Gatlinburg businesswoman’s death still a mystery

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GATLINBURG (WATE) — The 2009 murder of an up and coming Gatlinburg businesswoman is still a mystery.

Shannon Hercutt, 40 died last August. At first, investigators said it was a late night car accident.Her Cadillac Escalade was found at the bottom of a 125-foot embankment.

Later they revealed evidence that showed she had been killed.

Still, more than six months after Hercutt’s death, no arrests have been made.

For her family every day that goes by without an arrest is one day too long.

Shannon’s father, Ted Hercutt, says she was a loving child who grew up into a beautiful, go-getter businesswoman.

“She said, ‘I want to be in the real estate business, Dad. I want to know everything so no one pulls one on me,'” Ted says.

In 1995, Shannon opened Auntie Belham’s nightly rentals in Gatlinburg. And in the next 14 years, with a lot of hard work, the business grew significantly.

“But Shannon could be very hard headed,” Ted says.

In her climb to the top, her father says, Shannon had made a few enemies along the way. “She had a boyfriend she broke up with.”

There were also business conflicts. And Shannon’s relationship with some of her family members, including her father, had also become strained.

Then on August 3 2009, there were reports of a tragic late night accident.

Shannon had crashed her brand new Escalade driving down a long winding Sevier County road. The story was that the vehicle had plummeted a 125 feet, killing Shannon.

Retired park ranger Jerry Grubbs was one of the first people to figure out things didn’t add up at the scene.

“It just wasn’t consistent with the damage as far as a fatality,” Grubbs says.

He says the way the car had driven off the road was just not like an accident. The air bags never went off, there wasn’t a crack on the windshield and Shannon wasn’t wearing her seatbelt.

The Hercutt family demanded an autopsy which they say took three days.

“And it was their opinion that Shannon Dawn Hercutt did not die as a result of that accident, but died previous to that accident,” says District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn.

Ted Hercutt believes the signs that Shannon’s death was a homicide were clear from the beginning.

Despite the obvious signs from reports, he says the trooper who worked the scene that night handled the whole thing like any other fatal car crash.

Ted says that delay affected the investigation. The district attorney general disagrees.

Later, there was more evidence found showing Shannon had been killed before being put in the Escalade. Her family says blood, a broken liquor bottle and a baseball bat were found in her garage.

The district attorney general says they have many pieces to the puzzle. But even with a $10,000 reward on the table, they haven’t gotten all the information they need to make an arrest.

“Have you forgotten about us? No, we haven’t. Every day it is most frustrating to us we don’t have a defendant already,” Dunn says.

Until there is an arrest, those closest to Shannon say they won’t have peace of mind. “You get up in the morning thinking about it, go to bed at night thinking about it. Get up in the morning thinking about it,” Ted Hercutt says.

A few months after Shannon’s death, there were reports that shots were fired at her business. It’s now being run by her sister and cousin.

Investigators can’t say for sure if the two incidents are related.

If you have any information in this case, call the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department at (865) 453-4668.

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