NOEL, Mo. – Employees were expecting an unremarkable day at the bank. But something seemed off as they started their day on October 6, 1989. They realized someone has broken into the bank and removed $70,000. However, money was not the only thing missing. Bank president, Dan Short, is nowhere to be found.
With Short unaccounted for and thousands of dollars missing, investigators considered him a possible suspect. That was until six days later when his body was found floating in Grand Lake in Oklahoma.
Short had been bound to a chair. Concrete blocks were attached to it and authorities believe he was thrown into the lake from a bridge while still alive. Medical examiners ruled that drowning was the cause of death.
The cold-blooded murder captured the nation’s attention. A re-enactment of the crime was shown during a network broadcast. Tips came in but none of them were significant enough to lead to a suspect.
Two brothers, Joseph and Shannon Agofsky become the prime suspects and were convicted for the crime. However, some believe the Agofsky’s are innocent. Kaci Burr considers Shannon one of her closest friends and believes the brothers were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.
How Kaci Burr met Shannon
Kaci met Shannon back in 2011.
“One of my professors in college that I really admired, who was definitely unconventional, but very brilliant, we worked closely on some projects,” said Burr. “I ended up learning that he worked with inmates and he found it very rewarding and encouraged me to get involved with inmates in some way.”
Kaci digs through some prisoners’ profiles online and finally finds someone she’s interested in writing. That prisoner is Shannon Agofsky.
“Shannon’s profile was very interesting, in fact on his profile he quoted one of my favorite poems,” said Kaci. “Another thing that interested me was Hannon was on death row and was never getting out of prison.”
So, Kaci got a pen and some paper and started writing.
“He wrote me back pretty quickly,” said Kaci. “During the first year of writing, I never asked about his case. I didn’t ask what he did to be in prison. He was actually the one who brought up his case. He told me he always wanted someone to write about it but never found anyone he liked enough or trusted enough.”
The Agofsky Brothers
For a while, the Agofsky brothers weren’t even on detectives’ radar. However, a spotlight was soon put on the brothers when an anonymous phone call is made to the authorities. The caller claimed to have heard the brothers boasting about stealing a large number of coins.
“I think they went overboard on their spending and they weren’t very wise on some of their choices,” said Jim Jackson, former new anchor.
The brothers were brought in for questioning.
Joseph Agofsky, who was known to his family and friends as Joe, was reportedly quiet, polite, and cooperative.
Shannon was just 18-years-old at the time of the crime. He was a stark contrast to Joe. Shannon was confident, cocky, and didn’t like authority. Shannon and his brother were also engaging in some criminal activity.
“Shannon has been very open about that,” said Kaci. “Because when he first started talking to me about his case and why he was in jail, I started doing my own research and found that he and his brother were accused of running guns. Shannon admits that it’s true.”
“Shannon believes that this made it easier for people to pin this on him and his brother. He says we weren’t angels and we did bad stuff but we weren’t bad people and we weren’t murders.”Kaci Burr, best friend of Shannon Agofksy
Joe told police he was at his girlfriend’s house in Joplin, Missouri the night of the robbery. Shannon explained he had a martial arts class at the local dojo and then spent the rest of the evening with his mother.
“He stayed after the class to help the coach clean up,” said Kaci. “And the coach had a roll call sheet and tried to submit to the court to show Shannon was accounted for. Shannon would have just been getting out of class by the time Dan Short was being taken from his home in Arkansas.”
After more thorough questioning, the police learned that the brothers had no financial reason to be involved in a crime such as this. Both brothers and their mother Sheila had received substantial settlements after their father had died tragically in a plane crash.
There was no shortage of potential suspects. Throughout the investigation, detectives discovered the State Bank of Noel was in some serious trouble.
“There was a lot of pressure to find out who did this because Dan Short really was a well-respected and beloved member of the community,” said Kaci. “He was a good guy. The bank he worked for was being audited and had been audited previously and had been in trouble with ties to money laundering. I think that alone is enough for them to be looking at someone connected to the bank.”
Short’s ex-wife and daughter have both said in the weeks before his death, Short had commented that he was uneasy about the bank’s affairs.
Frank Sanders, a local man who had already been convicted of a bank robbery was also on authorities’ radar. After over a year of interviews, lead investigator Agent Ladell Farley wrote in a report that he suspected that a red-bearded man, a clean-shaven man with long straight hair and a woman were responsible for the robbery.
“The woman who testified against Shannon and Joe, who said she saw them at Dan Short’s resident in Arkansas when she was first interviewed said she didn’t see anyone,” said Kaci. “The second time she was interviewed she gave a description that didn’t describe either of the brothers. It wasn’t until she was interviewed by Agent Ladell Farley that she started changing her story to fit the description of Shannon and Joe. “
According to Kaci, this happened with several witnesses once the FBI started interviewing people.
“They would say they didn’t see anything and then magically after the FBI starts working on the case and Farley starts interviewing people they start remembering things,” said Kaci. “Farley actually started interviewing people by himself. Which is not allowed. You have to have two people in there to make sure you are not coaching the witness.”
Before we jump into the next part of our story let’s take a closer look at fingerprinting.
Fingerprint evidence, although sometimes not as high-profile as other high-tech crime-solving methods like DNA typing, is still very much used in criminal investigations and cases.
Fingerprint evidence rests on two basic principles:
- A person’s “friction ridge patterns” (the swirled skin on their fingertips) don’t change over their lifetimes.
- No two people have the same pattern of friction ridges. Even identical twins have different fingerprints.
Fingerprint experts disagree on how many point matches in common are needed to declare a match between two sets of fingerprints. For example, some experts will declare a match based on only 12 points in common, whereas other experts may require up to 20 points in common before declaring a match.
There is one piece of physical evidence that ties Shannon to this crime.
While fishing near the area where Short’s body was discovered, a man finds a piece of grey duct tape. According to reports, this duct tape had a nearly perfect fingerprint.
As police are working on trying to identify if this piece of duct tape came from the apparatus that was discovered with Short’s body, a man comes to the police station.
This man is Wayne Boutain and he claimed that the chain hoist that was connected to the apparatus is his. Boutain says the chain hoist was stolen from a man named Robert several days before the bank robbery. He also said he suspected the Agofsky brothers of the theft and indicated as much at the time. However, the only police report that could be found was taken by one Officer John Wilson, dated several weeks after the crime.
The spotlight is once again on the Agofsky brothers.
Eventually, investigators obtain the fingerprints of Shannon and Joseph and compare their fingerprints to the ones found on the duct tape. Shannon is a match.
However, according to official documents and Kaci this was done in an unconventional way.
“The way the duct tape evidence was handled was sketchy,” explained Kaci. “They were not making that comparison off the actual duct tape. Once police received the duct tape and brought it into the lab it was actually destroyed on accident by one of the investigators. Because they used a dye that is normally used when you want to bring fingerprints to the surface. For the ones you can’t really see. But it destroys the print and surface and basically anything it touches. You only want to use it as a last resort.”
So, if the fingerprint was destroyed how were police able to match Shannon’s fingerprint?
“When they ended up with this positive match to Shannon’s fingerprint, they were doing that from a photograph of a photograph,” said Kaci. “They weren’t even looking at the actual evidence. And this is back from the early 90’s so it’s nothing like today. We can take some pretty clear pictures now. You just made an identification that’s going to be a man away for life by a picture taken in the 90’s.”
In 1997, after a number of delays, the brothers were tried in a state court in Oklahoma for Dan Short’s murder. Shannon was convicted, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict for Joe Agofsky, Joe would be convicted of kidnapping.
The Agofsky’s were sentenced to life in prison. Joe and Shannon never made a confession.
“I think what got Shannon convicted, and I think he would probably agree with me is because he just wasn’t likable in court,” said Kaci. “And he would agree. There is an article that I believe is still on the internet… Shannon was 18 when he was arrested and law enforcement had not been nice to him or his family after his father died. So, he was arrogant. At one of the hearings, the judge asked what Shannon was there for and Shannon says he was there for allegedly littering in the river”
Despite Shannon’s cold demeanor throughout the trial, Kaci believes the case deserves to be looked at again.
“I think the case needs to be looked at again because of the way evidence was handled and because of the many mess-ups that happened and because of the evidence that is sealed,” said Kaci. “I truly believe Shannon is a good person, he was just misunderstood. “
Joe died in 2003 of natural causes in prison. Shannon is currently on death row for killing another inmate.