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.

"I had no reason to question her," Shew says. He also thought he had reason to believe his wife.

Once in a while, Muffin got phone calls at home and held quiet, private conversations. She never allowed friendships with the neighbors.

One day, an old Air Force buddy called Gary and they reminisced for a good, long time over the phone. Shew was happy to hear from his old friend, but Muffin's response was deadpan. How did he get their phone number? Hadn't Gary told his family not to give out their phone number?

Muffin changed the couple's number immediately.
"It appeared to me that she was quite concerned about her safety," Shew says. "She didn't want anyone to know anything about us."

Her family can find no reason to explain this.
Austin Barrass, Muffin's brother, told police that Muffin had once worked as a clerk for some government agency, he said, but never anything more than that.

MI-5, the domestic intelligence agency of Great Britain, has no record of a retirement or a pension for Muffin, nor does it have a record of anyone with her known surnames dying in 1994. But the agency could not confirm whether she had ever worked there.

Maybe she was just a good candidate for the job.
The Muffin Shew that her husband knew could handle any situation beautifully, whether it was a confrontation at a restaurant or cutting through bureaucratic red tape.

Gary Shew's job took him out of town often for weeks at a time. On one occasion, when they lived in an apartment, Muffin saw a stranger on the patio. She told Shew that she stood in the doorway, turned toward the house and said, loudly, "Gary, get the shotgun." Gary was in Wyoming at the time, but the prowler ran away.

There was no funeral for Muffin Shew. Her family apparently wanted it that way, but it only added to the mystery surrounding her death.

Knowing the truth now, friends feel somewhat betrayed, thinking they'd been duped by Muffin's tall tales. Others are nervous, wondering if some of her stories were true, and that maybe something from the past led to her demise.

Neighbors speculate that someone Muffin crossed got even with her. A few former colleagues raise an eyebrow over her politics, especially the bond issue, because it was so recent.

Gary Shew doesn't know what to think. He's still a little shocked and a bit dismayed. Muffin's family has gone back to England. Some of them call every so often to see if there's any news on the case.

The house where Muffin lived for so many years is for sale.
Police believe her death was a random act of violence. There are no suspects, no leads and few clues that would prove otherwise.

And regardless of what she was or was not, what she had or had not done, who she did or did not know, Muffin Shew was murdered in her backyard, in a quiet, suburban Phoenix neighborhood, without anyone seeing or hearing anything. And maybe that's more disturbing than anything in Muffin's mysterious past.

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