Nineteen days before the telephone call came, Kathleen Lloyd got a greeting card in the mail. It was from her sister, Shawn McClenahan.
Lloyd glanced at the postmark before tearing open the envelope. She was relieved to find the card had been mailed in Spokane. That meant McClenahan was still around.
The card was titled “Top Ten Reasons I’m Glad You’re My Sister.” It contained a list of sarcastic one-liners thought up by some greeting card writer somewhere. It barely held her attention.
Then she turned inside, where she was gripped by the blue ball-point prose penned by her sister.
In a soul-searching letter, the 39-year-old McClenahan - found murdered the day after Christmas - poured out her heart, even the darkest parts of it.
She wrote about selling sex to support her daily heroin habit, about leaving her fourth husband, about being homeless. “I live where I can,” she wrote. “It’s real cold out these days.”
In looping script, McClenahan asked for forgiveness for not being able to beat the addiction that robbed her of her dignity and drove her from her family.
She said she had an appointment soon to sign up for a methadone program that she hoped would allow her to kick heroin and come home. She said she was happy about that, about maybe getting clean.
Toward the end of the letter, McClenahan asked Lloyd to extend greetings to the rest of the family. “Tell them all I love them, and I’m still alive,” she wrote.
It was Dec. 8.
“She was my best friend,” Lloyd said Friday. “We knew each other like no one else.”
Christmas Day came and went with no word from McClenahan, who got wrapped up in the drug scene several years ago. Her brother, Patrick McClenahan, said he felt strangely relieved by the silence of the telephone that day.
“I remember thinking she was probably in jail, that’s why she didn’t call,” he said Friday. “I kind of felt relieved thinking that, because that was the safest place for Shawn - in jail. I knew if she was in there, she wasn’t using, she wasn’t out on the streets.”
Two days later - on Dec. 27 - the phone did ring, and Lloyd and Patrick McClenahan learned that their sister - the mother of a 21-year-old son and a former hospital worker - had been shot to death, her body dumped in an overgrown gravel pit with that of another woman - Laurie Ann Wason.
Wason, herself a mother and a lover of Rottweiler dogs, also was driven to the streets by a heroin addiction.
Members of a joint city-county task force investigating a string of unsolved murders involving Spokane-area women soon arrived at Lloyd’s door. They had few answers. It may be a serial killer, they said. Maybe not.
“They said she’d been shot in the back of the head and that she wasn’t hurt anywhere else,” Patrick McClenahan said.
“They said there was a striking resemblance between Shawn’s death and the other crimes,” Lloyd added.
They asked some questions, then went away, leaving the family wondering about their sister’s fate and the priorities of a community gone crazy over the WSU Cougars while the murders of more than 20 women since 1984 go unsolved.
“Where’s the outrage?” Patrick McClenahan asked Friday.
The family learned later that McClenahan had visited her father in a Spokane nursing home on Dec. 15.
Two days later, she was seen leaving her former brother-in-law’s house in a blue van. Another woman was riding with her.
McClenahan had been staying at the house while she tried to get clean. She was supposed to baby-sit for her former brother-in-law’s kids on Dec. 18, but she called to say she’d be late, Lloyd said.
That was the last anybody ever heard from her.
“The most important thing is that these women start being looked at as people, not dead prostitutes,” her brother said Friday. “They’re somebody’s sister, or wife, or mother. They count.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MEMORIAL A memorial service for Shawn McClenahan will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Hennessey/Smith Funeral Home, 2203 N. Division.