Someone knows: What happened to Shannon LaBau?

Someone knows: What happened to Shannon LaBau?
Posted at 11:34 AM, Mar 10, 2024

HELENA — What happened to Shannon LaBau? That question has remained unanswered for more than 25 years.

LaBau, a 23-year-old Helena resident, was last seen on February 23, 1999. His disappearance has haunted those close to him and his case every day for more than two decades.

“We expected to find him, and time took over,” LaBau’s sister, Pat Andersen, said.

LaBau had a job, friends and family in Helena. He was the second youngest of seven kids, and a young father at the time of his disappearance.

Shannon LaBau pictured with his daughter, Jayden.

“I would always have that hope that one day I would wake up and he’d be knocking at my door because he survived whatever happened and he found me,” Jayden Alexander said.

Alexander is LaBau’s daughter, she was just a toddler when her father disappeared.

Her mother, Leslie Roope, said LaBau was so proud to be a father and would never have left his daughter.

“He just loved Jayden so much,” Roope said. “Some of the sweetest times with him were with her.”

Shannon, Leslie and Jayden
Shannon LaBau and Leslie Roope with their daughter, Jayden.

Another of LaBau’s loves—fixing up old muscle cars. According to the investigation, that is what he planned to do the day of his disappearance. Investigators said LaBau’s friend, Steve Rummel, told him about a rancher selling a muscle car in Townsend.

Last car Shannon fixed up
According to his family, this is the last muscle car Shannon LaBau fixed up.

Roope said LaBau told her about this trip to buy a car to fix up.

“He said he was going to look at a car, there was nothing abnormal about that for me,” Roope said. “I was excited for him because I knew this was something that he really wanted.”

LaBau’s loved ones started to worry when he did not return and stopped answering calls—and then he didn’t show up to work.

“He was supposed to be at work,” Andersen recalled. “That was a red flag because Shannon was habitually late, but he never missed work, ever.”

Watch: Shannon's sister talks about not being able to put him to rest

Shannon's sister talks about not being able to put him to rest

Helena Police Department investigators started piecing together LaBau’s last movements.

“Rummel went to pick him up from his residence on Villard, and then they had gone to the credit union up on Lyndale, got his money and left town,” lead investigator and retired Helena Police Department detective Richard Drysdale said. “That was the last time anybody saw Shannon alive.”

MTN called Rummel for comment, but he hung up.

Drysdale investigated LaBau’s disappearance for 12 years.

Former Helena Police Department detective Richard Drysdale looks through the Shannon LaBau case file.

“I picked the case up and it was in a one-inch binder,” Drysdale said.

Now the case file fills three large binders that are still at the Helena Police Department today—10 years after Drysdale’s retirement. And a decade after retiring, Drysdale still thinks about the case.

“I don’t think it will ever leave me—this case,” Drysdale said. “I put a lot of time and effort into it.”

Watch: Hear from Shannon's family and a former investigator

Someone knows: What happened to Shannon LaBau?

Drysdale started by trying to track down the rancher in Townsend selling a muscle car—it’s a story he could never verify.

“I was not able to find a rancher or anything, or even an ad of someone wanting to sell a vehicle down there,” Drysdale said.

He logged hours on the road following up on tips, driving to the far edges of Montana and even traveling to Kentucky to talk with people who might have information.

After years of work, searches and countless interviews, Drysdale said he is pretty certain of what happened and who did it.

“His name comes up a lot,” Drysdale said. “But, without any evidence, I have nothing to act on. I’ve got plenty of circumstantial evidence.”

Shannon missing billboard
A missing billboard for Shannon LaBau.

It has been 25 years, but Drysdale said he believes those responsible for LaBau’s disappearance are still alive and in the Helena area.

“I’ll say it right now, yes, I think there’s one, maybe two murderers,” Drysdale said.

Some of those close to LaBau also still live and work in the Helena area. The idea that those responsible for LaBau’s disappearance could be nearby is something they think about.

“It’s scary,” Roope said of that thought. “I don’t know if I’m going to run into him.”

Watch: Shannon's daughter talks about growing up without a dad

Shannon's daughter talks about growing up without a dad

LaBau’s family and investigators are still waiting on that one tip that could close the case, and they believe there are people in the community who have that information they have needed for the past more than 25 years.

“You’ve got family members, and if you think about it, you don’t want one of them missing and me holding out on you,” Andersen said. “That’s what you’re doing to us, you’re making it so that we have to do this day after day. Now, decade and year after year.”

LaBau has now been gone for more years than he was alive. His mother, Sally, died in 2007, not knowing what happened to him. His daughter has children of her own.

“I’ve had two kids, I’ve had so many milestones,” Alexander said. “I’ve gotten married. Just all the big and little things that I kind of live on the grief of what my dad could have been.”

Chair at Jayden's wedding
A chair left empty at Jayden Alexander's wedding in memory of her dad, Shannon LaBau.

Along with the answers, Drysdale believes LaBau’s remains are still out there waiting to be found and brought home.

“It’s time for somebody to cowboy up as they say in Montana and talk to somebody about it,” Drysdale said.

Contact information
Who to contact with information about Shannon LaBau's case.

Any piece of information could help, no matter how small. Tips can be reported anonymously to Helena Area Crime Stoppers at 406-443-2000 or online. You can also call the Helena Police Department at 405-447-8461. LaBau’s case number is #99200923/435877.

“It’s been 25 years,” Alexander said. “Just to have answers, that’s all we want.”