By Gwen Roley
Blaine community members will be observing the anniversary of the death of Blaine High School alumna Shannon Mani with a candlelight vigil on April 13 from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m at the Blaine Marine Park amphitheater.
“Anyone who knew Shannon and would like to pay tribute to her memory is welcome,” said Janann Thompson, one of the organizers of the vigil.
Mani, a class of 2015 graduate, was 21 years old and four months pregnant when she was found murdered in Wisconsin in April of last year. The father of her unborn child, Quentin Neal, allegedly shot and stabbed her before hiding her body in a storage locker, according to local news outlets.
Neal was charged with the murder a few days later. According to the Wisconsin Circuit Court, his pre-trial hearing was March 28 of this year.
Thompson said she lived in the same neighborhood as Mani and her family before they moved to Wisconsin. She reached out to Mani’s family to ask if there was anything the community in Blaine could do to support them as the trial proceedings got started.
She originally suggested changing Facebook profile photos to show solidarity, but she said Mani’s mother told her about a candlelight vigil they were planning in Wisconsin. She decided to put together a coinciding vigil in Blaine.
“We want to remember Shannon for the joy she brought to everyone she knew, rather than the way she died,” Thompson said.
She said her death last year was so sudden, it was difficult to put something like this together. Thompson and other organizers wanted to give people another opportunity to remember her, which they may not have gotten a year ago.
According to the vigil’s Facebook event page, participants will be watching the sunset at Marine Park and lighting candles in Mani’s memory. Thompson said the event was timed so they could be present after sundown for enough time before the park closes.
Thompson’s niece, Hanna Kiele, who was Mani’s friend and also graduated in the class of 2015, is helping organize the vigil as well. Sadie Newell said she had been friends with Mani since they were eight years old and is inviting people to the vigil, where she will be lighting candles. Newell described Mani as selfless person, who helped her through difficult times by underlining the positive.
“Shannon was always so worried about everybody else and put herself last,” Newell said. “So, this is a time for me to think about her, because she never took that time for herself.”
At her time of death, Mani was reportedly a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student, living with her family in Waukesha County. According to local Wisconsin outlets, she was reported missing on April 13, 2018.
Initially, when Neal was interviewed by Waukesha police on April 15, he denied having contact with Mani that day. However, after being shown evidence found by police of their communications that day and a dispute at his home, he admitted to shooting and stabbing her. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported he suggested to police Mani was killed in an act of self-defense after she grabbed his knife and gun.
Wisconsin Circuit Court’s online database shows a criminal complaint was filed against Neal on April 17 of last year. He was charged on April 27 with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child and possession of firearm by a convicted felon. He pled not guilty.
Neal has been in custody since he was charged. After his pre-trial hearing on March 28, 2019, another hearing was scheduled for April 19. The jury trial is scheduled for April 22.