Brothers behind bars
Carroll siblings who were sentenced to prison for murder and robbery are cellmates, for now
February 7, 2014
About this series
This story is the first of a two-part series about two brothers who grew up in Carroll and are now together in prison. The second story publishes Monday.
Reminiscent of their childhood in Carroll, brothers Troy and Chad Shearon share a living space.
It's crowded with mementos, snacks, gifts, textbooks and pictures Troy has drawn. The brothers - both in their 40s - work, study, eat and live in the space.
But, unlike their childhood, it's not a Carroll residence they're occupying. It's a prison cell.
They're not just roommates - they're cellmates, or "cellies," as inmates often say.
The Shearon brothers are both serving prison sentences at the Newton Correctional Facility - Troy a life sentence for first-degree murder, and Chad a 25-year sentence for first-degree robbery.
Both believed they were wronged by the justice system. But in just four years, once his mandatory time is up, Chad could be out of prison for good, while Troy faces waking up in a cell every day for the rest of his life unless he can convince a judge otherwise.
Until then, the two have used the tools at hand - sometimes their fists, other times a shared meal - to make a life for themselves in their Newton cell.
A CARROLL CHILDHOOD
As two of five siblings, Troy and Chad's early days in Carroll were marked by sports, involvement in school, drinking with friends and tussling with neighborhood kids.
"Carroll was great. It was probably the perfect place to grow up," said Chad, 40, in an interview with the Daily Times Herald at the Newton Correctional Facility in December. "Carroll was a really good place to raise a kid."
Chad, who went through the Kuemper Catholic School system, played football and basketball and ran track in school. He sang and danced in musicals, once playing Rooster in "Annie." He also participated in a group called LIFE - Living in Faith Enthusiastically.
Troy, almost six years older - who was not permitted by prison officials to talk to the Times Herald because of a pending court appeal - was a bit of a troublemaker in high school, Chad said. The younger brother was 13 when Troy was arrested. He recalled his classmates' positive reaction after the arrest.
"All my classmates were great. They didn't treat me differently," Chad said. "As a kid, I was embarrassed. ... I was probably one of the model students in high school. Maybe I was trying to emulate the exact opposite of the stigma put on my brother."
After he graduated high school, Chad went to Briar Cliff University in Sioux City for about a year before he worked as a massage therapist and, later, other jobs for Norwest Mortgage, Wells Fargo, and finally at Ruan Transportation, based in Des Moines.
Troy and Chad's oldest brother, Michael, died in 2012. Their younger sister, Roxie, works for the Department of Human Services, and their younger brother, Bob, is a construction supervisor. Their mother, Dianne, lives in Carroll, and their father, Patrick, lives in Des Moines. The two divorced when Chad was 10.
Chad said he and his siblings were close.
"We grew up pretty much fighting all the time" - with each other, with neighbors, Chad said. "We could fight, but don't pick on any of us, or we'd tag-team on you."
Now, as adult brothers who share a cell, they keep the same rules.
'FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE'
Troy Shearon, was 19 when he stabbed a Des Moines man 22 times, killing him.
On Oct. 3, 1987, Ray Myers, who owned a Des Moines tavern, confronted Troy, now 45, over a girl both of them liked.
She was Myers' "mistress," Chad recalled, but she wanted to leave, and Troy was helping her get her belongings from Myers' apartment.
"She was scared and didn't want to stay with (Myers)," Chad said. "Troy was trying to help."
The tavern owner offered Troy a beer, which he refused because he suffered from ulcers. Myers retorted, "You don't want to drink my beer, but you'll screw my girl," Chad said, recounting Troy's memories of the event.
The 1987 confrontation escalated, and Myers was killed. Although police didn't find bruises on Troy's body, he said he acted in self-defense after Myers tried to strangle him.
The stab wounds, Chad claimed, were so numerous because Myers was high on drugs during the confrontation and continued to attack Troy, not feeling the wounds.
Some accused Troy of entering Myers' residence with plans to rob him - and he did walk away with $17 or $18 in blood-spattered cash, according to court documents.
During his trial, Troy described Myers multiple times as a "drug dealer and baby raper." Court documents show that a woman accused Myers of sexually assaulting her soon before his murder.
"Shearon contends (the woman's) testimony would have been evidence of the violent, dangerous, and quarrelsome nature of the victim, and specifically would have cast light on the victim's emotional state when he met shortly thereafter with Shearon at his bar," according to court records.
That was the type of man he was defending himself from, Troy said - but a jury still found Troy guilty of first-degree murder, which means life in prison without parole.
"Troy had to fight for his life, and he did," Chad said. "It was his life or the other's. You never know what you'll do. ... He's always admitted he killed the guy. He's just saying it was self-defense."
Carrying at least two semi-automatic handguns and shouting warnings of a holdup, two men and a woman entered a Video Update store in Ames at about 11 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2000.
They kept their faces covered and referred to each other as Bonnie and Clyde - although one man called the other "Chad" and acted as though he'd slipped up, according to later testimony.
After less than 20 minutes, they left with between $700 and $1,000 in cash and checks, 149 PlayStation games and several bags of candy. They joined a second woman serving as the getaway driver and left behind two employees, bound at their wrists and ankles with duct tape.
Three robbers confessed. Later, two of them named Chad Shearon as their fourth.
But Chad, who was 26 at the time, denied having anything to do with the robbery. One of the women involved backed his story, as well as the woman Chad was dating at the time, who testified that Chad was with her at the time of the robbery.
However, the judge found the accounts accusing Chad more convincing, as well as the testimony and alibi of the man named as the fourth robber by those defending Chad. Chad was convicted of first-degree robbery and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has served more than 12 of those years.
For more than a decade, Chad has maintained that he met up with the other three, whom he had known previously, when they called him for a ride from Ames to Des Moines. He had no knowledge of the robbery when he met with them, he said.
A traffic stop less than an hour after the robbery found Chad driving a car that held the three people who later confessed to the crime. It was only after the officer let them go - tagging his report of the event to note that the stop could be related to the robbery but declining to search the car - that, Chad said, his relieved passengers told him about the robbery.
There was no physical evidence contributing to Chad's conviction. Rather, it was based on two trials, several testimonies and the fact that he was with the three confessed robbers the evening of the heist.
Those 12 years, Chad said, are a result of a setup from people who were protecting their counterpart and thought Chad had enough money to avoid prison. By testifying against him, he added, they secured shorter prison sentences for themselves.
Chad claims his defense attorney erred when he convinced Chad to ask a judge to determine his guilt, rather than a jury.
"I was really angry the first seven years of my incarceration," Chad said. "I didn't give a crap about anything."
That anger, combined with the difficulties of prison life, led to particularly dark thoughts that gave him pause.
"I decided, was I going to be that person or not?" he said. "I've never been that person. I decided to stop fighting. ... I couldn't be that angry anymore. I just let it all go. I'm tired of fighting a system that's broken."
Chad will be eligible for parole in about four years.
Troy will stay.