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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Witness Speaks. Victim, Sierra Club Organizer, Identified.

posted by on January 1 at 19:59 PM

Seattle Police are still looking for suspects in the fatal stabbing of a 31-year-old woman last night on Capitol Hill. Police have released a description of the suspect, and are hoping more witnesses will come forward with information about the attack.

One of the victim’s neighbors, who lay on the sidewalk with 31-year-old woman in the moments before police arrived, didn’t see the attack, but heard the victims screams from her apartment. “I heard the scream,” the neighbor says. “There’s a building on the corner, mentally ill people live there. There are screams all the time, but not screams like that.”

The neighbor—who asked not to be named—says she ran out of her apartment after the attack and saw a man wearing a large blue jacket fleeing towards Madison avenue.

According to information the neighbor received from police, the 31-year-old victim had just returned from shopping at nearby Madison Market when she was killed. “The police told me that it was not a robbery,” the neighbor says. “Her money and ID was [still on her] and her groceries were still in the stairwell.”

The neighbor says she’s always thought her neighborhood was a safe place. “I would walk my dog at night or early in the morning [by myself],” she says. “[This is] really devastating.”

Seattle Police are encouraging people to contact them if they have any information.


Here’s what we’ve been able find out about the victim.

Shannon Harps, 31, spent the last 4 years working as an organizer for the Sierra Club after moving to Seattle from Columbus, Ohio. Former Washington State Sierra Club Chair Mike McGinn says: “Shannon was a wonderful person and a wonderful person to work with.”

Recently, Harps had worked on public outreach in east King County and, according to McGinn, was instrumental in “getting Dave Reichert to vote the right way on the Alaska wildlife refuge.”

Another of Harps’ co-workers described her as, “Funny but quiet. [You] had to draw her out a little bit. There’s no way she could have been a provocateur in any way. She was not someone who would make anyone angry.”


Shannon Harps, right, in a photograph posted to the Sierra Club’s Flickr account .

RSS icon Comments


As usual, with both this post and the one preceding it, The Stranger gives us better comprehensive local news updates than we get from any other media in the city. Thanks for getting the word out about this senseless tragedy. Let's find the guy that did it and lock him up quickly.

Posted by Steve | January 1, 2008 9:02 PM

I was walking alone, with my iPod on, with a block or two of the scene about an hour before the stabbing took place. I walk this area alone A LOT. It terrifies me to think that an individual who committed what appears to be a random act of violence is loose in the neighborhood. Before you snarky bloggers get all up in my face...I know shit goes down on the Hill. I know I live within two blocks of numerous level 3 sex offender bldgs. I know shootings and muggings take place. Despite all this, I love this neighborhood and I think I always will. Walking through Capitol Hill, alone, at night can be a calculated risk. But no one deserves to be assaulted or murdered. I feel for this woman's friends and family. It easily could have been someone I know. Just as easily, it could have been me.

Posted by Dod | January 1, 2008 9:20 PM

Truly sad, I feel for her family, friends, and coworkers. Another good and caring person taken before her time. At least someone came to help her and the response was quick, that's comforting at least.

From the sound of it she seems typical for us transplants from Ohio, we tend to be more soft-spoken and polite than most... so I can identify with her, sadly enough.

I hope the person is caught soon and the reason, if there is one, becomes clear so that everyone who knew her can have some sense of closure for this seemingly senseless loss.

Posted by Packratt | January 1, 2008 9:37 PM

This is so sad. I want to second Mike's description of her wonderful spirit and also offer my condolences to her family and Sierra Club colleagues.

I got to know Shannon while working on the I-937 (Clean Energy Initiative) campaign. While working for the Sierra Club, she was part of the field team that played a big role in helping us get the initiative on the ballot and seeing it do so well in the East suburbs. She was a joy to work with, quiet but warm and always exhibiting enthusiasm about her work with the Sierra Club corps of volunteers. She never seemed cynical or worn down by the work; always seemed happy to be doing what she was doing, wearing the biggest of smiles at all times.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | January 1, 2008 9:39 PM

Yeah, the apparent randomness is the particularly scary part. It's much easier to try to console oneself by figuring that most murderers know their victims, and that you can thus look at the people around you and say, "Nah, not the murdering type" and go on with your life.

Posted by tsm | January 1, 2008 9:43 PM

@2 - me too, I walk around that part of 15th all the time, either by myself or with my dog. A friend of mine was mugged on that same block a few years ago, so it's not like I think crime can't happen in the neighborhood, but this is pretty shocking.

Posted by genevieve | January 1, 2008 10:04 PM

@7. this is a very a sad loss (among many), and @3 was rudely crass. but you can't remove the comment. you can't go around removing every asshole's rant that you don't agree with.

Posted by superyeadon | January 1, 2008 10:12 PM

Bill, thank you for your comment, it describes Shannon so well.

Posted by Michael McGinn | January 1, 2008 10:29 PM


I'm sorry you think my comment was rude and crass, I really don't see how it could be considered in that light but I sincerly apologize to anyone who is offended by what I intended as a sincere and heartfelt sentiment.

Posted by Packratt | January 1, 2008 10:33 PM

Hey, Packratt. #7 wasn't responding to your comment. The original third comment was in incredibly bad taste. The Stranger has since deleted it, apparently. All the best.

Posted by Lulu | January 1, 2008 10:41 PM

@9 The Stranger eliminated the original #3 and moved every post up a number. The tasteless post is no longer on the thread.

Posted by Dod | January 1, 2008 10:43 PM

She did outreach for the Sierra Club???

If she was one of those annoying ass people on the street with a clipboard, I can see where the murderer was coming from.

Posted by observance | January 1, 2008 10:47 PM

@ 10 & 11

Thanks for clearing that up, I see what happened now that you've explained it. I appreciate it.

Posted by Packratt | January 1, 2008 10:48 PM

Sorry about the confusion, Packratt.

Posted by superyeadon | January 1, 2008 10:53 PM

Shannon was incredibly sweet and a source of energy for everyone around her. She did such great work on every campaign I met her on. I'm so sorry and sad for her family and the wonderful people who worked with her at the Club. I know they must be in horrible shock.

Posted by Heather | January 1, 2008 11:08 PM

So the original offensive comment #3 is back verbatim as #12. Hey Stranger, if you agree that this comment should be deleted, can you ban the ISP so this jackass doesn't keep posting the same comment all night long?

What a fucking asshat.

Posted by genevieve | January 1, 2008 11:11 PM

We mourn. Shannon and so many others are fighting for the right thing.

[@12...we mourn for you, too.]

Posted by Polar Bears Against Prop. 1 | January 1, 2008 11:16 PM


Don't worry about it, simple misunderstanding on my part and thanks to #16 I can see why you were upset.

Some trolls know no bounds, sadly enough.

Posted by Packratt | January 1, 2008 11:37 PM

Yes, Stranger, please ban #12's hateful, crass, disgusting vitriol already. Shannon's death is a horrible, sad tragedy. We must all be vigilant, aware and caring for each other. We live in a sometimes very cruel world -even here in lovely Seattle.

Shannon, you will not be forgotten. I am very sad tonight.

Posted by Xtian | January 2, 2008 1:05 AM

Although I never knew the victim Im saddened and outraged by this whole incident. But I SERIOUSLY DOUBT it was random no matter how much it may seem that way. I have a hunch that her attacker knew who she was and it sounds like the Cops finally have a prime suspect(that creepy volunteer). This crime has all the telltale signs of being the work of a stalker or some sorts.

Posted by anonymous | January 2, 2008 6:01 AM

I can't believe Shannon is gone. My thoughts are very much with her family, coworkers and friends right now.

I'm still a bit in shock over this. Shannon was one of the kindest, most open-minded people I have ever known, and such a wonderful friend. Her generosity with her time and spirit were immense, and her passion for protecting the environment was a total inspiration to all who knew her and loved her. I will miss her terribly and think of her often, especially when hiking on our backcountry lands, and especially in the Olympics, which she loved.

Posted by LB | January 2, 2008 8:18 AM

Unfortunately we can't ban a single person by banning their ISP account. That would ban everyone that uses that ISP account -- which can be tens of thousands of people, including other decent commenters.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 2, 2008 10:39 AM

@22 from Dan Savage:

Then please keep deleting this vile comment whenever they keep adding it.

For all we know this is being posted by her killer.

Posted by I am your mother | January 2, 2008 10:52 AM

I know all of us who were at the No on Prop 1 victory party at Piecora's are sad to hear of this.

Dang, what a way to start the New Year ...

Condolences to everyone at Sierra Club.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 2, 2008 11:51 AM

@22 - thanks for the explanation.

I'm not usually in favor of comment censorship, but since the post had already been deleted once I though y'all had determined it crossed a line.

Seeing Shannon's cousin's comment in the most recent thread made me think of it again.

Posted by genevieve | January 2, 2008 12:44 PM

I didnt know my neighbor, but I wish I could have the chance now.

If it helps those of you who did know her, her face was peaceful in the end and people did run to be by her side.

I'm sorry I didnt have the where-with-all to watch the man running away more closely and longer. I had no idea what I was about to find.

I asked Jonah to mention in this article that the police are encouraging everyone to call with ANYTHING that looks suspecious. Even if you think "Aw, its probably nothing"- CALL. Let them decide if it is worth while or not.

I was verbally accosted by a man early in the morning 3 weeks ago. It happend in front of my house which is just a parking lot away from where Shaonnon lived and was attacked. I was walking my dog and this dirt bag wouldnt leave us alone. He was taking of his jacket like he wanted to fight me. I was yelling "Leave us the f$&k alone" when not one, but TWO other men walked right by just rubber necking. I guess getting to work was more important to them than helping a woman who lives in their neighborhood.

Of course I called 911 when I heard her screaming. Please dont be afraid to get involved people!

Posted by neighbor | January 2, 2008 3:23 PM

I am a friend from Ohio and was with Shannon's sister on NYE and with her after she heard the horrible news in the early hours on New Year's day.
Shannon was a unique and independant person who loved life and the outdoors. Please remain vigilant, people of Seattle and help bring her killer to justice. The loss of Shannon was a true loss to her family and friends and the people of the Northwest that she so loved.

Posted by Laurie Deerwester | January 3, 2008 3:22 PM

My heart goes out to Shannon Harps family and friends, may God be with her soul.

To the poster:

"Posted by neighbor | January 2, 2008 3:23 PM"

Is it possible that the suspect/POI could be older than 40? if so HOW old?

And to anyone from Sierra Club, or have knowledge:

Do you know the name, initials will also do, or ANY other information on the man who, at som point, volunteered at Sierra Club and who bothered people at Shannon´s work?

You can email me at

Thanks you

Posted by Therese | January 6, 2008 8:43 PM

I met Shannon a couple times and was devastated(and still am) about her tragic death. What a sweet, lovely woman. She's the same age as my daughter - - it could have easily been her because she walks to the grocery store, etc. in the dark. As a mother, I was always worried and told her not to do that, but she said, "oh, it's perfectly safe and everyone walks around in the dark on Capitol Hill." My prayers go out to her family and friends.

Posted by Sue | January 9, 2008 9:10 AM

It was a matter of hours before I heard that Shannon was not alone at the end. You have no idea how comforting it was to hear of the witnesses efforts and support. Those of us who knew her, personally or professionally, need something like this to steady ourselves through this time. Shannon actually acted on her beliefs. She didn't preach to anyone. She simply debated with you in a respectful fashion. That is what I'd like to think she'll inspire in others...if you think something is wrong with how things are then it's up to you to DO SOMETHING about it. Look at how much one person accomplished in this community within 3 years. Thanks for all the kind words on here. It's appreciated.

Posted by SZ | January 10, 2008 3:30 PM

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