Investigation Discovery’s ‘Welcome to Murdertown’ is a true-crime series that brings to screen the tales of crime that have been committed by not just one primary convict but also others who lent their hand. The series airs episodes that are each about an hour-long depicting the efforts of investigators to unravel the thread of lies woven by all the people involved in the crime. Sometimes these stories feature tales of a close-knit community or a tight-lipped family not willing to betray the trust of their member.
In an episode titled ‘A Killing in Kendrick’, the show takes the audience through the murder of Donna Fontaine and Fred Palahniuk. The primary convict, in this case, was Dale C. Shackelford, Donna’s ex-husband. He was helped by his then fiancee’s family and two employees from his company, Shackelford Enterprises. Initially sentenced to death, Shackelford was later pardoned of it and instead sentenced to two consecutive life imprisonments. We found out all we could about the primary convict in the case.
Who Is Dale C. Shackelford?
Dale C. Shackelford married Donna Fontaine in Missouri in December 1995. However, their marriage did not last long. After two years, the couple ended up separating from each other in November 1997 after Donna accused him of raping her in July 1997. The charges of the accusation were filed in 1998. Shackelford had a trucking business, Shackelford Enterprises, in Missouri.
On May 29, Donna and Fred’s burnt remains were identified from the rubble of Donna’s brother Gary’s garage, which had been destroyed by fire. An autopsy revealed bullet wounds in both bodies. Shotgun pellets found in Donna’s chest region and a bullet in the back of her head were detected to be the cause of Donna’s death which had occurred before the fire. The bullet found lodged behind Fred’s upper breastbone was also detected to be the cause of death. Dale Shackelford was arrested as the prime suspect on February 11, 2000. The charges pressed against him included first-degree murder, first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit arson, and preparing false evidence.
Where Is Dale C. Shackelford Now?
Shackelford’s trial began on October 16, 2000, and concluded December 22, 2000, with the jury announcing a guilty verdict, convicting Shackelford of all the charges he had been accused of. On October 25, 2001, the court read out its Findings of the Court in Considering Death Penalty. The finding included two statutory aggravating factors to Donna’s murder and one to Fred’s murder. After substantial deliberations, the court ruled that the mitigating factors were not sufficient to render the death penalty unjust, following which the court sentenced Shackelford to death sentences for both first-degree murders.
Shackelford filed for post-conviction relief with the district court. The district court granted Shackelford a sentencing relief on April 8, 2019, lifting the death sentence. However, he was ordered instead, to serve two consecutive life imprisonment sentences for the two first-degree murders. The alleged conspirators in the case including Shackelford’s then-fiancée Sonja Abitz and her parents, and Shackelford’s fellow employees at Shackelford Enterprises, Marta Millar and Bernadette Lasater, later confessed and pled guilty to their charges related to the murders. Shackelford is currently serving his two consecutive life imprisonments at the Idaho State Correctional Center in Boise.