Husband staged a burglary after he slit the throats of his wife and baby boy

Husband staged a burglary after he slit the throats of his wife and baby boy

Ever since her teens, Shanna Riddle Vandewege had dreamed about having a baby. She’d even chosen the names she would give her children years before she started dating Craig Vandewege, who she met at a local church.

But after they married in 2014, Shanna suffered three heartbreaking miscarriages and it seemed her cherished dream would not become a reality.

When Shanna got pregnant again, she could only hope that this time it would be different – and there was plenty of change in her life to distract her from the constant worry of losing another baby.

It was 2016 and the couple had moved from Colorado to Fort Worth, Texas, after Costco worker Vandewege was redeployed due to a promotion.

He had gone ahead by himself to find a house before Shanna, 36, moved to join him.

The registered nurse was on maternity leave and she spent her days preparing for the birth – praying that this time, she would make it to full term.

Shanna Vandewege and Craig Vandewege married in 2014
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Her journey to motherhood had not been an easy one but it made the arrival of their son, Diederik Jonas, affectionately known as DJ, in September even more of a blessing.

Finally, Shanna’s long-held dream had become a reality. She was besotted and posed proudly for family pictures with Vandewege. However, within weeks tragedy struck.

On December 15 Vandewege called 911 from their home at around 9.30pm, saying he’d come home from work to find the house ransacked – and his wife and baby dead upstairs.

Emergency responders raced to the scene and found Vandewege at the front of his house, crouched down with his face in his hands.

Officers went inside to check that there weren’t any intruders lurking before giving paramedics the nod to enter.

The house looked as though it had been burgled, with belongings knocked over and strewn across rooms. But upstairs, the scene was horrific.

Shanna was found in bed with her throat slashed. Little Diederik, just three months old, was in his basket and had also had his throat cut.

Shanna and Diederik’s tragic deaths sent shockwaves through the community. After finally getting the baby she had longed her, they were both now dead.

Shanna and Craig Vandewege met at a local church
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How had a robbery gone so tragically wrong? If Shanna had interrupted a break-in and the raider had killed her to try to cover their tracks, why would they also kill a baby who posed no threat?

Sympathy came flooding in for Vandewege – but some people voiced suspicions that he may have been involved in the sickening crime.

Colleagues said he had been late to work that fateful day, even though he had told the police he was on time.

Vandewege also claimed that he’d been exchanging messages with Shanna on the day she died – but when police asked if they could see his phone he refused, saying it would be “invasive”.

It was natural for the investigation to focus on eliminating close family first and with Vandewege having been at the crime scene, he was questioned.

While he was cooperative with the police at first, he then asked for a lawyer and refused to speak to them.

Shanna and her son Diederik Jonas, affectionately known as DJ
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With no evidence to charge him, Vandewege walked out of the police station and didn’t return.

The investigators had suspicions about him from the start and they only grew over the coming days. Vandewege’s 911 call on the night of the killings was unusual for a man who had just found his family slaughtered.

He didn’t seem concerned that the killer might still be in the house and he listened calmly to the instructions he was given.

Furthermore, when police arrived at the scene Vandewege remained just as composed.

Rumours were starting to circulate but Shanna’s family defended Vandewege. They said he was loving and it was unthinkable that he could have killed his wife and their baby.

However, the stories from others who knew Vandewege were very different.

Co-workers told the police that Vandewege had said some worrying things about his wife ahead of her death.

Police said the ransacking at the home looked staged
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They included negative comments about her appearance, criticising the way she wore her hair and dressed.

He had even said he could only tolerate her by drinking. And shockingly, when Shanna was pregnant, he had talked about wishing he could push her down the stairs – then spoken about having more time off work if both his wife and baby died.

Vandewege also mentioned that his medication for anxiety was making him hear voices in his head that were telling him to kill people.

Then, just before Shanna’s death, he confessed that he had dreams about decapitating his dad and Shanna. He said he’d sliced off their heads like “bologna”.

Was it all talk or had Vandewege gone through with his threats?

A warrant was put out for his arrest and he was held on December 21. He was travelling to Colorado when police stopped him for speeding following reports of erratic driving.

Vandewege denied guilt when he faced court last year but was sentenced in November
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Vandewege calmly told officers, “It’s been a long week, my wife and kid were murdered in Texas.” He then complained he was being framed for the deaths – before officers found camouflage clothing, medication, a gun and ammo in his car.

Vandewege said he was in Colorado for the funeral but he also said he was heading to Las Vegas.

His wedding ring was in his pocket, along with several condoms.

Vandewege was arrested for speeding and, once in custody, he was charged with murder. Shanna’s family were rocked by the news that the man they had trusted with Shanna and Diederik’s lives would face trial for their killings.

The tragic mother and child were buried on December 27, together forever.

At the trial last year, Vandewege pleaded not guilty. The prosecution said the story about someone invading the family home was a lie and noted that he had complained to colleagues about his wife and wished her harm.

Two 911 call handlers who spoke to Vandewege on December 15 testified that he had been very calm while reporting that he had found his family dead, and that usual fears like the killer still being there didn’t cross his mind.

Vandewege, 40, was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in jail
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It was extremely unusual behaviour for a grieving husband and father.

Police body camera footage was played and some of Shanna’s family left the courtroom, as it was so upsetting to watch.

The first officers at the scene had also noted that Vandewege had been oddly calm. And they said that while the house was in disarray, it didn’t look like a typical home invasion – it looked staged.

“This was never a burglary,” the prosecution said. “Why would a burglar ever kill an infant? It’s absurd. It doesn’t add up, no matter which way you look at it.”

The prosecution also told the court that Vandewege stood to gain $700,000 in life insurance in the event of Shanna’s death. Had that been a motive?

While the defence said all the evidence was speculation, the jury disagreed. In November, Vandewege, 40, was found guilty of murder and got the automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Had Vandewege grown tired of being a husband and not wanted to be a father? Or had he hoped for an insurance payout?

To this day, he alone knows his motive for murdering those closest to him – and so cruelly cutting short Shanna’s dream life as a mother.

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