The suicide ruling the mother can't buy

Whatever happened to . . .

By Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007

Original story: Inquiry: Deadly gunshot self-inflicted (06.01.04)

THE STORY: On Sept. 2, 2001, Shawn McMillan, 26, of Tarpon Springs, died of a gunshot wound to his right temple. It happened in the back seat of a car after McMillan and two pals, Dan Nordmark, 26, of Tarpon Springs, and Bernie Dillman, 24, of Holiday, had been out drinking. Tarpon Springs police concluded that McMillan's wound was self-inflicted.

Follow-up investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office confirmed thecause of death.

Dr. Charles Siebert Jr., Pinellas-Pasco's medical examiner at the time, ruled McMillan's death a suicide. Siebert is in the news because he is the medical examiner who ruled the death of a teen in a North Florida boot camp in 2006 was a result of sickle cell trait. He was fired after it was determined the teen died because of a beating by guards. Siebert is appealing his dismissal.

FROM THE STORY: "From the evidence that we thoroughly examined and the witnesses that we talked to, we were unable to come to any other conclusion than the discharge of the firearm happened in the back seat of the car and it happened as a result of Shawn McMillan handling that weapon," Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said.

THE REST OF THE STORY: "Without knowing the truth about what happened that night, I cannot get through one single day,"McMillan's mother, Dunedin lawyer Michaela Mahoney, said in a recent interview.

Mahoney alleges a law enforcement cover-up in the Tarpon Springs police investigation of Nordmark, who was a corrections officer at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution. Nordmark owned the gun. He was found guilty of handling a weapon while intoxicated and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Mahoney's lawsuit against the District Six Medical Examiner's Office seeks to change the coroner's ruling from suicide to "undetermined."

Her lawyer, Richard Pearse, said no evidence exists to show that McMillan was suicidal.

Mahoney recently took out a memorial advertisement in the St. Petersburg Times for her son, and included the link to her Web site about the case, copsliesandcoverups.com.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The District Six Medical Examiner's Office has asked a judge to dismiss Mahoney's lawsuit, Pearse said. A hearing date to reconsider the suicide ruling has not been set but could come in October, if the lawsuit moves forward, he said.