infer or suggest Mr. McPherren may have somehow been involved, it is because the details McPherren himself provided to police raised questions in the public’s (and the family’s) mind about what really happened.

      My heartfelt condolences go out to Pamela’s family and all those affected by her death, and I’m truly sorry you found the case summary offensive. I respected a family member’s request to add Pam’s information to our site, and also wanted to convey to readers the difficult struggles both Pamela and her husband, Dean, bravely faced and fought together after Dean’s accident. I had no ulterior motive.

      Thank you again for writing.

      Jody Ewing

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