Shana Jaros had just moved out of her parents’ house and into her first apartment in her hometown of Nokomis, Illinois. The 18-year-old was excited about the prospect of being out on her own; to celebrate, she hosted a small party at her apartment on October 31, 1995. It was Halloween night, but there wasn’t much going on in the tiny town of Nokomis; in between greeting a few trick-or-treaters, Shana and a few guests spent the evening playing cards.
There wasn’t a lot of room for entertaining in Shana’s new apartment, so she made sure to keep the guest list small. In addition to Shana and her friend, Tanya Gilmore, there were only two other people there that night: Jason Carver, who was Tanya’s boyfriend, and Billy Malloy, who was one of Shana’s neighbors. The party broke up around midnight; after her guests left, Shana got ready to go to bed. She wouldn’t live through the night.
Shana’s landlady, who lived next door to the apartment building, was the first person to realize that something was wrong. She walked past the door to Shana’s first floor apartment around 6:50 am the following morning, and noticed that Shana’s front door was wide open. Thinking this was odd, she approached and called out for Shana. When she didn’t get a response, she stuck her head in the door and saw what looked like a scene out of a horror movie. Shana was on the floor between her front door and the wall, and she was covered in blood.
The landlady quickly backed out of Shana’s apartment and summoned help. First responders arrived within minutes, but it was clear that it was already too late to save Shana. She had been stabbed a total of 54 times in her chest and neck and her throat had been slit from ear-to-ear; the coroner would later determine that she died due to a massive loss of blood. She had been fully clothed and partially covered with a quilt when her body was found, and there was no evidence of sexual assault.
Residents of Nokomis were stunned by the mur*der. Nokomis had a reputation for being an extremely safe place to live; it had a very low crime rate and violent crimes like m*urder were practically unheard of. The Nokomis Police Department hadn’t had to investigate a mur*der in over 25 years; they would be assisted in their investigation by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police.
When Duane and Debbie Jaros heard that their daughter Shana had died, they were shocked. Shana had still been living with her parents for about a week before this. They didn’t want her to move out so soon, but Shana insisted she was ready. Despite having a good relationship with her parents, she decided when she turned 18 that she wanted more freedom. After a few arguments with her parents, she began looking for her own place.
Shana moved into her new apartment last week without telling her parents about it. The small apartment had only one room and was on the first floor of a building that had been split into six identical units. These choices made her parents unhappy, and they hoped she would change her mind and move back in with them. It was too late now.
Detectives began a thorough investigation into the d*eath of Shana. Since there were no signs of breaking into her apartment, police thought Shana might have known the person who k*illed her. Though, they couldn’t say for sure that it wasn’t a stranger because Nokomis was the kind of town where everyone pitched in to help. If someone had knocked on Shana’s door in the middle of the night, she probably would have thought that a neighbor needed help and opened it.
The police thought Shana did not have any known enemies. She had just graduated from Nokomis High School a few months before she was k*illed. At the Golden Manor Nursing Home, she worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She really wanted to go to nursing school and was especially interested in working with kids and older people. In her small town, she was known as a reliable babysitter. Little kids loved her, and she loved taking care of them.
Shana’s friends and coworkers all said she was warm and friendly. She was always smiling and made people happy when she walked into a room. It wasn’t like she did drugs or lived a dangerous life; she had never been the type of teenager who got into trouble. It was hard to understand how she could have been targeted for mu*rder.
In their search for Shana’s k*iller, detectives would talk to more than 350 people. At the start of the investigation, they were flooded with tips. Even though they worked hard on the case, they were never able to find anyone who might have ki*lled her. They said that the three people who had been playing cards with Shana in the hours before she was kil*led had been questioned and were not seen as suspects. They also said that they couldn’t think of a possible reason for the m*urder.
In Shana’s building, there were only a few thin walls between the six apartments. Detectives talked to all of her neighbors to see if they had heard anything that night. The mur*der happened while one of Shana’s next-door neighbors was out of town, so she couldn’t give police any information. However, the woman who lived on the other side did hear some strange noises early on November 1, 1995. She told the police that around 4:45 am, she had heard scuffling sounds coming from Shana’s apartment, but they weren’t loud enough to worry her. At that time, she didn’t hear anyone enter or leave Shana’s apartment.
The medical examiner estimated that Shana had died just a few hours before her body was found, placing her time of d*eath somewhere around 4:00 am. None of her neighbors heard anything unusual around this time; since no one reported hearing any screams, it appears that Shana did not realize she was about to be attacked. The massive damage inflicted on her neck and throat may have made it impossible for her to scream out after the assault began.
More than 200 pieces of evidence were collected during the initial stages of the investigation; some items were sent to the state crime lab for processing, while others were sent to the FBI’s crime lab for analysis. Unfortunately, nothing that was found led detectives any closer to determining the identity of Shana’s ki*ller.
During the course of the investigation, detectives spoke with hundreds of people who had known Shana, and not a single one of them had anything negative to say about the teenager. She was a genuinely nice person who was just starting to live her life when it was brutally taken away from her in a senseless act of violence.
Investigators are committed to obtaining justice for Shana. Although it has been more than two decades since her mur*der, her case file remains active. Detectives have made several appeals for information in recent years; although they have never been able to rule out the possibility that this was a random crime, they believe that there are people out there who know what happened to Shana and hope they will finally come forward and speak to investigators.
Shana Jaros was just 18 years old when she was m*urdered in 1995. She was known for her beautiful smile and warm hugs, and she wanted to spend her life taking care of people. She was especially drawn to those who were vulnerable; she would have been a wonderful nurse who likely would have spent her career working with either children or the elderly if her life hadn’t been cut short. Her family has never gotten over her d*eath, and they have done everything possible to make sure the public never forgets that Shana’s k*iller is still out there somewhere. If you have any information about Shana’s m*urder, please contact the Illinois State Police at 217–324–2515 or Crime Stoppers at 800–352–0136.