Outpouring of support for murdered teacher’s family is helping them recover
By Ann Craig-Cinnamon
What do you say to someone who tragically lost their daughter? What do you say when that daughter was murdered right in front of them? What things should you ask and what shouldn’t you? Those were the questions running through my mind as I knocked on the door of the home at which Danny and Rita O’Malia are staying. The doubts melted away, however, as Danny opened the door and greeted me with a warm smile and a big hug.
Hugs, both physical and emotional, are how he and his family are getting through their ordeal. And the community has embraced them in immeasurable ways since their unspeakable tragedy.
The O’Malia name is well-known and well-respected in Indianapolis. Danny’s father started a chain of grocery stores bearing the family name decades ago and Danny himself is very active in the community.
Being well-regarded, however, doesn’t protect you from tragedy and their lives were forever changed the night of July 27 when their daughter, Shannon, was shot and killed by her ex-husband David Hall in the O’Malia’s home before turning the gun on himself, as they watched in horror. The Hall’s two sons, Connor, 10 and Danny, 8, were also present in the home at the time of the shootings and according to Rita O’Malia even witnessed their father pull the gun and start to aim it at their mother. Horrifyingly, she says the boys screamed “No, dad, no” before she ran them out of the room and to safety at a neighbor’s house.
A good indication of the kind of people the O’Malia’s are is evidenced by Danny’s comment that David Hall “really was a decent human being who just got off the rails.” Rita too says the 11-year marriage started out as a loving relationship and in recent years just unraveled. There were incidents following the divorce in which Hall exhibited suspicious behavior, and police were even called once, but no one thought he was capable of what he did.
The question of why this tragedy occurred and whether it could have been prevented is for another time. The purpose of this story is to honor Shannon who was so well-loved that hundreds of people stood in line on a hot August day for more than three hours at St. Louis de Montfort School where she had taught for 12 years, to pay their respects to her and her family. Former classmates from Cathedral High School and the University of Dayton came from all over the country to her wake.
One of Shannon’s closest friends, Chrissy Greene and her husband Brian opened their home to the O’Malia’s to give them somewhere to stay while they try to get their lives in order. “We would not be functioning without them,” Rita says.
Shannon’s younger sister, Colleen Stine, who lives with her family in St. Louis, is planning to move back here to help with Connor and Danny. She also created “Shannon Smiles” t-shirts and other items that she is selling to raise money for Shannon’s boys. She says she sold 800 of the t-shirts in just four days’ time. There are more than one thousand followers of the “Shannon Smiles” Facebook page.
Professional sports teams such as the Colts, the Boston Celtics and the Indianapolis Indians have sent tickets and items. St. Louis de Montfort is waiving tuition for this year for the boys. One of the greatest gestures of all has come from Cathedral High School which has pledged free tuition for both Connor and Danny.
The boys will undergo counseling and some of their comments since the tragedy have been heartbreaking. According to Colleen they are both mad at their father but still love him. “Danny said ‘Why did my Daddy have to do that to the nicest person? Why couldn’t he have just done it to himself?’” she says. Danny O’Malia says that one of the first things Connor said after learning both his parents were dead was “Who’s going to teach second grade?”
No decision has been made as to who ultimately will raise the children but Danny and Rita have custody. Colleen wants to raise them and the Greene’s have offered to raise them too. Colleen says “they are wanted.”
Rita calls Shannon’s death a terrible void for the whole family. “I’m just so tired of crying that I don’t think I want to cry again ever. And I’m tired of the tenseness in my chest. But we’re getting along because of the support,” she says. “I think Shannon is with us. I think she says, ‘Mom you can do this.’”
One of Danny O’Malia’s favorite stories about Shannon when she was young seems like a sad irony now. He says 37 years ago when they first moved into their home in Carmel, where the shooting took place, Shannon, who was only three at the time, was scared and couldn’t sleep. He says he told her that she was safer there than she had been before in their old house. He says she told him, “But Daddy, I’m a little girl. I’m supposed to be scared.”
Danny O’Malia believes there have been signs from Shannon. “She loved rainbows. When we arrived at the prayer service for her at Cathedral, there was a rainbow in the sky.”
“Shannon was a dedicated sister and amazing aunt to my children. She loved with her heart anyone who came into her life. We shared the same profession and thoroughly enjoyed our chance to work together. I will miss her forever and keep her memory alive forever.”
Janet Andriole, older sister of Shannon Hall
Shan was vibrant and full of life, she was charming and made everyone feel special. To have been around her is to feel the very essence of love! I think Shan would want to be remembered most as a wonderful mom, a caring daughter, a loving sister and devoted friend. I know she would not want to be thought of as a victim. Shan was a strong woman who would stand up for herself and her children.
Chrissy Greene, Shannon Hall’s close friend for 32 years
As a friend, Shannon was genuine. Over time, I felt like she was one of my sisters. She would cheer me up instantly with her smile and make me laugh with one of her hilarious one-liners. Shannon was energetic, compassionate, encouraging, and engaging. She made learning fun for her students. For Shannon, teaching was not a career … it was a calling.
Kristy Worthington, friend and teacher who taught with Shannon Hall for 12 years
How you can help
Donate at PNC Bank to:
The Connor and Danny Hall Trust Fund
Or go to cocostinedesigns.com to purchase items in memory of Shannon O’Malia Hall