Family gets answers to couple’s 1987 murder, investigator explains why they couldn’t take the case to court

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Scott and Shannon Hughes were last seen alive on July 4, 1987. The young married couple disappeared early on the morning of July 5, 1987. They were trying to get a ride home to Roanoke after making a call from Christiansburg.

Sadly, that would be the last time anyone would hear from the couple. They were reported missing months later in October 1987.

Then, in March of 1988, Scott and Shannon were found dead down an embankment off of Interstate 581, at mile marker 0.6. According to investigators, the two had been shot and killed.

Angel Berman, Shannon’s sister, says she can still remember the night she and her family learned they were dead. She was 10 years old.

“I think I still remember when they told us they found her, found ‘em. It was at night,” Berman said.

Shannon’s father, Doug Trout, told WFXR News they found out around midnight.

Eight months had passed between Scott and Shannon’s disappearance and when their bodies were found.

That gap in time would prove to make the case challenging for investigators. Any evidence was long gone. Special Agent Douglas Hubert with Virginia State Police recently did an overview of the case.

“So, with a lot of investigations, and this is a good example of that, you don’t have necessarily a tangible, physical piece of evidence to link something to something. As in, you don’t have it to link your suspect or a person to a crime or to link a person or a location together through physical evidence,” said Hubert. “So, you have to go with what their interviews are or stories are and those are words. And one person can tell you one thing and another person can tell you another thing. So, you spend a lot of time trying to deconflict or see which one is the most accurate.”

Hubert says that was the case with Scott and Shannon’s murders. He checked the work done by the investigators, who were tasked with solving it to find out if any additional work could be done or if they had already exhausted all leads. The investigators tasked with solving the case have all retired.

“They didn’t get what they wanted,” Hubert said. “It weighed on them heavily. There’s notes and documentation in the case report. I talked to the original investigator on the phone last week about this case. He knew all the facts of it now all these years later and was happy to know we were talking with the family about it. And he said the same thing: ‘I just never wanted to let it go.’”

Hubert was able to conclude that investigators did everything they could. They exhausted all leads.

The most extensive work was in the late 1990s when a task force was created to solve the couple’s murder.

“So, essentially, the case was worked twice and I’m not saying one investigation was better than the other one,” said Hubert. “Times had changed. More information came forward. Other skill sets and another set of eyes looked at it, also. So they did two different types of investigations, but they both investigated very thoroughly. And they came up with a very logical conclusion and they came up with a suspect and they just never had enough physical evidence that would allow the Commonwealth to go forward with the case against the person.”

According to Hubert, that person is now dead.

The roadblocks that investigators faced with this case are not unusual. Investigators everywhere deal with the same issue.

“​So, there are a lot of cases that we have from serious crimes to minor crimes that work. We know who did it. We’re pretty sure how they did it, where they did it and when they did it; but all we have are words,” according to Hubert. He added, without enough evidence, there is not enough to take a case to court.

Hubert says that’s the situation with this case. Investigators know who did this, but the definitive evidence just isn’t there to bring charges. It’s another reason this case, like so many, is frustrating.

“Everyone assumes that if the case didn’t go to court, then it’s not solved and I think this is an example of that,” said Hubert. “We have a large caseload and there are many crimes that are solved. It’s just the fact that it’s not getting the expectation that a lot of people have that it goes through the criminal justice system, through court and then somebody is actually convicted of a crime.”

Hubert sat down and had a conversation with members of Shannon’s family, giving them back evidence investigators have held on to all of these years and explaining why they feel this case is solved. He says it’s now classified as inactive.

Despite this, Trout and Berman say they will continue to fight to ensure Shannon and Scott are never forgotten.

“I loved her. Still do. You don’t know what this is until you go through it,” said Trout.

“You don’t think it will happen to you,” said Berman.

Berman’s youngest daughter shares Shannon’s middle name, Elizabeth, along with her birthday.

“She was born January 20th and so she shares her birthday and every year we do happy birthday to her and Shannon,” said Berman.  

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