Shelley Shannon

The following is a number of articles from the local media regarding Shannon and the trials that lead to her incarceration.

The Oregonian/OregonLive By Jerry Casey

Shelley Shannon

From The Oregonian of Sunday, Nov. 14, 1993 — Praying with fire: The genesis of Shelley Shannon: An Oregon homemaker sits in a Wichita jail, accused of wounding an abortion doctor. Depending upon how one views abortion, she reflects either the spirit of murder or of martyrdom. She writes: “It was the most holy, most righteous thing I’ve ever done.”

From The Oregonian of Sunday, March 20, 1994 — Shannon case becomes and issue of morality for some: The anti-abortion activist goes on trial Monday in Kansas on a charge of attempted murder, and emotions are running high

From The Oregonian of Wednesday, April 27. 1994 — Shooting of abortion doctor nets 11 years: The sentencing of Oregonian Rachelle “ Shelley” Shannon may be the beginning of a federal inquiry into clinic firebombings

From The Oregonian of Sunday, Sept. 3, 1995 — Shannon’s writings document making of a soldier: The anti-abortion protester’s diaries, letters and notes tell how she turned to increasingly violent acts against clinics

From The Oregonian of Sunday, Nov. 14, 1993 — Praying with fire: The genesis of Shelley Shannon: An Oregon homemaker sits in a Wichita jail, accused of wounding an abortion doctor. Depending upon how one views abortion, she reflects either the spirit of murder or of martyrdom. She writes: “It was the most holy, most righteous thing I’ve ever done.”

By Spencer Heinz

In the beginning there was light. In fact, they say, three flashes. And then another two or three, depending on who is talking.

“It felt like someone sandblasted the side of my face,” says a witness standing too close. “It was like a hundred little needles in the side of my face.”

Gunfire in Wichita. Bullets hit the doctor through a blizzard of auto glass. Then the suspected shooter — one Shelley Shannon, from the Oregon town of Grants Pass — met the world.

What the world saw was a woman with a bag on her head. Actually, it was not a bag. It was a bunch of paper towels. Using battlefield clerical skills, authorities grabbed a stapler and bathroom towels, and clicked a batch together for her march before the cameras.

That is the image of her moment on network TV news: Under stapled bathroom towels was Rachelle Ranae “ Shelley” Shannon, 37, an Oregon homemaker in a Wichita jail.

Just who is Shelley Shannon, and how did she come to be accused of something like this?

The charge is attempted first-degree murder, $1 million bail. Trial is set for Dec. 6 in Wichita. She is accused of trying to gun down a Wichita physician, Dr. George R. Tiller, 52, widely known as one of only a half-dozen doctors in the nation who does late-stage abortions.

Among Shannon’s reported possessions at the arrest scene: a Bible, a “Born for Battle” paperback and a doll that resembles a fetus.

Twelve hours after his ambush, the doctor returns to full-time work with bullet wounds in both arms.

But the shooting also winged a national nerve, and Shannon has become an abortion-issue icon who reflects, depending on how different people see it, the spirit of either murder or martyrdom.

“This is civil war,” Raymond L. Sharon, 47, says in Wichita. He rejects violence, so far. His eyes move. He holds a Bible in his hands. “This is America’s new civil war.”

“The rescue movement is really coming to a crisis point just about now,” says Jeffrey Kaplan, 40, an Alaska-based researcher of radical religious movements who has heard from Shannon. “And whatever Shelley is accused of is a product of that.”

Within this American tinderbox, who is Shelley Shannon?

“A raging fanatic,” says the doctor’s agent in Wichita.

“Angelic,” says a convicted firebomber from a Kentucky prison.

“A very motherly person, very orderly, very respectful,” says her astonished father in Florida.

“To me,” says a devastated younger sister in Central Washington, “I couldn’t ask for a better sister.”


The gunfire flared on a sunbaked concrete driveway outside the doctor’s clinic gate on a hot Thursday evening in deep summer — 7:12 p.m. Aug. 19.

The spot is two footsteps away from where the grass is worn to dirt by the daily shuffle of picketers.

The state is Kansas, city of Wichita, population 304,000, an aircraft-building center for the nation and home for all the other things that the local chamber of commerce assures are closer to what Wichita is than the thought that someone — “an outsider,” they repeat — has come to town and allegedly shot a doctor who does abortions.

Witnesses say a woman stepped onto the driveway as Tiller was driving home for the night. Then came shots. The woman ran. Four hours later, police arrested the suspect, Shelley Shannon, about 170 miles away at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Okla. She was only doing the proper thing: returning her rental car, mileage 409 miles.

After Shannon’s arrest, Oregon State Police raided her Grants Pass home and dug into her yard. They say findings there fuel investigations into potential links with clinic firebombings elsewhere. Among the items seized:

Copies of “The Army of God Book.” Documents about explosives. Burned marijuana cigarettes. Shannon’s 1992 diary. “Soon everyone will know a lot more about other works of mine,” Shannon later writes from jail.

And in a letter police say was intended for her daughter, Shannon wrote:

“I’m not denying I shot Tiller. But I deny that it was wrong. It was the most holy, most righteous thing I’ve ever done. I have no regrets. I hope he’s not killing babies today.

“If he is, at least I tried,” the letter went on. “His coming after me with his vehicle, swerving all over, even after being shot (hopefully), reminds me of in Sodom &/or Gamorrah(?) when the angels smote the perverts with blindness & still they kept coming after them.”


Who is Shelly Shannon?

The suspect will not say. Through others at first, she says she will say nothing of where she has lived or she has known before her recent years in Oregon.

But the question lingers. Lots of people have a cause. But not all end up in Wichita. Were her growing up years that much different from anyone else’s?


David Shannon, Shelley’s husband of 19 years, answers the phone in their Grants Pass home.

In a quiet and precise way, he says he has no connection with the anti-abortion movement, that it is his wife’s cause, and that he is not willing to say anything about the case or about her past out of respect for her and the family.

“If you’d want to come talk to me under those sorts of conditions,” he says, “I don’t mind if you come talk to me.”

On a pretty Saturday morning, David Shannon, 37, electronics technician, answers the door. He has a beard and careful eyes. He wears a T-shirt and jeans, and his feet are bare. He has a Saturday morning kind of yawn as he pads into the kitchen.

He says they led an extremely normal life. He says his wife is an impeccable housekeeper and a fine cook and that he is not. He has been eating refried beans and you can hear the laundry thrashing in another room somewhere. Then it thumps to a stop.

“Another lesson in life-maintenance tasks,” he says on return. “Never wash your favorite cotton shirt with your terry cloth bathrobe. One of the basic rules.”

These days, he lives alone with his kitchen table. It supports mail, family snapshots and his ashtray of 15 butts on a layer of gray. Home is a rental in the trees: a well-kept beige, one-story, ranch-style house with mossy stepping stones out front. Their two children, Angi, 19, and David, 18, moved out to start their own lives — Angi to an apartment a few miles away; David into the Navy. And Shelley off to jail again.

He says his wife is a homemaker who happens to travel, now and then, to anti-abortion demonstrations. He speaks well of his wife. Then again, he seems to use past tense. Not much of Shelley seems in the home. Small signs remain. A rosary strung on a picture frame. He says, “Gift from one of her pro-life friends.”

He got the word this way:

At 5:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 20, five mornings after his wife departs on her trip, David Shannon fields a phone call from a friend.

“Seen the news?”


“You better sit down and look at the news.”

Lacking cable TV, David Shannon drives to a friend’s, flicks it on, sees a woman being put in a police car.

“With a bag over her head,” he says. “I recognized her voice.”

He comes home, greets a tide of reporters, leaves with a friend. Swings by his daughter’s to give her the news. Helps her through her tears. Takes calls from shocked relatives.

He rents a car, drives and drives, beholds his wife in jail. Gets to hear her on the phone and to see her through protective glass: $1 million of bail away.

“Hi, honey,” his wife says. “How are you?”

“I’m fine.”

“Sorry that I caused you trouble.”

“Basically, so am I.”

But now, he is home and he can still say, “She’s a real sweet person. People go, `Oh yeah!’ But she is. She’s a real sweet person.”

He adds: “She’s a lot more conservative a person than when I married her. We’ve both evolved over the years, and we don’t resemble the people that we were. But that’s a perfectly normal evolution of personalities. That’s like my daughter’s purple hair. She’ll evolve out of it.”


“She might dispute that.”


She does. Angela Dawn Shannon, 19, who holds down two jobs as a waitress in Grants Pass, says she does not have purple hair. The dye is closer to auburn. Natural blond is under that.

Angi shows up for Sunday morning service in a floral print skirt, white turtleneck and vest. The piano plays and the pastor prays that thoughts go forth for Shelley. It is the same church where she had prayed on the eve of her Wichita trip.

The Church of the Nazarene condemns abortion but flatly rejects shooting as a solution, says Pastor James Beals. He says Shelley Shannon was a generous and quiet person who, on days of fasting, might be the only one there.

“She’d come in and slip in one of the two or three back pews and just kind of sit there and bow her head, you know. And just keep to herself.”

After church, Angi Shannon takes a seat on a curb.

She says that she drove her mother to the bus station on the morning of her Wichita trip. Her mother had asked to borrow Angi’s makeup kit — the one that police presumably seized at the other end of the line.

“Heaven knows,” Angi exclaims, “why they’d want that color of mascara for evidence!”

Angi and her mother attended an anti-abortion film five years ago that really opened their eyes. Angi says she believes firebombing clinics after people are gone is a reasonable way to stop what she sees as a national slaughter of the unborn. That raises another question. Is violence against a doctor who does abortions all right? “I can justify the life-taking of one guy,” she answers, “if it saves a thousand.”

Angi stops in her apartment and provides a copy of The Brockhoeft Report.

This is the newsletter that friends say Shannon edited for John Brockhoeft, 42, a former U.S. Postal Service mail handler who has been imprisoned since 1988 on abortion-clinic firebombing convictions. In his July 1993 edition, Brockhoeft describes his discovery of a striking personal insight into how to save the unborn.

“I really had to love the baby!” Brockhoeft writes. “I had to make sure before I approached the abortuaries at night with gasoline or explosives that I was walking in love, not just anger.”

In her apartment that day, Angi asks one last thing: Have you had a chance to talk with John Brockhoeft?


The prison in Kentucky sets a time, and suddenly one day, Brockhoeft is on the line. He proposes rules for any discussion, a notable one being that any idiotic question will trigger an immediate click not even a goodbye, just a dead line.

An example would be: What did he and Shannon talk about when she visited him in prison July 30 and Aug. 1? That would have been two weeks before her trip to Wichita.

“I’m giving this interview only because Shelley Shannon is my best friend,” he says, “and because she’s a woman, and because cowardly pro-life men will be rushing forward to condemn her before there’s even a trial.”

He shares three

First, that Shannon has written him about 350 letters over the last three years.

Second, he says the humanity of a fetus is not open to opinion and that he and Shannon are members of an emerging movement: Absolutism. “We assert what everybody knows deep down. That the unborn baby, the preborn baby, is absolutely a human being, and therefore anything whatsoever that applies to innocent human beings in general equally applies to them — to the unborn babies.”

Third, he says that Shannon accepted his request in February to start editing his newsletter, that he believes you reveal a bias when you call something anti-abortion “violence” instead of justifiable force, and that he would answer the question of who Shelley Shannon is with these words: shy (“very shy”); compassionate (“perhaps the most compassionate person that I’ve ever met face to face”); and one more.

“Angelic,” he says. “I guess that says it all.”


One day, the phone rings.

“This is Rachelle Shannon,” the voice says.

There is lots of noise in the background. Her voice has plenty of verve.

During a hurried 10 minutes, she says she is a “rescuer,” that she’s the oldest one in jail, that she wasn’t a cheerleader and that she simply will not reveal anything about where she is from.

“Just say I was born in Wisconsin and led a very average life,” she says. “I had a great childhood, I can tell you that,” she adds. “I wasn’t abused at all.”

She says goodbye with speed.

“Guard’s giving me the eye,” she says. “Gotta go.”


Then a letter arrives, the first. It is in pencil with clear block letters. “I have always known that abortion is wrong, but until I became a Christian, I really didn’t care what other people were doing to their own kids,” Shannon writes. “As a Christian, I can’t turn my back on the ones who need our help the most: little babies who are being cruelly murdered.”

She adds: “If you want to love your neighbor as yourself, do what you would want someone to do if you were the one they were going to kill.”


A trip to a Northeast Portland house gives some context to those thoughts.

This is headquarters for a glossy magazine, Life Advocate, which serves as the national rescue movement’s most comprehensive source of news.

Police, in fact, listed copies of Life Advocate among goods seized from Shannon. Police said one page was open to a 1991 story on George Tiller. Headlined “The Wichita Killer,” that story begins with these words:
“Tiller, `an advocate for women?’ Explain that to the children whose bodies have gone up like raw kindling in his privately owned gas chamber.”

Beyond the door is an airy set of rooms with computer screens, a refrigerator and Life Advocates with headlines such as “Fetal Tissue Harvesting” and “The Use of Force: A Biblical Look.”

Those speak to the rescue movement. Knowing Shelley Shannon requires knowing the rescue movement, and here is a glimpse: It is a fervently Bible-centered segment of America’s much broader anti-abortion movement. Rescuers give their lives to praying and blocking clinics and facing jail time for this reason, they say: to serve God by rescuing “the unborn” from the abortions that they see as nothing less than murder.

But now comes the crisis. The rescue movement has a two-decade history of professing nonviolence; but Shannon, accused of attempted murder, describes herself as a rescuer. And Life Advocate has horrified some of its rescue readers and others by leaving the impression it endorses the Wichita shooting.

On this autumn day, straightforward explanations come from Andrew Burnett, who is the Life Advocate publisher and executive director of an Oregon nonprofit religious corporation called Advocates for Life Ministries Inc.

“You hear people say violence never solves anything, or whatever,” Burnett says. “That’s an absurd notion, to say that violence never solves anything.

“The police, just 10 blocks up here,” and Burnett points his finger, “just blew a guy away the other night. And why did he do that? Because he was about to run over a cop. In other words, violence does solve something. That cop is alive.”

Some people, Burnett says, might jump to the wrong conclusion that Shannon is “some kind of a nut case.” In truth, he argues, Shannon seems motivated by compassion for the unborn and is not unusual in the movement.

Burnett follows this train of thought:

If you really believe abortion is murder, then you may have a right — or even a duty — to consider killing an abortion doctor as a last-ditch defense of those you see as defenseless: the “unborn.”

That sense of militancy puts Life Advocate, with a stated circulation of 4,000 people in the United States and 20 foreign countries, into the extreme minority. Only a few of the better-known activists nationally have publicly said the same.

If the court decides that she was the shooter, would you say that Shannon did a good thing?

“It’s pretty hard for me to say that she didn’t,” Burnett says.


Myrna Shaneyfelt describes herself as a close friend of Shannon’s. But Shaneyfelt is in the anti-abortion mainstream: That means she also calls abortion murder but does not consider killing a solution. She condemns the Tiller shooting and the leanings of Life Advocate.

“It’s like we’ve been shot ourselves,” she says. “If they would advocate violence, then shoot me first.”

Shaneyfelt is head of the Josephine County Right to Life, an anti-abortion group in Grants Pass. Shaneyfelt met Shannon in 1988 when Shannon showed up with her daughter for a right-to-life movie on abortions. After the meeting, Shannon Shaneyfelt “I had no idea about abortion.”

Shannon home-schooled her two children through high school.

But she went on rescues now and then, and sometimes she took beatings.

In 1988, on her first big rescue in Atlanta,Shaneyfelt and others claim an officer dragged Shannon down the aisles of a jammed police bus, her head bouncing off metal. Shaneyfelt says Shannon was in handcuffs and ended up under a half-dozen others.

A year later, they returned for sentencing. The judge offered them community service in their hometowns. Shannon refused. “We have not done anything wrong,” Shaneyfelt recalls her saying. “We will go to jail.”

It was during two weeks in jail that Shannon took another step toward becoming who she is today. Receiving anti-abortion mail filled her with appreciation. She pledged to pass the blessings on. Back home again, Shannon obtained lists of anti-abortion activists in jail and wrote to nearly every one.

One was Michael Griffin, 31, jailed since March on a murder charge of gunning down a Florida physician who performed abortions, Dr. David Gunn. Shaneyfelt recalls her friend’s reaction.

“She said, `I don’t see how you can condemn a man who I think really has done a godly act.’ And I said, `God wouldn’t do that.’ ”


The plane sets down in Wichita. “He kills the babies on Tuesday,” a local cleric says.

And this is Tuesday. In the morning dark and chill, already the cleric and others have started their daily vigils.

A woman brings a rosary. She kneels on dirt at the driveway’s edge, right next to where the shooting was.

Gunfire changed the rhythm little. It remains a true morality play, each side to the other the role of evil unrestrained.

The sky is purple behind the clinic. As night recedes, the purple turns violet, gold, red. Trees whisper, birds and traffic rumbles a block away.

This is the day, according to weekly routine, when the abortion process begins for another set of pregnancies. It starts, a public relations person says, with the injection of a lethal drug into the heart of the unborn fetus. That kills the fetus instantly. But the actual delivery or removal of the fetus can take from hours to about four days.

Protesters are allowed onto the outer driveway and the sidewalk. But they may not legally cross the line and enter through the gate.

The pencil-thin seam of tar that runs the width of the open gate is the line of demarcation in this local civil war.

Just inside the gate are volunteers who wear yellow vests that display two phrases: “Pro Choice” and “Patient Escort.”

Just outside the gate are the sidewalk picketers. Most walk silently, carrying rosaries or signs. Others, who call themselves “sidewalk counselors,” wave at car windows and try to dissuade passengers from abortions ching last-ditch options — shelters, food, counseling, adoption programs and so on.

The sidewalk regulars include a nun, a retired fighter pilot, a bank manager, clergyman, homemakers and a former pizza company executive. Some claim they have been shoved, sworn at, hosed down. The yellow vests deny it. The only way to know the truth is hang around for days.

An occasional car will squeal in. Some patients come in taxis. Some come in rental cars. And others drive in on their own: bug-spattered bumpers from cross-country trips, a man at the wheel and the woman looking wan.

They bounce over the driveway. A sidewalk counselor calls.

“Give your baby life!” she “Give your baby a choice! Give your baby a birthday!”

From just inside the open gate, two yellow-vested volunteers pass the time with taunts. When the caller yells, “Your baby’s heart is already beating, it has fingers and toes,” a taunter interjects, “How many fingers and toes?” Or: “Don’t forget the part about `fingerprints.’ ”

The one who mentions the fingerprints is Paul A. Wilson, 77. During a quieter moment, he describes himself as a retired motivational speaker who once held anti-abortion views.

“I always thought Christians,” he says, “were peace-loving, people-loving folks.”

But life moves on.

“Bunch of bigots,” he says today. “They think if you don’t behave exactly as they do, you belong to Satan and oughta be shot or killed. That’s putting it pretty rough, I guess. Most of them are good people. But there’s a fringe whose hearts are filled with hate.”

But no one has a corner on that on the street where gunfire was.

“God is life,” the woman with a rosary tells a yellow-vested volunteer. “And you can’t be `in life’ when you are `in sin’ killing people and helping other people kill people.”

“I’m not killing anybody or helping anybody kill anybody,” the yellow-vested man replies.

“Sure you are,” the woman says. “You help every one of these women get in there to help them kill — even though they’re in confusion!”

“According to the Bible,” the yellow-vested man replies, “life begins at birth.”

That really sets things off.

“The Catholic Church has always acknowledged that there are errors in the Bible scientifically,” the woman seethes. “But that does not affect the word of God!”

“No they haven’t!” insertsa yellow-vested woman.

“Yes they have, you don’t know!”

“I’m Catholic, you stupid cow!”

“You are not Catholic!”

“ ‘fraid so, cow!”

“You are an excommunicated Catholic!”

“Oh,” says the yellow-vested woman with a lisp that she affects. “Are you gonna eth-com-MUNI-thate me, you cow?”

“No. The day you had your abortion, you were excommunicated by your own action!”

“I never had one, you cow! God, you’re dumb!”

And so forth.

This is only a sideshow. They get to blow off steam. But it reveals more: an underside of spite. Depersonify your enemy. After that, anything goes. This is where one side calls abortion a “procedure” while the other says “murder.” A “clinic” becomes “an abortuary.” In the uncivil war of symbols, there is no middle ground.

Oh, and by the way, the doctor appears in a flash. He has been coming to work in an armored truck since shooting day. This time, though, he jounces past in a Cadillac. It is hard to catch a glimpse. It might be glasses, mustache, combed dark hair. Like Shannon, the doctor is a phantom.


Peggy Jarman, 52, earrings and spectacles, is public relations director for George Tiller’s clinic. She also is the former executive director of Planned Parenthood of Kansas. She has an opinion of Shelley Shannon.

“The picture I have,” Jarman says, “is that she is a raging fanatic who has traveled all over the country against abortion.”

Jarman works out of a nearby house in an office that displays bumper stickers that say, “Hatred is NOT a Family Value.”

She speaks for Tiller these days. That is because people from all over the world have been calling since the shooting. She says Tiller, clinic owner and sole physician, performs 2,500 to 3,000 abortions a year. Jarman says she hates it when the anti-abortion protesters claim their protests are “nonviolent.ees them, in the least, as psychologically violent. And she contends that many of the same activists who decry abortion also condemn sex education and contraception.

“Their worlds and their lives,” Jarman says, “seem horribly black and white to me.”


Shannon’s new address: County Adult Local Detention Facility.” She wears an orange jumpsuit. A lieutenant’s knowledge of who she is amounts to who she is not.

“She is not giving us any problems,” he says, “and that’s what we look at.”


The woman with jet black hair, a charcoal suit and a white blouse is Nola Foulston. She is the Sedgwick County District Attorney. She will prosecute the case.

When police arrested Shannon, Foulston got on the phone and ordered her people to cover that woman’s face. The reason: to keep her picture out of the news until after a suspect lineup. So they stapled all those towels.

Didn’t work, though. TV and the papers just ran mug shots. The question remains: What do you know about Shelley Shannon?

The DA turns the question around: What do you know?


Inside a nearby building, the public defender’s waiting room is purely functional: bruised metal cabinets, thumbtacked poster photo of the Statue of Liberty, no-smoking 02sign, chalkboard for signing in and out, a balding fiber carpet.

E. Jay Greeno, chief public defender, busy man in purple suspenders, says this case is nothing exceptional in terms of doing what he always needs to do.

“You’re dealing,” he says, “with someone’s life.”

Who is Shelley Shannon?

Greeno replies that he still is trying to find out for himself.


Back in Oregon, another letter arrives.

“I did not feel it would be best not to meet with you; that was entirely Jay’s idea. I argued with him, but he was insistent.”

The letter proceeds. “Tell your boss you don’t need to do a story about me. All you need to do is show people the truth about abortion, and they should be able to tell that real people are really being murdered by real mass murderers. Who in their right mind wouldn’t try to stop them?”


Public records point Robert Dean Pauli, 56, answers the phone.

“Someone has gotten ahold of her and twisted her mind in some way, shape or form,” he speculates. “I blame these abortion activists for trying to infiltrate her into their organization to do what she’s done, if she did it.”

He says he has not seen her for more than a dozen years, but he also says, in so many words, that a father’s love never ends.

“As a child, she was very intelligent, very well-behaved. When I met her very rarely after our divorce, she was a very motherly person. Very orderly. Very respectful. Loved her husband. Loved her children. To me, that was Shelley.”

He says he was married to Shelley’s mother from 1955 through 1969, that they had seven children, that the first one died after 12 hours, and that Shelley was their first surviving child.

She was born in the Wisconsin town of Beaver Dam on March 31, 1956. Her father was in construction. The family moved every year or two. From birth through 12 years old, Shannon lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota and Indiana.

In 1969, he and her mother divorced.

“I haven’t talked to her for a long time,” Shelley’s father says. “Maybe she’s not the same person she used to be. I don’t know.”


Her mother, whose maiden name is Vernis Geraldine “Trudi” Saulsbury, 55, lives in Central Washington under another last name by marriage. She cries when she answers the telephone.

“It’s just a shock to all of us, you know?” she says.

She goes on.

“She was a beautiful student and a wonderful mother. She was just A-One. She sang in the church choir and everything.”

Shelley’s mother has been married four times, twice to the same man, a former grocery store owner.

She has a papery voice and a cough. She says she has not seen her daughter for five years, but that Shelley had just about every week. In fact, Shelley had recently started sending $20 a month. Shelley’s last letter arrived before the trouble in Wichita. She heard the news on the radio about 6 in the morning, then saw her on TV with a bag on her head. At the time of this phone call, she still has not heard from her daughter.

With a family of seven children, Shelley’s mother remembers a life of doing laundry through the night, reading bedtime stories, leading prayers of “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”

Shelley was well-versed in such words. One day when Shelley was not quite three years old, the family was in church when Shelley turned antsy.

“She stood up and she said, `Daddy, I gotta go tinkle.’

“And he said, `Be quiet.’

“And she said, `Daddy, I’m not kidding. My cup runneth over.’ And the minister just quit the sermon and laughed.”

Shelley was an enthusiastic artist,

She spent four years in Chelan High School, displayed great aptitude in math.

Near the end of her junior year, she became pregnant.

She gave birth to Angi halfway through her senior year and graduated five months later in June 1974.

Six months after graduation, and with Angi nearly a year old, she married David Shannon in a Christmastime ceremony at the local United Methodist Church. One of Shelley’s sisters had married there the day before, and her practical mother had placed two tablecloths under the condiments for the back-to-back receptions.

“So the next day, I just had to pick one up and throw it away,” her mother recalls, “and I was all set for the next one.

She does not know why her daughter became committed to a struggle against abortion. She says Shelley never had an abortion to her knowledge, that she had no interest in guns as a child. One of the sisters enjoyed target shooting when the family went camping. “But Shelley never would.”

She remembers the morning her daughter began first grade.

“I laid her out everything pretty,” her mother says, “and then I cried all the way to school.”


Linda Susan Winship, 37, Chelan, expresses surprise and grief to hear that her high school friend is in jail.

They were classmates. Shelley Shannon’s 1974 marriage certificate lists Winship as witness.

Winship says they kept in touch with letters and occasional visits for several years after graduation.

She did not know about Shelley’s fight against abortion. n high school, Winship says, Shelley did not seem religious. But she believes Shannon, in the early 1980s, started describing herself as a born-again Christian.

Winship recalls her friend as deeply emotional, fun-loving, not cliquish, outgoing with her small but certain group; she enjoyed partying, dating, dancing, bowling.

Winship says two things stand out.

One was that Shelley was pregnant as a senior. The other was the gunshot death of a stepfather near the end of her sophomore year.

she recalls, her friend pulled into herself — became quiet, spent time alone.

First, the death: James Grady Vaught, Shelley’s mother’s second husband, died instantly of a “gunshot wound of chest” on May 12, 1972, according to the death certificate. The marriage had lasted 21 months. Vaught was 35. Shelley was 16.

The certificate says it happened in a Chelan-area cemetery. Listed circumstance:

Sgt. Robert A. Cochran, Chelan Police Department, says the home was well-known within the bureau as the scene of periodic “domestic” calls.

“Family Dispute,” says one police report from Nov. 10, 1971, when Shelley was a sophomore. The episode’s listed time was 3 a.m., and the report reads: “Mrs. Vaught stated that her husband had threatened her with a knife — he denied the accusation. The subjects were quarreling, and it was quite apparent that they had been drinking! They both agreed to keep peace and go to bed.”

And then the pregnancy. That happened near the end of Shelley Pauli’s junior year. She had just turned 17. Winship recalls no talk of abortion.

“I know the baby was something very important to her, very special to her,” Winship says. “I think it gave her a sense that this was something that no one could ever take away.”

Her child, Angela, was born Jan. 14, 1974 — halfway through Shelley’s senior year.

Pregnancy brought changes.

“The Shelley I knew was outgoing and bubbly and always wanting to be where the action was,” Winship says. “And all of a sudden, she’s into a shell.”

Shortly after graduation day, Winship says, Shelley packed a car and took her baby to live in the Washington community of Bellingham. She met David Shannon while camping along the way.

Six months later, in Lake Chalan United Methodist Church, David Shannon married Shelley Pauli. She carried red roses and white carnations.

David had joined the U.S. Marines, and the young family spent much of the next four years in communities next to Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Twentynine Palms Marine Base in Southern California.

Winship says her friend had displayed a sense of love, humor and certitude during her high school years.

“She was able to take hard things coming at her and come through it,” Winship says. “I admired her for that strength of character. That she could go through so much and still maintain her love of life and people.”

And then came word from Wichita.

“I was in shock for two weeks, almost literally sick,” says one of Shelley’s sisters, Rhonda McCallister, 36. “It’s still hard for me to believe this is happening.”

McCallister sees her older sister as an inspiration, a calming influence, the level-headed one with almost no discernible temper.

“I guess with her — in this order — she loves God, her family and friends, animals and the outdoors.” The family line on Shelley Shannon: She is the last one they can imagine getting into trouble.


Another letter arrives. Like the others, it is in pencil. Some of the sentences are punctuated with happy- face doodles or ones with little frowns. She maintains her concern for family privacy. But she shares more than before.

“My parents were high school dropouts who married young,” she writes. “I was their first surviving child. I’m glad abortion wasn’t legal then, or my mom would have been under a lot of pressure to abort me, probably.

“I remember living on my grandparents’ farm when I was perhaps two or three. I used to `help’ grandma gather the eggs from her chickens and can still remember once when she let me carry the special double-yoked egg that was for grandpa’s breakfast, warning me to be careful not to drop it.

“I excitedly ran for the house and fell, smashing the egg all over. When grandma caught up to me, she just said, `I guess grandpa will have to have two eggs for breakfast.’ ”

From , Shannon says her favorite memories are of times spent around the creeks in Indiana — fishing, chasing snakes and climbing mulberry trees.

“Of course, there were bad times too, but if everything was (were?) made of gold,” she writes, “it wouldn’t be valuable.”

She goes on about George Tiller. She writes that she believes government will go to great lengths to protect those who perform abortions while penalizing those who try to stop them.

“As for me, well, they raided our house, and they even found the stuff I had buried in back in the woods by using a metal detector,” her letter continues. “They have my 1992 diary now, too. Soon everyone will know a lot more about other works of mine.

“But I don’t regret anything I’ve done in defense of other people’s very lives. Even if I spend the rest of my life in prison, it is OK. I made good use of the time before I got locked up. I did a good life’s worth of work. I have no regrets.”

The final letter starts to end.

“My life, beginning now, is about the opposite of what it was,” she writes. “At home I did a lot of work that seemed pretty futile, didn’t bother much with things like my hair and myself, ate `high off the hog,’ did whatever I wanted to, and slept in a very comfortable bed where it was very dark and very quiet.

“A little owl often cooed from an oak by the deck at just the right time in the morning. Of course, there were the things I didn’t like too: lizards and spiders!

“Here there are always lights on, there’s lots of noise, and everything is different. I still have two of my favorite things. I can still run, but in a small gym instead of on my path in the woods. And I get lots of great mail.

“I quit reading the hate mail. Someone suggested I write `Return to Sinner’ on it or just trash it.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of `love mail.’ I would never have expected so much support. And even the letters from those who think I’ve gone off the deep end provide entertainment. Most of the mail has been very good, and there’s been quite a bit from those who seem to want to avoid the subject: `You’ve been rather busy.’ `Needless to say a lot has happened since I last saw you.’ `Why do you keep getting yourself into these predicaments?’ `You’re full of surprises.’ ”

At this point, her pencil has formed the image of a smiley-faced doodle.

And in the lefthand margin, pressed to an inch-wide space, she shares a passing moment.

“I really like all the ladies here. We are all getting along well and watch out for each other. I overheard a couple of them talking about me:

“ ` Shelley’s not a real criminal.’

“ `I know, she just saves babies.’

“One lady even punched one who appeared on my state’s list of witnesses against me.

“She told her, `I’ll give you something to testify about!’ Pow!”

As trial arrives in just three weeks, lawyers have their hands full.

Friends and families are in pain.

The doctor has ridden in heavy armor.

Some voices speak of civil war.

But from a jail in Wichita, Shelley Shannon sends out signs that she has decided who she is.

From The Oregonian of Sunday, March 20, 1994 — Shannon case becomes and issue of morality for some: The anti-abortion activist goes on trial Monday in Kansas on a charge of attempted murder, and emotions are running high
By Spencer Heinz

Who squeezed the ambush trigger is at the center of it all.

But more is at stake in the trial of Shelley Shannon.

It also serves, in some minds, as the latest test in America’s quest for where to draw the moral line.

Rachelle Ranae “ Shelley” Shannon, a 37-year-old homemaker and activist from the Southern Oregon town of Grants Pass, goes on trial Monday in Sedgwick County District Court in Wichita, Kan.

Authorities have charged her with trying to murder Dr. George R. Tiller, 52, during an Aug. 19 attack outside the Wichita clinic where he performs abortions.

As with the early March conviction of Michael F. Griffin, 32, a Pensacola activist sentenced to life in prison for killing an abortion doctor in Florida, the Shannon trial has drawn global attention.

And for Shannon, the outcome of her trial on the attempted murder charge may not signal the end of her legal problems. That is because the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are continuing to investigate whether she has links to spates of clinic firebombings around the nation.

Shannon remains locked up in Wichita’s Sedgwick County jail in lieu of $1 million bail. Her public defender lawyer shares no strategy; he says only that she has pleaded innocent and that he plans no use of an insanity defense.

Trial security will be high.

Emotions already are.

“Pulling a gun on somebody is not a matter of `free speech,’ ” says Leslie Houston, executive director of the Oregon National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. “If she gets a conviction,” Houston adds, “I just think that sends another message to these anti-choice people that they will be punished for these kinds of things.”

On the issue’s other side, anti-abortion representatives say they believe fervently that abortion itself amounts to the ultimate act of violence — murder.

A tiny faction of the far broader movement says that if Shannon did pull the trigger, which she has suggested she did in a letter that police seized, then society should see it as justifiable homicide.

“ Shelley Shannon ought to be acquitted because she was simply trying to render the same type of defense for unborn children as we would want for born children,” argues Cathy Ramey, associate editor of Life Advocate, a Portland-based magazine that serves as the nation’s primary source of news for anti-abortion activists.

But since Michael Griffin killed Dr. David Gunn a year ago in Florida, Life Advocate has moved to the extreme fringe of the cause by claiming that killing abortion doctors may sometimes be justified.

Only a few dozen activists have publicly said the same. Such statements have been painful for the mainstream anti-abortion movement. The mainstream also views abortion as murder, but it has tried to distance itself from the fringe by insisting that the movement abhors violence and that two wrongs do not make a right.

“You just can’t go pumping people full of lead because you disagree with them,” says Myrna Shaneyfelt, head of Josephine County Right to Life, a mainstream anti-abortion group in Grants Pass.

Shaneyfelt, who has traveled to several protests with Shannon, says she believes the Wichita shooting has harmed the broader movement.

“What she’s given them,” Shaneyfelt claims, “is their own pro-abortion martyrs, lying in their own pools of blood. People can relate to that on the nightly news. But people don’t see the pictures of the dismembered preborn babies, so they can’t really identify with abortion.”

Activists elaborate: In the Michael Griffin murder case, the judge delivered a blow to Griffin’s defense team by ruling that it could not show jurors graphic videotapes of aborted fetuses. The defense had claimed those videos were partly to blame for what it characterized as Griffin’s confused mental state.

Shaneyfelt said she believes the Kansas and Florida shootings have sparked more attempts to restrict protesters.

“The government,” she says, “has the excuse now to repress us.”

Shaneyfelt’s parent organization, The National Right to Life Committee, terms it “false and offensive” for abortion-rights groups to suggest that opposing abortion causes violence.

“Such a suggestion,” the committee says in a written statement, “is like blaming the civil rights movement — and all those who courageously spoke in favor of the rights of African-Americans — for the riots or deaths that were a part of that era.”

While the outer world rages, Nola Foulston prepares. She is the Sedgwick County district attorney and the primary prosecutor on the case. She is saving her words for trial.

“We have to try our cases in the courtroom,” Foulston says, “and not play it out on the 10 o’clock news or in the morning paper.”

Shannon faces three charges: attempted first-degree murder of Dr. George Tiller, who was shot in both arms but was back on the job the next morning; and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a gun at clinic workers who gave pursuit.

Against advice from her public defender lawyers, Shannon has spoken and corresponded with some reporters. Some of her reported statements essentially admit to the shooting. E. Jay Greeno, Sedgwick County chief public defender and Shannon’s primary attorney, emphasizes that his client has pleaded innocent.

If convicted on all three charges, authorities say, Shannon would face a maximum jail time of nearly 11 years. Good behavior while serving could reduce the time to about 8 1/2 years.

Meanwhile, several Shannon acquaintances and relatives say they have been questioned before a secret grand jury in Portland. Though no charges have been filed, the Ashland Police Department has named Shannon as a prime suspect in the April 11, 1992, arson at Ashland’s Catalina Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Monday’s attempted murder trial will deal with some of these facts:

Aug. 19 was a hot day in Wichita. At 7:12 p.m., Tiller, widely known as one of only a half-dozen physicians who does late-stage abortions in cases of severe fetal abnormality, was driving out the driveway of his clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, 5107 E. Kellogg.

Witnesses claim a woman stepped into the driveway. Then came shots. The woman ran. Four hours later, police arrested the suspect, Shelley Shannon, about 170 miles away at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Okla. She was returning her rental car with a reported mileage of 409 miles.

After Shannon’s arrest, Oregon State Police raided her Grants Pass home and dug into her yard. Findings there have helped fuel the continuing investigations into whether Shannon had links to firebombings elsewhere. Police said they uncovered papers about working with explosives and Shannon’s 1992 diary. And in a letter police say was intended for her daughter, Shannon wrote:

“I’m not denying I shot Tiller. But I deny that it was wrong. It was the most holy, most righteous thing I’ve ever done. I have no regrets. I hope he’s not killing babies today.”

Since then, published reports have suggested that authorities are interested in whether Shannon is linked to clinic arsons in many places nationally, a few of which include Redding and Sacramento in California; Columbus, Ohio; and Boise.

Authorities emphasize that they have filed no charges against Shannon in any such cases. But continuing questions about her protest history — and whether there exists a national conspiracy to do violence against clinics — keep fueling the furor.

“The fact is, if we didn’t have abortion in our country — if there weren’t 4,600 babies killed every day — Shelley Shannon would never have picked up a gun to try to defend their lives,” says Denise Billings, a prominent Wichita activist.

“What’s on trial here is the fact that Americans will learn how opponents of choice have moved far beyond peaceful protest,” says Karen A. Schneider, with the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in Washington, D.C. She notes that abortion is legal under the law. “Anti-choice extremists,” she claims, “have put this nation’s reproductive health clinics under siege.”

In the outer world, semantics and vitriol help fuel the smoke and roar. But Monday’s courtroom will have a mission quiet and clear: Is Shelley Shannon guilty of attempted murder?

“I like to keep things in simple, simple terms,” public defender Jay Greeno says. “And mine are — they have leveled criminal accusations against my client and we intend to defend against those accusations.”

From The Oregonian of Wednesday, April 27. 1994 — Shooting of abortion doctor nets 11 years: The sentencing of Oregonian Rachelle “ Shelley” Shannon may be the beginning of a federal inquiry into clinic firebombings
By Spencer Heinz

A Kansas judge sentenced Oregon’s Rachelle “ Shelley” Shannon on Tuesday to nearly 11 years behind bars. But her conviction for trying to kill a Wichita abortion doctor does not begin to answer all the questions about this enigmatic activist.

Federal agencies are continuing to investigate whether Shannon, 38, a Grants Pass homemaker, has links to spates of clinic firebombings around the nation.

Spurred by names and dates in seized letters and her diary, the Oregon State Police, the Ashland Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have played parts in an inquiry into this question:

Is there a national conspiracy to firebomb clinics that provide abortions?

In a telephone call from jail after Tuesday’s sentencing in Wichita, Shannon said she knew of no conspiracy.

Asked if she had done violence against other clinics elsewhere, Shannon replied, “That’s the thing that the feds probably don’t know yet — is which ones.” She said it would be better if she did not go into detail.

Shannon said she believes abortion amounts to murder, that she did not think it was wrong to stop people from trying to murder people, that there was a loud celebration going on in the background and that it was because another inmate was about to be shipped out.

“Just a second,” Shannon said. “I have to go give her a hug.”

A moment later, she returned. She said the inmate shared her views. “She told me,” Shannon said, “I was her hero.”

Shortly after Shannon’s arrest last summer, police raided her home, dug into her yard and said they found her 1992 diary and documents about explosives. The federal ATF has said, over the years, that it has no evidence of any national conspiracy to firebomb clinics. But Shannon’s diary and related papers have refueled a serious inquiry that covers several states.

“This has been one of the more all-encompassing, significant investigations that we’ve had,” John W. McMahon, supervisor of the Portland ATF office, said Tuesday.

McMahon said his office essentially had completed its investigation and turned over a case report to the U.S. attorney’s office in Portland. A spokesman there declined comment.

Meanwhile, several Oregon anti-abortion activists, including Shannon’s daughter, Angela Dawn Shannon, 20, a Grants Pass waitress, say they have testified before a federal grand jury in Portland. They say authorities have asked them questions about the whereabouts of Shelley Shannon and others on dates of various clinic arsons in Oregon and elsewhere.

Tuesday’s sentencing closed the opening chapter of Shannon’s saga — a story that drew global interest after she tried to gun down Dr. George R. Tiller on Aug. 19 outside his Wichita clinic. Bullets hit him in each arm. He returned to work the next day. Authorities arrested Shannon hours later in Oklahoma City.

Shannon has remained jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. On March 25, a Sedgwick County District Court jury in Wichita found her guilty of attempted murder. She also was convicted of aggravated assault for pointing a gun at a nurse’s assistant who chased her. Judge Gregory L. Waller also found her in contempt of court for refusing to reveal where she obtained the gun or where she disposed of it.

On Tuesday, Waller sentenced Shannon to nine years and eight months in prison on the attempted murder and aggravated assault charges. He sentenced her to an additional year in the county jail on the contempt charge.

Under sentencing guidelines, the prison term could drop to seven years and nine months for good behavior. Shannon receives credit for time already served.

Tuesday’s sentencing drew reactions from those on various sides of the abortion issue.

“Killing in the name of life is certainly the worst kind of hypocrisy,” said Lisa B. Horowitz, political director for the Oregon affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. She called the sentencing just.

“Abortion must remain not only legal but accessible to women,” Horowitz added. “This violence is obviously an attempt to both frighten providers from providing abortions and to scare women from obtaining them.”

Myrna Shaneyfelt, head of the Josephine County Right to Life, a mainstream anti-abortion organization in Grants Pass, said she also felt justice was served. Shaneyfelt condemns abortion as no less than murder. “But it’s not going to be solved by doing violence to those who are doing violence,” Shaneyfelt said.

Paul C. deParrie, who publishes an anti-abortion magazine in Portland, called Shannon a hero and characterized her conviction and sentencing as predictable and wrong.

“You can do all kinds of other crimes in the names of other causes and get lesser sentences, so long as those causes are within the scope of the `politically correct,’ ” said deParrie, editor-in-chief of Life Advocate. It is a Portland-based magazine that has moved to the extreme fringe of the movement by saying killing may be justified, in certain cases, to stop abortions.

“It’s an attempt to tell people to disregard the lives of the unborn,” deParrie said of Shannon’s sentencing.

Shannon told the judge Tuesday in Wichita that she felt sorry for Tiller but did not feel shooting him was wrong, The Associated Press reported.

“It would be hypocritical to pretend like I did something wrong when I didn’t,” Shannon told the judge.

She vowed to never again touch a gun, not because of what she did to Tiller but because of what her actions had done to her and her family. Her husband and grown daughter were not present for the sentencing.

“You did wrong,” Waller told her. “Two wrongs do not make a right. It’s not proper to advance your beliefs through violence.”

The prison time was the maximum under state sentencing guidelines. District Attorney Nola Foulston had asked the judge to depart from the guidelines and double the sentence, and called for fines of $400,000.

But the judge ruled there was not a compelling reason to depart from the sentencing guidelines and refused to impose any fines.

Ronda R. McCallister, 36, one of Shannon’s sisters who lives in central Washington, said she had expected the worst.

“I felt they would try to make an example out of this, with it being such a political issue,” McCallister said. “She broke the law and she has to pay her dues. But she’s not a cruel and hostile person.”

In Tuesday’s conversation from jail, Shannon said the ordeal had been hard on her family. She said she had not yet called her husband to talk about her sentencing. She said it would be hard to do and that he probably would be angry.

“It’s pretty traumatic, I guess,” she said. “Can you imagine if your wife was arrested for shooting somebody?”

From The Oregonian of Sunday, Sept. 3, 1995 — Shannon’s writings document making of a soldier: The anti-abortion protester’s diaries, letters and notes tell how she turned to increasingly violent acts against clinics
By Dave Hogan and Spencer Heinz

Benjamin Brink/The OregonianShelley Shannon arrives in Federal Court for sentencing on Sept. 8, 1995 for her role in fire bombing abortion clinics.
Two women will be sentenced in a Portland courtroom Friday for attacks against abortion clinics.

Both are named Shelley Shannon.

One is an anti-abortion arsonist who shot and injured a Kansas doctor in 1993. And her letters indicate she influenced Paul J. Hill before he killed two people outside a Florida abortion clinic last year.

The other person is a homemaker whom her supporters describe as “a woman of faith and love” and “one of the more godly women in our nation today.” They liken her to heroes who battled Nazis in Germany before World War II.

“The true and complete picture of Ms. Shannon is one of a dedicated mother and wife who acted out of a deeply held religious belief that she was saving unborn babies,” wrote Shannon’s attorney, Andrew Bates.

Both pictures of Shelley Shannon will be part of Friday’s sentencing in federal court. She has pleaded guilty to setting fire to six abortion clinics and injecting foul-smelling butyric acid in the walls of two others.

Her sentencing will occur against the backdrop of a continuing national investigation into whether there is a conspiracy to commit violence against abortion clinics.

Bates said “the government attempts to paint a distorted picture of Ms. Shannon as at the center of a larger nationwide conspiracy of radical anti-abortionists.”

Although documents filed last week in Shannon’s case do not go so far as to allege a formal conspiracy, they do describe — in unprecedented detail — contacts between Shannon and a number of other militant anti-abortion protesters.

Hill, for example, visited Shannon in jail after her arrest for shooting Dr. George Tiller in Wichita in August 1993.

Shannon addressed Hill as “Dear Brave Soldier & Child of the King” in a March 1995 letter to him and told him to be careful in discussing their relationship. Prosecutors said the letter suggested that she had a role in Hill’s crime.

“Whatever you do,” Shannon’s letter said in part, “don’t talk about how I influenced you to do what you did, especially any conversations beforehand, most especially the particulars (gun, etc.), unless of course you use our code words.”

Those words are part of 33 pages of Shannon’s correspondence, diaries and other writings that prosecutors filed this week along with their sentencing memorandum.

Police seized many of the writings shortly after her arrest in the 1993 shooting case. Investigators raided her Grants Pass home, dug into her yard and said they found items including a diary and documents about explosives.

Those writings and other documents that attorneys have filed in court chronicle Rachelle Ranae Shannon’s life from her birth in Beaver Dam, Wis., in March 1956 through her arrests in recent years for protest blockades at abortion clinics, shooting the doctor in Kansas, and the string of arsons.

Shannon attended her first Right to Life meeting in 1988 and began participating in anti-abortion pickets and rallies that year.

Her life changed dramatically in 1992. Until then she had protested at various abortion clinics in six states. But it wasn’t enough.

In January of that year she tried to break into the offices of Dr. Willard Brown in Ashland, but she was unable to break in through a door.

On April 11, 1992, Shannon set fire to the Catalina Medical Center and Brown’s offices. The fire extensively damaged Brown’s quarters and reached several nearby businesses.

Under the pseudonym “Shaggy West, A.O.G.,” an acronym that stands for Army of God, Shannon wrote a detailed description of the arson under the title of “Join the Army, or How to Destroy a Killing Center if You’re Just an Old Grandma Who Can’t Even Get the Fire Started In Her Fireplace.”

The prosecutors’ sentencing document says that Shannon’s narrative serves as an instruction to others on how to perform the same crime, and that Shannon admits in it that she received “thoughts” and “ideas” from others.

“The biggest hurdle was being willing to even consider that God could indeed require this work of anyone,” she wrote. “Christians don’t do that kind of thing, do they? But prayer and God cleared that up. Then I realized that I needed to stop the killing too. I prayed `God, if you really want me to do this, you’re gonna have to show me how, because I can’t even get the fire started in my fireplace.’ ”

She practiced some things, trying different approaches with gasoline-filled milk jugs.

“I also told God I needed a five-gallon gas can,” she wrote. “One day I got back from court in another city, and found in my garage a five-gallon gas can! My husband said they were throwing it out at work, so he brought it home. God worked out every other detail as well.”

One night, she knew it was The Night. “It was time. So I went to the store and got the candles and lighter.”

She drove alone to the Ashland clinic, and though she fully expected to get caught, she succeeded in breaking a window, pouring gasoline inside and starting a fire. Her goals were to shut the abortion clinic down and not hurt anyone.

“Praised God all the way home,” she wrote. “Later I found out the mill was completely destroyed. He still isn’t killing any babies so far.”

She went on to set more fires, such as one at the Lovejoy Surgicenter in Portland on Aug. 1, 1992.

“Was reading my Bible, and God clearly said, `I’m going to require a little more of you, Shelley,’ ” she wrote. “And the Scripture I read just then was `The way of the righteous is made plain’ in Proverbs 15:19, and an idea came to me of tossing jugs of gas on the roof of Lovejoy and lighting it with a firework (have lots of ground bloom flowers which throw out sparks but aren’t too noisey). Practiced and found I can’t throw whole gallons high enough.”

Her typewritten notes go on to say that she did not think it would look good to park in the center’s lot, so she parked nearby “and carried my suitcase thing with five 1/2 gal. jugs of gas, newspapers folded up to put in tops, lighters and fireworks. Was disguised with charcoal beard, stocking cap, men’s clothes.”

She tossed two or three gasoline jugs but had trouble lighting them. Finally, her last piece of fireworks ignited the gas, and she hurried away. The fire did only slight damage.

But there were other fires to come. She had made the transition. She had gone from a homemaker to a soldier who believed her war required her to shoot a gun, set fires and encourage others to do the same.

She faces 15 to 20 years in federal prison when she is sentenced Friday. She has pleaded guilty to arson, use of fire to commit a felony, interstate travel in aid of a crime of violence, interference with commerce by violence, and arson resulting in physical injury.

That term will be in addition to seven years she has left to serve for the Kansas shooting.

“Once a mere student of violence and later a practitioner of it,” prosecutors write, “defendant has become a teacher of it.”