What should be the simplest answer for the disappearance of Shirley Moon-Atwood, actually isn’t simple at all. In this case, we have a man with a history of convicted assault against a woman, an ex-wife with a violent conviction of her own, and a new girlfriend, found dead, with mountains of circumstantial evidence pointing to a killer. Or does it?
Yes, this case ends with one murder conviction. But it doesn’t give us all the answers. This is the case of One Murdered, One Missing: Where is Shirley Moon-Atwood?
When police pounded on the front door of the red trailer on Hartland Road in Canaan, Maine on August 13, 2006, they braced for who, or what might be inside. They’d already discovered one gruesome scene deep in the Burrill Woods earlier that morning.
Together with their cadaver dogs, investigators recovered the body of a missing woman, 37-year old Cheryl Murdoch. She was dumped among old mattresses and other trash. It was clear — the woman was murdered.
With a search warrant in hand for the last known residence of that woman, police announced themselves again to the man inside. But Shannon Atwood didn’t open the door. Instead, he locked himself inside the red trailer and wielded his bow and arrow. “I’m not going back there,” he shouted.
As police reasoned with the man, his threats continued and elevated. Shannon said he had a lighter and the propane gauge on his tank was wide open. He was going to blow the whole place up.
Before he could complete his plan, police found the propane tank and shut it off. They got Shannon out of the house, and cuffed him quickly. He told arresting officers, “I envisioned the whole place going up like a Christmas tree.”
Shannon Atwood was charged with terrorizing, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, and reckless conduct, but that was only the beginning of the charges that would be raised against him — the man whose girlfriend was found dead in the woods earlier that day, just a few miles away from their home.
Let’s rewind to earlier that year, before the stand off, before the body. Spring of 2006. The vivacious and feisty 35-year old Shirley Moon-Atwood lived in her red trailer on one acre of land in Canaan that she inherited from her grandfather as a teenager.
Shirley was a tiny little thing, just 5 foot 2 and barely 100 pounds, with brown hair and bright green eyes. She had chickens and a horse. She dreamed of having a family one day.
But things were rocky with her husband, Shannon Atwood, and it’s not clear exactly when or exactly why, but the couple separated. As one version of events goes, Shirley moved out of her red trailer on the acre of land sometime in the spring or summer of 2006.
The last known and confirmed sighting of Shirley Moon-Atwood was in March 2006. When friends asked, Shannon Atwood told them she was staying with relatives in a remote camp, somewhere deep in the wilderness of Somerset county.
Two Missing Women
The morning of July 27, 2006, Cheryl was supposed to be hitting the road for a cross country trip to Arizona. Her mother and daughter Sarah lived there — Cheryl sent Sarah to live with her mother when she lost her apartment earlier that year. Around 11 am, Cheryl was on the phone with her mom, saying they were all packed up and ready to go — Her boyfriend Shannon Atwood would be driving her to Arizona.
But days passed, well-beyond what it should’ve taken to make the drive from Maine to Arizona. And Cheryl never made it. Her daughter Sarah posted up at the window each day, hoping that would be the day her mother rolled into the driveway. But Cheryl never did.
With no word or sign of Cheryl, her mother reported Cheryl missing on August 6, 2006, 10 days after the road trip should’ve begun.
As investigators started looking for Cheryl Murdoch, they quickly realized that they weren’t just looking for Shannon Atwood’s girlfriend. His wife was missing, too.
More to the Story
The full story is out now, so hit play to hear the case of Shirley Moon-Atwood, Cheryl Murdoch, and Shannon Atwood. Dark Downeast is available on all of your favorite podcast platforms.
Episode Source Material
- Associated Press, Bangor Daily News published September 29, 1993
- Articles reported and written by Sharon Kiley Mack
- Bangor Daily News published August 15, 2006
- Bangor Daily News published October 14, 2006
- Bangor Daily News published November 30, 2006
- Bangor Daily News published March 1, 2007
- Bangor Daily News published April 28, 2007
- Bangor Daily News published June 5, 2007
- Bangor Daily News published June 7, 2007
- Bangor Daily News published September 29, 2007
- Bangor Daily News published June 24, 2008
- Bangor Daily News published June 25, 2008
- Bangor Daily News published June 26, 2008
- Bangor Daily News published June 27, 2008
- Bangor Daily News published July 3, 2008