Shanna Hogan, a local journalist and author of true-crime novels, died on September 2 following a tragic swimming pool accident days earlier.
The 37-year-old acclaimed writer leaves behind her son, Zander, who's 15 months old, and husband Matt LaRussa.
Full disclosure: I was Hogan's editor at the Scottsdale Tribune in the mid-2000s and considered her a friend. She leaves behind many friends, both professional and personal, as well as fans of her books and former journalism students at Arizona State University, where she was an adjunct professor.
Hogan's husband found her face-down in the pool on August 27, he wrote on Facebook — she had apparently hit her head and fallen in. It was unclear how long she'd been in the water. She survived for a few days without regaining consciousness. A friend started a GoFundMe account to raise money for her family's medical and funeral expenses.
Her death cuts short Hogan's book-writing career, which she built with talent and self-motivation. Amazon reviews for her fourth and last book, Secrets of a Marine's Wife: A True Story of Marriage, Obsession, and Murder, shows how she'll be missed by readers. "This book was edge of your seat suspenseful, read like fiction. This author is an up and coming true crime writer. She is really good," one reviewer wrote. Hogan also wrote a book about murderer Jodi Arias.
Hogan graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2005 from ASU. As I recall, Hogan had almost no writing experience when she showed up at the Tribune in 2006. But she did show incredible enthusiasm and a desire to write for a living. She also loved to read, a mandatory habit for any aspiring writer.
This was a crucial time in Hogan's career, and sometimes frustrating, as she learned how to write lucidly on deadline. She soon became one of the best writers on the team, in addition to being a cool co-worker who would always crack you up with her slightly twisted sense of humor.
Hogan was adept at writing long-form nonfiction, and wrote stories for the now-defunct Scottsdale Times, a monthly newspaper. She won the Arizona Press Club's 2009 Virg Hill Journalist of the Year award, a rare prize for a writer from one of the state's smaller publications. She was later promoted to executive editor at the newspaper. When the Times Media Group publishing company expanded, Hogan found herself producing six monthly publications, including the College Times, Scottsdale Airpark News, and Lovin’ Life After 50.
But what she really wanted to do was write.
Her first book, Dancing with Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband, and a Horrifying Murder, came out in 2011, followed in 2013 by Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story, which became a New York Times bestseller. She quit her day job in 2014 to focus on writing books. She made appearances on news shows and podcasts.
Former Tribune reporter Lindsay Carrillo, then Lindsay Butler, started at about the same time as Hogan and the two became friends. Carrillo said she always admired the way Hogan turned her dream into reality.
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"She had no fear, whether it was telling a funny story about herself or sitting face to face with the Baseline Killer," said Carrillo, who now lives in Long Beach, California, and is the senior manager for network development at UC Irvine Health. "Shanna had a joy for life, which extended to her friends and family. She liked to throw theme parties, like 80s night or Harry Potter night."
Hogan freelanced for New Times in 2015 and 2016. Here are a few of our favorites stories:
In Saving Jodi Arias' Life, Kirk Nurmi Became the Most Hated Lawyer in Arizona
Family Searches for Missing Brother They Say Was Murdered by Mom in 1974
Weed for Warriors Pushes Marijuana Therapy for Veterans at Phoenix Cannabis Expo
Arizona's Top 10 Disgraced Politicians