Photo of Lisa Dianne Norrell who was found murdered in Pittsburg, CA almost 15 years ago
Lisa Norrell was 15 years of age when she was last seen leaving a party in Pittsburg, California on the night of November 6, 1998.
According to other party goers, Lisa left at approximately 11pm and vanished. The following morning her black dress shoes, which she had worn to the party, were discovered on Highway 4 in Antioch. Later that year, Lisa’s deceased remains were found and her cause of death was determined to be homicide. Medical examiners say she died from asphyxiation.
Police and prosecutors were facing alot of criticism due to a former Antioch fire captain, Duanne Shoemake, had prior child-molestation charges filed against him dropped after he provided supposedly key evidence in Lisa’s case.
David Heneby had confessed taking Lisa, holding her for several days and doing “awful things” to her, according to the mother of one the girls allegedly molested by Shoemake.
Shoemake had learned of the confession by way of his sister-in-law, who also happened to be Heneby’s mother-in-law.
On January 6, 1999 Heneby was arrested for the murder of Lisa Norrell. However, he along with another suspect were released the very next day after prosecutors determined that there was not enough evidence to charge them with the crime. For reasons authorities will not discuss, Shoemake’s information had not been strong enough to keep Heneby in custody.
The mother of the molestation victim who is not being identified to protect her daughter’s identity, was angered when she realized Shoemake would not be facing charges and filed suit against him. She has been critical of prosecutors’ handling of his case.
She said in an interview that Shoemake’s sister-in-law, identified as Dina Green, apologized earlier for having provided information that allowed him to avoid prosecution.
“She called to apologize. She was sorry about Duanne finding out,” said the mother of the victim.
Green reportedly had been cooperating with police, who at one point tapped her phones in an attempt to build a case against Heneby. But, Green apparently had credibility problems herself and her account of Heneby’s confession was not deemed strong enough to stand up in court.
The mother confronted police about why they traded away a child molestation case for a third-hand tip about a purported confession.
At that meeting, Pittsburg police defended their deal with Shoemake, saying he had helped them make an arrest.
“Basically, they told me there was an arrest made and that was good enough,” said the mother of the molestation victim. “But what he told them obviously did not stick an arrest.”
Larry Cook, a lawyer representing the woman in her lawsuit against Shoemake, said police “gave up very serious sex crimes charges for apparently nothing.” “The continued victimization of these girls is the fact that no arrest (in the Norrell case) has been made, and law enforcement is unwilling to come forward to account for their actions,” Cook said.
Pittsburg police continue to investigate Lisa Norrell’s unsolved murder and despite receiving new, unspecified information years after from the Bay area and beyond, the case remains cold.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s mother, Minnie Norrell, continues to trust that authorities will bring her daughter’s killer to justice one day. She had started a charity called ‘Lisa’s Closet’ to help provide low-income families with clothing. And she has kept flowers, candles and a picture of her daughter as a shrine to Lisa in front of her Pittsburg home.
“This memorial will stay here until the police find my daughter’s killer,” Norrell said last month. “Only then will I take it down.”
Asked if he thought Lisa’s case would be solved, Zbacnik said, “We always believe that. Homicides never go away.”