Shane Fell met up with his brother, Brett Fell, on the evening of Thursday, June 9, 2011. They played pool at a daiquiri shop in Marrero, Louisiana for a couple of hours, then left in separate cars around 12:30 am. Shane was on his way home when he lost control of his car while driving on a winding stretch of River Road; his car flipped and ended up in a ditch between Klein Road and Marrero Road. The 36-year-old managed to climb out of his wrecked car through one of its windows.
Brett found out about the ac*cident when he called Shane a few minutes later to see if he had made it home safely. He immediately headed for the scene of the ac*cident and arrived about 20 minutes after Shane had crashed, but he was unable to find his brother. A few police officers got there around the same time, and they searched the area but were unable to locate Shane. One of his shoes was found stuck in the mud near his flipped car, but Shane had vanished. He didn’t answer any calls to his cell phone and was never seen again.
It was unclear what kind of injuries Shane might have sustained in the car ac*cident. When he spoke with Brett, he said he was fine and sounded perfectly normal. “He didn’t act scared…he knew he was on River Road…he seemed very coherent at the time.” Shane told Brett that he was going to try and find a way home from the ac*cident site, but Brett told him that he was going to drive to the scene and had assumed that Shane was going to wait for him.
A few minutes after Brett spoke to Shane, his brother called him back. Brett said he sounded a little panicky in this call, but he thought it was because he was shaken up from the car a*ccident. Shane wanted to make sure Brett was on his way, and Brett assured him that he would be there shortly.
By the time Brett got to where Shane’s car was lying upside down in a ditch, there were already several police officers and EMTs at the scene. A man who had been driving down River Road spotted the overturned car and called 911; he told the dispatcher that the car’s windshield wipers were moving, but he wasn’t sure if there was anyone inside the vehicle. Fearing someone could be trapped in the car, the dispatcher said she would send police and EMS to the ac*cident site. In the few minutes it took them to get there, Shane vanished.
According to the ac*cident report, firefighters and state troopers started searching the area at 1:30 am but didn’t find any sign of Shane. Officers were dispatched to Shane’s home to see if he had gotten a ride there; after failing to find him at his house, one of the officers went to the emergency room at West Jefferson Hospital to see if Shane had sought treatment there. After determining Shane wasn’t at the hospital, police concluded that alcohol had likely been a factor in the crash and Shane was probably hiding out somewhere to avoid being charged with driving while intoxicated.
Shane’s family and friends didn’t believe that Shane was simply hiding from police. They were worried for his safety and spent the next three days scouring the area surrounding where his car went off the road, hoping to find some clue to his whereabouts. His sister-in-law, Amber Fell, noted, “I’ve been in the ditches, I’ve been in the mud, we’ve been on the trails, the railroad tracks…abandoned warehouses.” They didn’t find anything.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office also conducted searches in the wooded area near where Shane wrecked his car and scoured the nearby Mississippi River levee. Jefferson Parish Sgt. Larry Dyess told reporters that investigators didn’t believe Shane’s disappearance was due to foul play. He noted that Shane had told his brother he was going to try to find a ride home; detectives believed he had voluntarily walked away and would show up when he was ready.
Shane’s loved ones were certain that he would have contacted them if he were able to. They thought he had either been a victim of foul play or had been involved in some kind of ac*cident after he crashed his car. It was unclear what type of injuries he might have sustained when he flipped his car; although he told his brother he was fine, it was possible that he had hit his head or suffered internal injuries that hadn’t been readily apparent. Police determined that Shane was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the acc*ident, and his car had flipped over at least once. It was very possible he had some kind of head injury.
Amber worried that Shane had either fallen into the river and been too injured to get back out or had been picked up by someone who then harmed him. She noted that Shane had been very close with his family; he had recently moved back to Louisiana after living in Savannah, Georgia, and didn’t have a large network of friends. He spent a lot of time with family members and it was completely out of character for him to go without contacting them for days at a time. He enjoyed his job as a technical writer and wasn’t the type of person to miss work without calling ahead of time.
Search dogs combed through the area surrounding the ac*cident site on June 14, 2011. It had rained and the grass in the area had been mowed after the ac*cident, however, and these factors made things difficult for the search dogs. They were unable to determine which direction Shane had gone after he climbed out of his car. Helicopters scanned the area from above but also came up empty.
On Friday, June 17, 2011, Shane’s friends and family held a candlelight vigil at the ac*cident site to raise awareness about Shane’s disappearance and to pray for his safe return. Brett, who had taken a leave of absence from his job so he could concentrate on searching for Shane, told reporters, “I would give everything I have to find my brother…without him, my life isn’t the same and it will never be the same.”
The night before the vigil, friends spent some time on the road where the a*ccident had taken place exactly one week earlier. They counted how many cars passed by at that hour and noted that there was enough traffic on the road that someone had to have seen Shane as he walked away from his wrecked car. They were certain that someone in the area had information about what had happened to Shane and they pleaded with them to come forward.
Brett admitted that he was afraid people would forget about his brother. “People might slowly forget, but we’re not. We’re going to keep reminding them that we are out here. We’re not going to stop looking for him.” Family members were working with members of Texas EquuSearch to conduct another search of the area where Shane had last been seen.
Tim Miller, the founder of Texas EquuSearch, said that the case was one of the most perplexing ones he had ever seen. He didn’t believe that Shane had fallen into the Mississippi River and was hoping that another search of the area might provide clues as to what had happened to the missing man.
Three weeks after Shane vanished, his family raised money to have a billboard placed on Interstate 10. They hoped that the billboard, which had a picture of Shane and information about his case, would bring in some fresh tips for investigators. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office was continuing to investigate the disappearance, but detectives admitted that they had exhausted all leads and still had no idea what had happened to Shane after he wrecked his car. He had literally vanished.
Weeks turned into months, and Shane’s fate remained a mystery. Although his loved ones did everything they could to keep his name in the public eye, by September 2011 the case was in danger of growing cold. Shane’s trail ended at the site of the a*ccident; his cell phone hadn’t been used since he spoke to his brother and his bank accounts and credit cards remained untouched.
Shane’s family continued to distribute missing person flyers throughout the area, and they received several tips from people who believed they had seen Shane. The witnesses said he appeared to be homeless and possibly had a head injury; he was last seen near the West Bank Expressway over Labor Day weekend. The tips filled the family with hope that Shane was still alive, and they announced that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Shane’s recovery.
Months went by and it was clear the case had stalled. As the first anniversary of Shane’s disappearance approached, his family knew little more than they had on the night he went missing. Brett admitted, “We still have no pertinent information about Shane’s whereabouts. We constantly think about him every day and we love him.”
According to the family, they hadn’t heard anything from investigators in months but they continued to pray that they would soon get answers. Brett said they wanted closure more than anything. “I’m hoping that he is out there, but I’m thinking that something bad could’ve happened and it happened pretty quick…maybe he was trying to walk away and he made his way into the street and somebody might have hit him or something.”
At the time of his disappearance, Shane was still carrying a Georgia driver’s license as he had just moved back to Louisiana and hadn’t changed his address with the DMV. Some of his friends pointed out that he might have hitchhiked out of the area and eventually made his way back to Georgia; if he had sustained a head injury, it was possible he was suffering from memory loss and thought he still lived in Savannah. Searches there, however, failed to yield any evidence of the missing man.
Over the years, Shane’s family has continued to search for him. His mother, Terrie Fell, is convinced that her son is still alive but doesn’t remember who he is. There have been several reported sightings of Shane in various homeless encampments, but to date, none of them have been confirmed. Sadly, investigators do not appear to be actively searching for Shane; as of May 2023, he remains listed as a missing person but his case has been cold for more than a decade.