ANATOMY OF A MURDER VICTIM

DEPARTMENT STORE SALES CLERK MUFFIN SHEW CONSTANTLY TALKED ABOUT HER DAYS AS A SPY, HER CELEBRITY FRIENDS AND HER HIGH GOVERNMENT CONTACTS. THEN SHE TURNED UP DEAD IN HER BACKYARD.

Muffin left the library at 1 p.m. and went to her second job as a sales clerk at Robinson's, usually until the store closed at 9 p.m.

By all accounts, she was a top sales clerk, sometimes waiting on two or three customers at a time in the women's dress department. The store now refuses to discuss Muffin's employment.

In earlier years, Muffin focused her energy on volunteer work. She put in hundreds of hours volunteering at places like the Phoenix Zoo. She taught disabled children to swim and cut through red tape like a machete. She was a helping hand to senior citizens and led exercise classes for women in and out of jail.

But even the most routine days did not go by without some sort of subplot for Muffin.

Colleagues at the library say she sometimes kept a log of their comings and goings, and her style could be confrontational. She made it her personal campaign to seek benefits for part-time employees.

She often spoke of knowing celebrities like Donald Trump, Jerry Lewis, Elton John and Queen Elizabeth. She told colleagues she had once worked as a personal assistant to George Peppard.

"There was always just enough truth in them so that you never really knew if they were real," says Gruys of her stories.

And Muffin told fantastic tales of her love affair with an Israeli colonel known only as Josef, a pilot who trained at Luke Air Force Base. According to her, Josef escorted her to parties with important people and they shared romantic weekends out of town.

There is no clue that Muffin's mysterious lover ever existed, nor have neighbors seen such a visitor to her home. But then again, according to police, Israeli pilots have trained at Luke.

In the 1980s, she worked as a night auditor for Valley hotels like the Biltmore, and was at the Phoenician when federal agents took over the resort from Charlie Keating.

Muffin loved to work, and work hard. But somehow, it just wasn't enough without the flavor of intrigue.

It was a rare occasion when Muffin Shew kept her opinions or her politics to herself.

She enjoyed the nickname "Toughy Muffy," because there was seemingly no cause she wouldn't take on. She wrote letters to City Hall, to the White House and all points in between. Some of them were vicious, others were threatening. She protested tax collection, immigration laws, the return of a child to her biological parents, foreign affairs and a grab bag of other issues.

She kept files of various pieces of information that she had collected on issues of importance to her, and she was an avid researcher once she sunk her teeth into something.

Muffin worked on Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign. She worked vehemently to oppose the Maricopa Community College District bond election in 1992.

Muffin had taught hotel management at the district's Maricopa Skill Center in 1990 and 1991. During that time and after, she developed a distaste for the college administration. She complained constantly to anyone who would listen that the district was wasting taxpayer money and that administrators were grossly overpaid.

It was music to the ears of taxpayer groups and, apparently, the general public agreed. The bond issue was defeated, although a later one passed.

She told friends and colleagues she was going to Washington, D.C., in September to speak before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration hearing, led by Senator Ted Kennedy. She took the day off work to do it.

According to Kennedy's office, he did lead the committee until this year. There were two hearings in 1994--in June and August. But Muffin Shew never testified at either, nor did any other member of the public.

In 1991, Muffin filed sexual discrimination charges against Arrowhead Landscaping, alleging that Arrowhead had fired her days after she was hired because company principals refused to work with a woman.

The complaint was settled for $10,000. But Muffin continued to argue with the Attorney General's Office, complaining that it was not collecting the money.

She visited with police detectives and reporters and government officials. To most of them, she was an acquaintance, a source, a friend or just a nice lady. To Muffin, they were her "contacts."

She casually told a select few people she knew that they would likely find her dead someday. And she was right.

Gary Shew was sitting at the drafting table where he makes his living when he got the call that would begin the most bizarre week of his life.

Muffin was dead and the police wanted to talk to him. And until that day, he believed that the woman to whom he was married for 16 years had been a British government agent, had traveled around the globe, graduated college in England, attended law school at UCLA and had never been married before they met.

"I loved her. But, honestly, I have no idea who I was married to," says Shew, who bears an uncanny resemblance to actor Sean Connery.

Throughout their relationship, Muffin maintained that she had worked for British intelligence. She didn't say much about it, but, occasionally, told of boarding British-registered ships in California to inspect the captain's log.

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