CHICAGO (AP) - Searchers on Monday found the body of a mother of four who vanished after an early December car crash that killed her husband, solving a mystery that began with the discovery of her slipper in the snow and footprints leading away from the car.
The body of 40-year-old Tanya Shannon was found in a LaSalle County field about three-quarters of a mile from where she and her husband crashed into a light pole while returning during a snow storm from a holiday party in the early morning hours of Dec. 5. Dale Shannon was found dead behind the wheel, and his blood-alcohol content was found to be 0.266, or more than three times the state's legal driving limit of 0.08. An autopsy found he died of spinal injuries.
A sheriff's deputy who discovered the wreck found one of Tanya Shannon's slippers in the snow and footprints leading away from the car, but no other trace of her. Searchers spent days combing through the flat, snowy terrain on horseback, on foot and in helicopters, probing snow banks with poles and sweeping through soybean fields with metal detectors. The search resumed Monday because conditions had improved.
Those who knew the Shannons said they hoped Monday's discovery might offer the family, especially the children, some closure.
"I'm glad to know that the kids now will have that relief to know what happened," said Chris Kesler, who worked with Tanya Shannon at the Turtle Tap in Morris. "It's hard, but at least we now know where she is and that she's in a better place."
The clothing on the body found Monday matches what Tanya Shannon was last reported to be wearing - a red dress and a gray hooded sweat shirt - and her purse was found nearby, said LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton. The body was first spotted by a helicopter for Chicago's WBBM-AM.
Templeton said searchers had the Shannons' four children in mind as they continued their mission in brutal weather conditions.
"Four children lost their father right before Christmas, for sure, and this young lady was now missing. Hopefully we would bring some closure to the family" by finding her, he said.
An autopsy was scheduled for later in the week.
The disappearance of Tanya Shannon, a part-time barmaid widely described as a devoted mother, shook those living in and around her hometown of Ransom, a village of 383 people about 70 miles southwest of Chicago.
While Templeton acknowledges that no one will ever know why she got out of her battered car and began walking through the snow in 10-degree weather, most people assumed she was disoriented after the crash and went looking for help but didn't make it. But some speculated that perhaps she ran off or was abducted.
The Shannons' neighbor, Naomi Hauser, said she always viewed the disappearance as nothing more than a "terrible tragedy."
"I was just kind of holding my breath," Hauser said. "I had a feeling she was out in one of those fields."
Tanya Shannon's sister, Corinne Johnson, said in the days after the crash that her sister wouldn't have walked away from her life. On Monday, Johnson said she was too emotional to talk and was in the process of making funeral arrangements.
The crash occurred about six miles from the couple's home. The Shannons' four daughters, who range in age from 4 to 15 years old, have been staying with family.