Show and Hell: Overlapping Murders in the Life of Sandy Shaw

Posted: March 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

What are the chances the same angel-faced teenaged cheerleader would be involved
in two of the highest profile crimes in Las Vegas history? In a city with a fanatical obsession with beating the odds,
Sandy Shaw hit the jackpot—and it cost her twenty-one years of her life.


Fifty-year old Alex Egyed was a self-made millionaire and a very angry man.
Leaving his native Hungary in 1956, the hard-working refugee landed on American soil virtually penniless,
endowed only with a quick mind and a festering drive to succeed.
Over the next two decades these attributes, along with a smattering of luck, allowed him to amass a sizeable fortune
via a chain of computer companies—cutting edge technology at a time when cyberspace existed solely in science fiction.
Eventually Egyed settled in Las Vegas, and as is fitting in a city that bills itself as the Marriage Capital of the World,
he there wed Virginia Mallin, a well-known socialite famed for her charitable endeavors;
Virginia had previously been married to the owner of Caesar’s Palace and Circus Circus, then two of the hottest hotels on the Vegas Strip.

Tragically, Egyed’s great wealth did not bring great happiness,
or even crumbs of contentment—it was almost as if his blistering ambition once realized in the financial realm
turned inward and began to corrode his sanity. Plagued by paranoia and suspicion,
the wealthy entrepreneur’s marriage was soon in tatters,
and on September 23rd, 1984 the couple argued at a charity event
and departed the venue in separate cars.
Later that evening Egyed appeared at the mansion the couple shared
in the exclusive Rancho Circle neighborhood
and demanded to speak with his wife; Virginia, busy entertaining friends, rebuffed his request.
His wife’s refusal to rehash the particulars of their doomed union on his time schedule incensed Egyed;
exploding in a deadly rage,
he retrieved a gun he had secreted in the home and proceeded to shoot not only his wife Virginia but her friends Jack Levy and Betty Di Fiore as well.
His murderous rampage complete, Egyed then turned the gun upon himself,
blasting a bullet into the brain that had brought him
to the pinnacle of a success that he learned too late was meaningless.
Egyed left no suicide note, but the barbarism of his cowardly act will forever be written in history, the sole epitaph of a man poised to be an internet pioneer on par with Bill Gates.

Not every inhabitant of the mansion was slaughtered that night;
police discovered Virginia’s daughter Jessica and her best friend Sandy Shaw, age thirteen,
cowering in a bath tub,
terrified beyond measure. Sandy was festooned with blood and brains—sensing danger, Virginia’s friend Betty
was in the process of hustling the girls out of harm’s way when Egyed appeared in the doorway
and pumped a bullet into her skull.
Sandy was standing so close to the line of fire that as the mortally-wounded Betty crumpled to the ground her body landed atop the petrified youngster.

sandyshaw15The wealthy industrialist’s murder spree was a Las Vegas media sensation; Egyed’s vast fortune and Virginia’s charitable ventures
and connection to Caesar’s Palace and Circus Circus served to keep the massacre
on the front page for weeks.
Sadly, although Sandy Shaw had escaped the murder mansion with her life
she was not unscathed by the carnage—a therapist diagnosed
the preternaturally beautiful tween with post-traumatic stress syndrome and prescribed valium to soothe her anxiety.
A subsequent incident during which Sandy allegedly witnessed an additional
fatal domestic assault while walking home from school compounded her distress:
“I detached myself from my emotions,” Sandy later explained.
“I didn’t have a sense of life or death—it was all the same to me.”

According to Sandy the benzodiazepine prescribed by her doctor did nothing to quell her anguish
but instead benumbed her emotions;
she now characterizes herself during this time period as a “lost child” and an “unhealthy child.”
Such was the 9th-grader’s state of mind eighteen months after the massacre when she was approached
in the Circus Circus children’s arcade
by a twenty-one year old would-be suitor who introduced himself as Cotton Kelly.
In reality, the shaggy-haired stranger’s name was James Thiede;
a recent transplant from Canada,
Thiede was on the run from an RCMP cocaine trafficking investigation.
Years later both of Thiede’s parents would be indicted for financial crimes related to the family’s international drug distribution empire.

JAMESCOTTONKELLYAlthough he was ostensibly employed
by his family’s money laundering enterprise,
Thiede told Sandy he owned an adult entertainment business.
He allegedly obtained the teen’s phone number from a mutual acquaintance
and began to pressure the fetching schoolgirl
to pose nude—at the time Sandy was not yet fifteen years old.
Although Sandy refused his overtures both romantic and pornographic,
Thiede was persistent—over an eight month period he called the Shaw home incessantly,
angering Sandy’s mother,
who was uncomfortable with his predatory interest in her underage daughter.
Mrs. Shaw contacted law enforcement but was informed the police were powerless to intervene;
strictly speaking, Thiede hadn’t broken any laws—stalking statutes had not yet been enacted in the state of Nevada.

Annoyed by Thiede’s pestering and the strife his unwelcome advances were creating within her family,
Sandy contacted her friend Troy Kell, age eighteen, and asked for his help in resolving the matter.
Kell considered himself a big brother to and protector of Sandy, whom he’d known since she moved into his neighborhood as a sassy tow-headed tot at the age of six. Kell,
a lanky high school dropout, enlisted his friend Billy Merritt, age seventeen, and a plan was concocted which would end Thiede’s campaign of harassment forever.

On the evening of September 29th, 1986 James Thiede must have believed Lady Luck, patron saint of Las Vegas,
was smiling at him;
he’d recently won fourteen hundred dollars at the gaming tables and high-school princess Sandy Shaw had agreed
to accompany him on a date to celebrate his good fortune.
As is the case with most Sin City winning streaks, however, Thiede’s run of luck was about to take a sharp turn into ignominy.

Thiede’s “date” with Sandy was merely a ruse;
during the course of the evening the courting couple
drove past a prearranged spot where Kell and Merritt awaited, posing as hitchhikers.
At Sandy’s urging Thiede picked up the teens; it was a decision that would ultimately cost him his life.
Once the foursome was ensconced in Thiede’s car Sandy announced a need to urinate,
and as anticipated Thiede drove her to the desert to relieve herself. There, as planned,
she pretended to slip on the rocky terrain.
Thiede rushed to Sandy’s aid and Kell used the momentary diversion to blindside him—the aspiring pornographer was shot six times in the face with a stolen gun.
The teens then divvied up their victim’s fourteen hundred dollars and left his body to rot in the searing Nevada sun.

It was while Thiede’s corpse decomposed amidst the cactus-strewn wasteland
that a series of events occurred which would cement the crime in the annals of Las Vegas lore
and garner its unforgettable nickname: The Show and Tell Murder.
Although her motive for doing so is in dispute, two days after the shooting Sandy took some friends to the desert
to view Thiede’s body—Sandy claims she needed to view the corpse
to confirm the murder’s reality in her PTSD-addled mind;
prosecutors claim Sandy viewed the corpse as a trophy and invited friends to view it in a boastful attempt to gain status with her peers.
Like a demented version of the child’s game “Telephone,”
the friends who initially accompanied Sandy to view Thiede’s corpse
then invited more friends
and for six days a revolving band of teenagers ogled Thiede’s rotting carcass
like an all-nude showgirl revue—reporters later joked that Thiede’s murder site had more traffic than some casinos.

Inevitably, witnesses to the grisly spectacle began to feel pangs of conscience,
and after Thiede’s body was discovered by horseback riders a guilt-ridden gawker contacted law enforcement
and identified the perpetrators of the crime.
The lethal trio was soon arrested.
Unmoved by Sandy’s traumatic involvement in the Egyed murders a scant two years before,
investigators gave no credence to her assertion she had simply wanted Thiede roughed up,
not killed—detectives believed the true impetus for the murder
lay solely with the dead man’s bulging wallet.
Sandy was held on three million dollars bail;
prosecutors at her bond hearing described the cherubic fifteen year old as “a serious threat to society.”
Per the sensationalistic media coverage,
in a few short years Sandy had morphed from an angelic, blood-spattered massacre survivor into Las Vegas’s answer to Lady Macbeth.

Unable to afford a private attorney,
Sandy was assigned a neophyte public defender who had never before tried a murder case.
Banking on a jury’s reluctance to convict a beautiful high school cheerleader,
the attorney urged Sandy to refuse a proffered accessory plea which carried a four to twelve year sentence;
alas, this unseasoned legal eagle would soon learn relying on a client’s attractiveness as a trial strategy
rarely vaults a case into the speedy-acquittal express lane.
Compounding his rookie mistakes, the attorney put his then-sixteen year old client on the witness stand;
predictably, it was a disaster. In the available clips of the proceedings
Sandy exhibits an almost-comical teenage petulance, at one point even aiming a scornful hair flip at the media like a Mean Girls character come to life.

The jury was unimpressed by Sandy’s avowal she’d merely wanted Thiede pummeled;
not only was she convicted of first degree murder
but two of the jurors later expressed disappointment that state law at the time
prohibited them from sentencing a minor to death.
Despite her alluring appearance Sandy was sentenced to life without parole;
her public defender’s plan to convince the jury youthful beauty equaled innocence had rolled snake-eyes on the gaming table of jurisprudence.

Although prosecutors alleged Sandy had fired a single shot into Thiede there was never any convincing evidence supporting this claim;
Troy Kell has steadfastly admitted to being the sole shooter,
an assertion which has since been buttressed by Billy Merritt. Under a felony theory of murder, however,
Sandy was acting as a principal rather than an accessory to the crime;
any homicide which occurs during the commission of a felony serves to elevate the crime to first degree murder,
even if the death is unintended.
Regardless of whether the motive for the crime was robbery, as the prosecutor alleges,
or conspiracy to commit battery, as Sandy claims,
a first degree conviction is supported by the facts, Sandy’s angelic appearance notwithstanding.

The subsequent criminal foibles of Sandy’s partners in crime are epic in scope and multitudinous in variety.
Billy Merritt accepted an accessory plea in Thiede’s death and served twelve years;
upon his release from prison he swiftly perpetrated a cornucopia of violent crimes
including rape, stalking and attempted murder via hatchet—he’s since been sentenced to life without parole
as a habitual violent offender.
Like Sandy, Troy Kell refused a prosecution deal and received life without parole; as depicted in the documentary
Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder, he’s currently on death row for the fatal stabbing of a fellow inmate.

As the youngest female inmate ever sentenced to adult prison in Nevada
Sandy’s transition from Pop Warner cheerleader to maximum security convict was rocky—she eventually accrued forty-one disciplinary reports for violating penitentiary protocol,
although her misdeeds were uniformly non-violent in nature.
In 1994, after a successful appeal of her sentence on procedural grounds
prosecutors offered Sandy a commutation to life with parole in lieu of a new trial.
Perhaps recalling the staggering misjudgment of her refusal of the original plea deal
Sandy agreed to the proffered terms.
The possibility of parole seemed to mellow Sandy, or perhaps she simply matured; no longer an impetuous teen,
she became a model inmate,
earning several college degrees while behind bars
and serving as a mentor to younger prisoners.

SANDYSHAWtodayAfter several unsuccessful attempts Sandy finally obtained parole in December of 2007
at the age of thirty-six; she’d served twenty-one years,
more than half her life—the entirety
of her adult life— in prison; according to KLAS-TV at the time of her parole she was the fourth-longest serving
female inmate in the Nevada corrections system. Although she was briefly returned to prison after failing a drug test in 2012
Sandy was soon released back into in the Glitter Gulch’s neon-tinged wonderland;
she reportedly works as a receptionist for a local plumbing company where she is described by coworkers as “a highly valuable employee.”

I, for one, am rooting for Sandy Shaw’s successful reintegration into society; there’s no question in my mind that surviving the Egyed massacre had to have been
a transformative event—the evidence of that ghastly experience could not be scrubbed from her psyche
as swiftly as the brain matter was scrubbed from her bloodstained clothes. Add a fugitive aspiring-pornographer
with a taste for jailbait,
sprinkle with two violence-prone teenaged boys, garnish with a stolen gun—and Sandy’s role in Thiede’s murder becomes,
if not understandable, at least forgivable.

Of course, I could be completely deluded; maybe Sandy is,
as many message board denizens insist, a virulent psychopath whose Machiavellian manipulations will undoubtedly
culminate in yet another blood-bespattered corpse. Only time will tell
whether her release is a triumph of successful rehabilitation or another example of the selective justice meted out to the genetically blessed.

Lady Luck may be the patron saint of Las Vegas,
but Lady Justice dwells in Sin City as well—and sometimes in her quest for righteousness even Lady Justice is required to put down her scales and roll the dice.

  1. Kip says:

    Thank you for your WELL WRITTEN, WELL UNDERSTOOD presentation. I am all for punishment but after spending my life in foster care, I understand how such difficult life experiences can skew your mind. Then, in our “formal” society, they expect everyone to understand and fit into the box as “they” see it and NOT how another who has had to walk such a difficult road see’s it!

    Thank you again, a very, very well done article!

    • lempereur says:

      cette enfant n’aurait jamais du être condamnée de cette façon, le dossier montre qu’il n’y a jamais eu préméditation de sa part dans cet acte, et puis son passé terrible, pourquoi la justice américaine est elle aussi délirante ou folle !! des assassins sont laisser dehors et d’autre pour des actes similaires ou de moindre gravité sont condamné lourdement.
      Question: comment peut on venir en aide à cette femme (Sandy Shaw) aujourd’hui, qui subi encore la malveillance de certain. Pourquoi s’acharne ton autant sur cette personne; étrange?! !!
      Pierre Lempereur

    • Scott Pritchard says:

      Awesome article!! I’m in Sandy’s corner as well and can’t believe the justice system let this lady down so miserably! I’ve watched the documentary and studied the facts of the case and I think she was given a terrible injustice. Praying she does well and experiences the good in this world now!

    • Gina says:

      Very good article indeed.
      Young lives lost. Confused adults, the people we rely upon to lead us, and to make the right decisions take the tax money just to keep failing and misleading the society.

  2. ade says:

    i believe this could have happened to most kids in most any country that one wrong decision when young can be the life changer,i so wish her well

  3. Tom says:

    Thanks for bringing an end to a traumatic episode Im glad shes out now and able to enjoy her life, I spent over 2 years locked up for a crime I did commit and I had a half decent barrister so to be locked up for over 21 at the fault of a useless prosecutor and dodgy dealings must of been hard.

    I know it was her actions that led to a m an dying but it seems he was scum and his actions led to alot more pain and suffering from his attempts to get her naked.

  4. Mark says:

    I studied this case for quite a while and really believe Sandy Shaw is not the “cold-blooded” killer as she was portrayed as in court. She was just in the wrong place and time in life and she was only 15 years old, making stupid mistakes and mixing with the wrong crowd. I believe she is a warm and caring person and she should be free as she is now.

    Troy Kell is the same story but he went the wrong way in prison. We shouldn’t forget he only killed that porno guy to stand up for Sandy Shaw. He didn’t just kill him for nothing. And he was only 18 years old as well, he was a child. I really think the “life in prison without parole” sentence messed him up and turned him into an uncaring hateful person. It’s sad.

    • Big T says:

      wow.. a lot of people commenting here should have been on the jury lol… seems the tactic of using her looks to get set free would work on you lol.. wrong place at the wrong time? she set the murder up..i thought you studied this case for a long time? warm and caring person?? how could you come to that conclusion when you’ve never met her? and troy..”didn’t just kill him for nothing” huh??? there is no justification for shooting a guy 6 times in the face, then stealing all his money..especially not standing up for someone because they got a bunch of phone calls..and prison without parole is what made him uncaring?? i can’t believe what i’m reading…he got life without parole for shooting someone in the face 6 times…he was already cold and calculated…but really…if one of the pretty women that i know gets tried for murder, i’ll cross my fingers that you are on the’ll take one look and say “not guilty” due to beauty. 😉 and yep, i’m a porn producer..people like you scare people like me lol..good day

  5. lulu says:

    Totally agree we should not forget that someone was killed and they both deserved to be punished but the sentences were wrong. Shaw is getting a chance to show she has changed and been rehabilitated. Kell was locked up and the key thrown away and he has evolved into something prison made him into, this is fundamentally wrong. If only he had taken the plea agreement offered to him. Very bad counsel.

  6. Edward C. Stengel says:

    I believe she’s an asset to society, rather than a liability. However, she’s the one who caused this whole thing. Troy Kell and Billy Merritt may never have spent a day in jail if it weren’t for Sandy Shaw.

  7. lulu says:

    She knew exactly what she was doing. I’ve watched the documentaries and I think she was leading Cotton on and decided to get Troy and Billy involved so they could rob the guy, as she knew he had money. Even now when interviewed she has the look of guilt in her eyes and if Troy really did this without her knowing surely she would have turned on him by now yet she still speaks of him with great respect. If someone caused you to spend all that time in prison and you were not guilty wouldn’t you hate them..?

    • Jebus Says says:

      Those guys clearly are violent types. Their own roles are their own burden, not hers. She didn’t make them hometown killers just like you can’t make someone be gay. Either you are or you aren’t. There isn’t a recruitment process. She didn’t sit them in a dank basement brainwashing them into being her killer bots.

    • Dan says:

      You’re dead wrong, Lulu. There was never any intent to rob the man. The two young men were supposed to scare him away by slapping him around a little. She had no idea Kell had a gun. Kell took the victim’s wallet to get rid of the ID so the victim couldn’t be identified, and Sandy didn’t know he’d done it. The robbery motive was something prosecutor Dan Seaton made up; Seaton retired from the law and prosecutor’s office when he was being threatened with impeachment. He was a rotten prosecutor.

    • becky says:

      First you make a statement purporting to know exactly what she was doing and then you follow that up with what YOU think she was doing. These are all your opinions and none of them are fact. A 21 yr. old predator was harassing her and calling her at home nonstop for 8 months. Her Mother went to the police, but they weren’t able to do anything since their were no laws back then for harassment so she did what any 15 yr. old girl would do. She asked a family friend she knew since she was 6 to beat him up and scare him into leaving her and other underage girls like her alone. She had no idea Troy Kell had a gun and planned on shooting him. I don’t think Troy Kell knew he was going to use the gun. There was also no other motive. Just because the prosecutor says something it doesn’t make it true. Unlike you, I can only assume the reason she hasn’t turned on Troy is due to the fact that if she hadn’t involved him in the first place, the murder wouldn’t have happened. I’m sure Troy also felt responsible for her and Billy Merritt going to jail since he was only supposed to beat some sense into the pervert, but instead killed him.

    • Anonymous96 says:

      Exactly she has guilt written in her eyes.

  8. Much support for sandy88

  9. She cannot be blamed for what happened to her friend’s mother two years prior, and yes, Kell & Merritt probably took her frustrations with “Cotton Kelly” and then ran away with it.

  10. Gina says:

    American justice system is weak and ill (e.g. OJ). Yet it makes mistakes whenever possible, like in that case. Children grow up getting splashed with blood. Society poisoned with low morale and corruption of politicians and bureaucrats. Crime and murder all over the media. Double standards. A fraudulent Canadian is free to sexually harass a kid, but in turn some seek prosecutor is unable to see the other side of the coin. I would sue the hell out of all these clowns responsible for wasting couple of young lives. Very sad.

  11. Dan Gleason says:

    This was nicely written but with a few incorrect facts–not really essential ones to Sandy’s case. Actually, Alex Egyed didn’t come to the house he shared with Virginia and her daughter Jessica. He had been there all night packing his car, supposedly to leave for good the next morning. Virginia had no intention of coming back to the house until Alex was gone. But after he went to Caesar’s to confront Virginia, she decided to get the girls out of the house, with Betty accompanying her for support, and their friends Nina Schwartz and Jack Levy in another car waiting in the driveway. Ms. Schwartz escaped because she was on the floor of Jack’s car looking for matches and Alex didn’t see her in there when he shot Jack.
    Sandy and Jessica had hit in a bathtub and then under a bed, but they escaped when the police arrived after Sandy had called 911, through a side door and out the garage door.

    Theide, going by the alias of Kelly, first approached Sandy’s friend Tina Wilson in that arcade and Tina talked Sandy into going along riding in his car. He lied and diverted all the way up to Hoover Dam and Sandy was scared. He dropped her off at daybreak and her mom wanted to have him arrested because he’d taken the girls across the state line. In retrospect, that would have been a good idea. It was eight months later that Thiede spotted her at a McDonald’s, got her number from a friend, and stalked her relentlessly. She did ask the police to help but they said they couldn’t. That’s when she turned to Kell, who was supposed to slap Thiede around to run him off.

    The prosecutor, Dan Seaton, intimidated at least two witnesses to lie on the stand. One of those witnesses, Sandy’s high school friend Dave Fletcher, years later signed an affidavit that Seaton threatened him with prosecution on grand theft charges and Fletcher changed his testimony to help convict her.

    Sandy did not know Thiede’s real name until about the year 2000. She was tried for killing James Kelly, a person who didn’t really exist.

    It was all very tragic.

  12. lulu says:

    Still doesn’t make sense, why would she still be supporting Troy if he got her locked up all that time. Sounds like she is now using Dan Gleason and has him fooled just as she did back in the day.

  13. Inside Out says:

    I am happy to hear she was released. Just finished watching the documentary about Troy. It was about the prison murder that he did. It was hard to watch that video and then watch him being interviewed. He is quite charming; that is why he is so dangerous. Sandy was railroaded, she should have taken the first deal offered to her. The attorney that allowed her not to should be disbarred. I am pulling for you, Sandy. I hope you got your drivers license and had been able to buy furniture for your house like you dream. I wish you a beautiful relationship and all the happiness you can have. I believe in you. You can do it. You deserve everything that you missed out on, and you will get it too. Good luck to you.

  14. Anonymous96 says:

    Awesome write up some gray areas that are not mentioned though. Being the only child of james thiede. Who was hidden from the media and name changed at birth! I feel all 3 of them deserve to be dead for there crime of killing my father. I have 2 children whom he would be now a grandfather to. Honestly who is she to try and play god. Should be still rotting in my honest opinion. Nobody can experience as much loss as we have our whole lifes! 21 yeara is nothing!

    • Anonymous96 says:

      Very much appreciated to hear that, Oh indeed it is a chewing pain in the back of your mind every day trying to understand on what level he deserved to have his life taken. And from all evidence gathered over the years i cannot see what he did wrong other then be a pain in the ass to a girl whom he clearly should have left well alone. To be honest i am all for getting rid of rapists, pedophiles etc who isn’t? “have kids of my own its scary these days” But James did none of these things and the 3 of them know this! Even the accusations that were used against him with no evidence were quite substantially pathetic. I was a kid once to and in that situation i would have lied my scared ass off as killing someone is serious stuff. The only real evidence against James was the fact his parents were drug smuggling and he was running from being questioned on there behalf and they have got what they deserved for that in more then one way. To be quite real i am honestly hurt for everyone involved that lost someone special to them that day “the family’s of everyone involved” and in some of our worlds it will always be a haunting memory.

  15. russ says:

    I’m all for sandy think she got a raw deal however turning a victim of murder and justifying by saying he was chasing jailbait or pornographer etc is and trying to use his negatives for manipulation isn’t right. troy stated he went” kinda overboard” killing cotton. your storybashes the guy and its distasteful. I respect the fact I never heard sandy or troy in a interview use excuses for what they did , even though in her case there was underlying issues. other people have brought it up and to me it diminishes her because she hasn’t come off as a poor me type person and she has had a lot of tough shit to deal with, the fact she hasn’t is awesome and inspiriational. she is woman hear her roaaaar!

  16. russ says:

    prone to violence??????? obviously you never went to prison, and in gladiator days Sandra her self says she cant judge troy cause shes not walked his shoes and I respected her for that whole statement she made regarding that. yet you say hes prone to violence? well I guess it makes sense to sit at computer look at one side of something and judge it. Hope sandy moves on and enjoys life she has left. she made a stupid costly decision when she was 15 (just like 15 yo do) my opinion is she spent too much time for her role but whats done is done. I respect the woman she seems to have become in interviews.

  17. John G says:

    It’s understood that when u do the crime, U do the time. On the other hand, if our prison systems were actually “controlled”, I believe that a lot of people would learn their lesson and become productive members of society. The guy who helped Troy murder the other inmate was locked up for forging a check from the sheriff and given 5 years to serve. The ended up with a life sentence because of the prisons LACK OF CONTROL. U can enter prison being a nonviolent white collar criminal and end up a murderous lifer w/o the chance of parole and/or waiting on death row.
    Prison rape, gangs, fights, murders, and drugs in our prisons creates monsters. Eliminate that and u will have a successful punishment system that will rebirth good people. It currently births monsters. GOTTA LOVE THE POWER OF OUR GOVERNMENT!