Updated June 29, 2022 - 7:47 am
After spending 21 years behind bars and nearly 15 years on parole, Las Vegas “show and tell” killer Sandy Shaw was granted a pardon on Tuesday by the state Board of Pardons Commissioners.
Shaw was a 15-year-old Rancho High School student in 1986 when she and two friends lured 21-year-old James Kelly into the desert, where he was robbed of $1,400 and shot six times in the face.
Defense attorney Robert Langford, who represented Shaw during the board hearing on Tuesday, said that although Shaw was not the shooter, she spent more time in prison for the crime than one of her co-defendants who was convicted under similar circumstances.
In 2007, the board granted parole to Shaw, releasing her from prison after more than 21 years. She was initially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Shaw told the board on Tuesday that she wanted to be released from parole so she could “live her life freely,” travel outside of Nevada and have the ability to move out of the state in the future.
“I am a law-abiding citizen,” said Shaw, now 51. “I pay my taxes. I live a quiet, humble life.”
Multiple friends and family members spoke to the board on Tuesday, vouching that Shaw has worked hard since her release from prison and has not been in trouble since an arrest on suspicion of DUI three years after she was paroled.
Langford said Shaw has worked at the same air conditioning and plumbing company for nearly 14 years, and just “wants to live a normal life.”
The board unanimously voted to grant the pardon, which removes Shaw from a lifetime of supervision and restores her civil liberties, including the right to own a firearm.
After Attorney General Aaron Ford voted to grant the pardon, he said that Shaw has been rehabilitated.
“It’s clear to me that this act of mercy from this board restores you to society, and I’m happy to vote yes,” Ford said.
‘One foot in prison’
Lanford said Shaw had a tumultuous childhood but was a successful student and cheerleader as a young teen. At 13, she witnessed a violent shooting that left her with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
Shaw told the board that she was spending the night at a friends house when she witnessed a triple murder-suicide.
According to news reports from the time, the killings happened in September 1984 at a home in the gated neighborhood of Rancho Circle, near Rancho and Alta drives. Police said that Alex Egyed shot and killed his wife’s friend, Betty DiFiore, in front of his teenage stepdaughter and an unnamed friend before killing his wife, Virginia Egyed, her other friend, Jack Levy, then himself.
“That night ruined my life,” Shaw told the board on Tuesday.
Shaw said she lost interest in school and cheerleading and began using drugs. Months later, Shaw said she witnessed another shooting, when a fellow Rancho High School student was shot in the head by her boyfriend.
“That’s the person who enters into the set of circumstances which resulted in a criminal conviction,” Langford said. “That’s the person who started out with one foot in prison at age 15.”
Shaw has said Kelly was making unwanted romantic advances on her and wanted to photograph her in the nude. She told the board on Tuesday that she asked her friends to beat Kelly up because she “wanted to him to leave me alone,” but she never wanted him dead.
“I never thought about the consequences to my actions or the severity of the emotional pain it would bring to his family or my family, and for that, I am profoundly sorry,” Shaw said.
In the days after Kelly’s killing, Shaw took friends to view his body, prompting news outlets to refer to the case as the “show and tell” murder. Kelly’s body was not discovered by police for six days.
William Merritt, who was 17 when Kelly was killed, served 12 years for Kelly’s slaying, according to Review-Journal archives. He was later released and was charged in 2000 with trying to murder a man with a hatchet.
Merritt and Shaw have both said that Troy Kell, then 18, shot Kelly. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and later killed a prison inmate and received a death sentence for that crime.
None of Kelly’s family members spoke against the pardon on Tuesday. Attempts to reach his family were not successful.
Following the board hearing, Langford said Shaw was feeling “a little numb” now that decades of legal proceedings have come to a close.
“She has worked hard all these years, and she got such a raw deal,” Langford said.