Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another young man takes his own life. Or did he?

 On September 2, 2001 at 2:26 A.M., Shawn McMillan was driven to the Helen Ellis Hospital in Tarpon Springs, FL by Rita Nordmark and her brother-in-law, Dan Nordmark, an off duty corrections officer. A bullet from the officer’s gun had ripped through Shawn’s brain. Officer Nordmark alleged the wound was self inflicted. The facts indicate otherwise. Shawn was dead at the age of 26.

According to Shawn’s mother, Michaela Mahoney, Shawn was as far from suicidal that day as anyone could be. He had worked with her at her law office most of the day and was in good spirits. After they left the office, they went to a clothing store. Shawn was all jokes and laughter while he tried on suits, ties and shirts for his new job with American Express.

Michaela dropped him off at the Ale House Restaurant at 5:30 P.M. to meet some acquaintances. They proceeded from there to the British Pub to play pool. That’s where they ran into Nordmark, another casual acquaintance, who offered to give Shawn a ride home. First, however, Nordmark and his best friend, Bernie Dillman, wanted to go to the Palms Bar and Grill for Karaoke. Shawn accompanied them there and then back to the Pub, still looking for a ride home.

Michaela believes the police reports are riddled with lies and omissions that completely conceal the events of the fateful evening. Nordmark and Dillman had very good reason to conceal the truth. While at the Palms, the two allegedly inebriated men had become furious at Kimberley, the Karaoke lady. The terrified woman gave a sworn statement that she feared for her life and Shawn’s because he tried to protect her from the belligerent men, who followed her into the parking lot, yelling obscenities while she loaded her equipment. She and other witnesses described Nordmark and Dillman as violently angry and “evil.”

Twenty minutes after the confrontation with Kimberley, the trio was back at the British Pub, where they had gone after being evicted from the Palms. Dan Nordmark brought out his firearm and drunkenly waved it about in front of witnesses. He reportedly jammed the slide several times in his efforts to load and cock it. He then handed the gun to Dillman, who fired it at an adjacent gas station and occupied mobile home park. The terrified bar patrons fled the premises in fear of being injured or killed.

Michaela said the visit to the British Pub—which is owned by the Nordmark family—the events that took place there and the identities of the witnesses to those events were withheld from police reports. The Nordmarks asserted that they had been at a different bar that night. Later, when caught in that lie, they explained that they were confused about the name of the bar due to all the excitement at the hospital.

Dan and Rita Nordmark originally stated that Shawn was seated in the center of the back seat and was leaning forward between them, giving Rita directions to his home, when he was shot in the head.

While Shawn lay dying in the emergency room at the hospital, a sergeant with the Tarpon Springs Police Department arrived. He began his official police report with these words: “At 2:39 hours on September 2, 2001, I was called at my residence in reference to responding to a shooting at Helen Ellis ER with special circumstances.”

Michaela believes the term “special circumstances” was the code used to tip off responding officers that a fellow member of law enforcement was involved.

She is certain that when the police realized the suspect was a cop, “special circumstances” took precedence over conducting a thorough and professional investigation. In her opinion, the officers ignored routine police procedures; failed to conduct gun residue tests; failed to administer alcohol or drug tests on Officer Nordmark—who was reportedly so intoxicated he could barely stand up—failed to question credible witnesses; and failed to pursue a single lead or to impound the car.

Instead, within two hours of the shooting, they obtained peroxide from the hospital ER and instructed Rita Nordmark to begin cleaning the blood out of the vehicle. Although three police officers and the emergency room nurse searched the car for the missing weapon, no one could find it. It later mysteriously materialized on the back floorboards. According to Michaela, the police failed to lift fingerprints and obliterated them instead.

Several witnesses later testified that the night of the shooting Shawn was bleeding profusely and was tightly wedged in the back seat of the small Honda Civic. When the nurses could not get Shawn out of the car, the allegedly intoxicated Dan Nordmark staggered to the car, reached his arms up under Shawn’s arms and head while wrapping his arms around Shawn’s chest and dragged him from the car. Shawn’s head, oozing blood, was in contact with Dan Nordmark’s chest and shoulder. This occurred prior to the police arriving on the scene.

Michaela feels that this is significant because the sergeant maintained that there was not one speck of blood on the shirt that was worn by Dan Nordmark, and that to him it was the most conclusive piece of evidence in the investigation proving that Dan Nordmark did not shoot Shawn.

Later, two different witnesses testified under oath in front of the State Attorney that within approximately 24 hours of the shooting, Nordmark told them that the police took his shirt that night at the hospital because it was covered in Shawn’s blood. The State Attorney’s office ignored these incriminating statements.

The sergeant stated that he collected and took into evidence Nordmark’s shirt, as well as the clothing from the decedent. However, Nordmark’s shirt was not listed or photographed in evidence.

Shortly after the incident various law enforcement personnel gave conflicting statements regarding the handling of Nordmark’s shirt. The Forensics Specialist for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office stated that she personally performed blood analysis on the shirt with negative results. The Sheriff’s Office and their attorney determined that Luminal and Phenolphthalien tests were not performed. And the Forensics supervisor said that the required reports that accompany the tests were not completed, indicating they had not been performed. Another officer testified that the only test conducted was a visual exam.

The McMillan family believes that Nordmark’s shirt was treated with peroxide or some other caustic agent to remove all traces of the blood stains or that the shirt was simply substituted for another shirt to conceal the presence of Shawn’s blood.

Dan Nordmark asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 600 times during a deposition regarding Shawn’s death. A video of Nordmark’s testimony can be seen at

Michaela said that more than fifty of Shawn’s friends and family members wrote to the State Attorney insisting that Shawn never would have killed himself. One of the attorneys Shawn worked for wrote about spending time with Shawn just twelve hours before he was shot. He stated that Shawn was upbeat and happy and there was absolutely no indication of any depression or imminent suicide. All of those people were ignored by the State Attorney’s Office. None were interviewed or even acknowledged.

Below is the statement from the karaoke person at the Palms.


Feb. 14, 2002

Statement from Kimberly, Karaoke Lady

At the end of the evening when I had to stop legally, he called me every name in the book. The one with the long curly hair (Bernie Dillman) and his friend (Dan Nordmark), they started calling me names …. They called me “You fucking cunt. You fucking whore. We’ll beat your ass.”

Q: And Shawn?

Shawn was playing pool. Shawn was not involved ….

(Later, when I was loading my equipment) They came up and started screaming at me again … They were surrounding my car, yelling at me. And Shawn came out and asked them, “Why are you yelling at her? She didn’t do anything.” The way they looked at him and their demeanor that night. They’re so mean. Every time they are there something happens.

Q: Being mean and looking at somebody is one thing. But it’s a pretty damn big leap then to say they killed somebody too.

Yes, but somebody is dead. The way they looked at him was just, was just – I wish I could describe it. It was pure evil. I was scared. I was scared for myself … I definitely thought they were going to do something to him (Shawn). That was the feeling I was left with ….

Q: What was Shawn’s demeanor that evening in the bar? You said he was playing pool.

He was very sweet. Very laid back.

* * *

In spite of what seems to be rather compelling evidence to the contrary, Shawn’s death officially remains a suicide.


After a lengthy battle, Michaela got the manner of death on Shawn’s death certificate changed from suicide to undetermined. However, in the box for how the injury occurred, the medical examiner typed in “shot self,” negating the change.   

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