As 2021 winds down, we’re looking back on the life of Shannon Flynn. Shannon earned a degree in history from the University of Utah. He relocated to Gilbert, Arizona where he and Robyn successfully ran a small business for nearly two decades. He was a longtime member of the Mormon History Association and a published author. After a three-year battle with lung cancer that eventually metastasized to his brain, Shannon Patrick Flynn passed away in his Gilbert, Arizona home on Thursday, October 28, 2021. He discusses his role with Mark Hofmann. Check out our conversation from 2016. Please note, this conversation happened before his lung cancer diagnosis so his voice sounds normal. The surgery on his lungs damaged a nerve to his vocal cord, so that is why he sounds so raspy in Murder Among the Mormons….
GT: I understand that the book that I read that you actually spent some time in jail.
Shannon: That is correct.
GT: What was that all about?
Shannon: I was incredibly naïve, and maybe still am. But I was incredibly naïve and unknowing and when those bombs went off especially the one with Mark, I knew him really well, better than almost anybody else did, so I thought I could be helpful. I volunteered once or twice to go to the police station and tell what I knew and contribute some information
What I didn’t realize is the police were casting a very wide net on potential suspects and I got caught up in that net. At one point the police in an interview told me they were going to search my house. I said, “You’re going to find something there that’s illegal. There’s an automatic weapon and it’s an illegal one that actually belongs to Mark but it’s in a storage unit of mine.”
I was at one point arrested for possession of an unregistered automatic firearm, that’s a federal crime under the tax code, strangely enough, and so then I spent three days in Salt Lake County Jail and then was able to get bail, and get out and then never went back.
In that process I acquired a defense attorney and I now, at the time I didn’t realize this, but he suggested strongly that I submit to a polygraph. Now I know it’s because he wanted to know if I was telling the truth. But it could have been helpful to have me excluded. It didn’t exclude me for one second because the police, this was a huge deal, huge crime. They were not coming up with lead-pipe cinch suspects very quickly, so they were just going to do what they had to do to find somebody.
That became a charge that I could be charged with though I was never charged with anything to do with the rest of it. He suggested I do this polygraph and he knew about David Raskin, so he said, “Why don’t we do this?” That will help exclude you so I said “Sure.” We drove up to the University of Utah. I sat there and was all rigged up. It has six sensors going and all of that, $600.
GT: You had to pay?
Shannon: I paid.
GT: Oh wow.
Shannon: I paid, and I think in my attorney’s view, then he believed that I hadn’t had anything to do with it. But like I said, the police didn’t.
GT: The police didn’t care.
Shannon: They didn’t care.
GT: So the police still thought you had something to do with it?
Shannon: Somebody, and they didn’t care who it was.
GT: They wanted to hang somebody.
Shannon: Oh they had to. Lyn Jacobs was looked at carefully, I believe Brent Metcalfe was looked at somewhat. Like I said they were casting that net as wide as they could get it. It was still—because it all drove from the incredibility of the whole thing. No one believed that any one person could do all of those forgeries and build those bombs, and kill those people, all of that stuff. They just didn’t believe it. Even if Mark did it, they didn’t believe that one person could do it. There must be somebody else involved.
Of course they went through the normal police procedures. They found confederates, friends, whoever, and they applied whatever pressure they could because that’s a normal investigative technique because often evidence of a crime is not really readily available. A lot of times people are convicted on witness or complicit testimony, so they were looking for somebody to say, “Oh yeah, he did it, and I was there!” You know?
GT: They put a lot of pressure on you. Did they accuse you of being a co-conspirator or something?
Shannon: They did a number of things that to this day I will never forgive them for. Never! This plays into a little bit why this was difficult to imagine.
Did you watch Murder Among the Mormons? What are your thoughts?
We lost Will Bagley Sept 28, 2021, due to complications from a stroke. As we end 2021, we’ll look back at our 2020 interview where he talks about Juanita Brooks, some of his awards, and his reasons for writing history.
Will: Okay. This is what will probably be my next to last book. I’m still working on another book. But this is called River Fever: Adventures on the Mississippi 1969 to 1972. That is a miracle picture, because the end of the book happens very quickly after that. It’s about what it was like to be young in the late 60s and early 70s. I really am delighted that Signature Books decided to publish it. But it hasn’t sold any copies at all. So if you really want to know the inside story on Will Bagley, this is it. Besides that, there is an afterword where I actually deal with Mountain Meadows.
Will: This is also a story of how I wanted to recreate the 19th century and experience history.
Will: “Many who write history are seeking some version of immortality. We hope our names will live as long as books endure. We see the limits of being human all around. But we are creatures who cannot comprehend huge numbers, let alone eternity. Being a parent or grandparent is as close to heaven as any of us deserve, so a foolish desire to live forever merely confirms, what an Old Testament existentialist wrote several thousand years ago. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. As with all my friends who do creative work, when the job is done, all you see are its flaws. I joke about retiring after my work is done. But making books is all I ever wanted to do. I expect to keep doing it until I can do it no more. I’m still dreaming and hoping those dreams come true. When I told an old drunken Osceola “I am Huck Finn”. I wasn’t kidding.
Will: “I still am.”
Will: It’s cheap, too. All my other books cost quite a bit. But you get this book for less than 20 bucks.
What are your thoughts on Will Bagley?