UPDATED 01/03/11 5:27 p.m.
RANSOM, Ill. (WBBM/CBS) – She vanished nearly a month ago following a car crash that killed her husband. But on Monday, Tanya Shannon’s body was found, in a field not far from the crash site.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on why it took so long to find the mother of four.
Tanya was found shortly after 9 a.m. this morning by Chopper 2, which was covering the story.
CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl and pilot Jeff Fair were following a search for Tanya, panning out their view from a lone telephone pole near the crash site. In their third turn surveying the cornfields around 9:15 a.m., the crew located the body in the middle of the field and notified authorities.
Police immediately confirmed that the mother of four was wearing the same clothes as the night she disappeared.
“She was still wearing the grey hoodie, the red dress, the purse that we knew she had,” said LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton.
Autopsy results showed that Dale Shannon was drunk. His blood alcohol level was .266, more than three times the legal limit of .08, officials said.
Deputies found footprints in the snow leading away from the car, and searchers braved the cold for days in hopes of finding the woman.
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Police helicopters had flown over the area searching for Tanya, but authorities say her body was probably covered by the snow.
Today, they admitted that rescuers on foot never searched the field, because they assumed if she’d left the car she’d be looking for shelter.
“Any culvert, any ditch, anything at all that would provide any type of wind break is what people tend to look for,” said Templeton. “That’s where we were concentrating our searches. The middle of an open field, that was not something we thought was a plausible thing to do.”
The couple was raising their daughters in a home in Ransom. It’s a couple of blocks from Jerry’s Bar, where neighbors in the small town came together to collect money for the girls and pray for Tanya’s safe return.
“I talked to some of the teachers at the school, and the kids were still hoping and anticipating that their mom is going to come home. Now, we got the finalization but it’s not what we were hoping for,” said Jerry Yedinak, owner of Jerry’s Bar.
All the while, Templeton says, the department was hurting for the couple’s children.
“Thank goodness that we’ve been able to bring some closure to this,” Templeton said. “The only thing anybody talked about around the office since this happened, all through the holidays, was those four kids; those four little girls. That was going to dampen the effect on the holidays for everyone.”
“It’s very devastating. She lived next door to me. They both did, for like five or six years,” said neighbor Pam Ermel. “They got four adorable little girls, and they can probably use a lot of help.”
It’s estimated that the people in Ransom and surrounding communities have raised more than $2,000 for the couple’s daughters. And they’re still accepting donations.
Officials have also revealed that Tanya Shannon filed for divorce from her husband earlier in the year. According to published reports, Tanya and Dale Shannon had reconciled their differences more recently.
The family declined to talk to the media, but they issued a statement thanking the searchers and the community for all its support.
Authorities will have the results of an autopsy next week.
Authorities believe if Tanya Shannon had walked toward a nearby nuclear plant rather than into the field, she would have had a better chance of surviving. It is not known what her condition was right after the accident, or whether she became disoriented.
“Who knows? Only God knows,” local resident Will Mertes told CBS 2′s Kristyn Hartman. Mertes was at a tavern Monday night, where a collection was set up for Shannon’s four orphaned children.