Third suspect arrested in murder-for-hire plot of Austin jeweler

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A third person has been arrested in connection with the murder of an Austin jeweler at the beginning of March.

Johnny Roman Leon III, 21, was taken into custody around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in College Station and faces a charge of criminal solicitation of capital murder, according to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Bond has been set at $3 million. 

“Our investigation revealed that Mr. Leon was involved with Nicolas Shaughnessy in the planning and the execution of the incident that occurred March 2 of 2018 when Theodore Shaughnessy was murdered,” Sheriff Sally Hernandez said. She did not confirm if Leon was the shooter.

“We do feel confident this is the big piece” in the case, Hernandez said, also thanking law enforcement for their “tireless” work on the case.

Nicolas Shaughnessy and his wife Jaclyn Alexa Edison, both 19 years old, were also charged with soliciting to commit capital murder. They are accused of hiring someone to kill Nicolas’ father, Theodore “Ted” Shaughnessy.

Ted Shaughnessy was the owner of Gallerie Jewelers in central Austin. He was shot in his Oliver Drive home in southwest Travis County on March 2. His wife, Corey, wasn’t hurt in the shooting.

Nicolas Shaughnessy’s attorneys said in May that his mother “stands firmly behind her son.”

Neighbors in College Station react

“They were just like get on the stairs!” said Jacquelin Sedillo, while describing how her morning began on Wednesday. “And then I saw all the cop cars, everything was surrounded.”

Neighbors at Aspen Heights apartment in College Station told KXAN dozens of SWAT and police officers surrounded an apartment unit where Leon was staying.

“I saw all the men jumping out, and I was like, ‘what’s happening,” said Julie Dwyer.

Both Dwyer and Sedillo said they didn’t know Leon well, but they’ve seen him in passing.

“He goes to the pool a lot,” said Dwyer. “I thought he was a DJ or something. He was always on his laptop and speaker outside. He’s friendly, like I’ve always said hi to him, he was super nice.”

Neighbors said they had heard about Shaughnessy’s murder back in March, so when they found out why police arrested Leon, “It’s scary how you don’t really know a person,” said Dwyer.

“Just that extra connection was definitely scary,” said Sedillo.

The morning of the shooting

It happened just before 4:46 a.m. on Friday, March 2.

Woken up by the sound of his dogs barking, Ted Shaughnessy walked out of his bedroom armed with his Glock .45 caliber handgun.

Corey, still in the bedroom, then heard a hail of bullets, and then saw a bright light and shadows at the door to the bedroom. Investigators say the suspects began shooting at her as she returned fire with her .357 revolver, shooting until she ran out of bullets.

She then ran into her closet and called 911. She reported an intruder was inside her home and several shots had been fired.

Responding deputies found her husband dead on the kitchen floor in a large pool of blood. One of the couple’s two Rottweilers was also shot and killed.

Investigators found five fired .380 caliber and nine .40 caliber casings throughout the kitchen and near Ted’s body, along with bullet defects on kitchen fixtures, walls and windows. 

Ted’s handgun had a full magazine, but no round was chambered, according to an arrest affidavit.

All the windows and doors in the house were found locked and secured by investigators, but for one in the couple’s son’s room. 

The window screen in Nicolas’ bedroom was found removed and propped against the outside wall. There were no signs of a forced entry. And, investigators said, among the many items of value in the home, nothing was taken.

Two informants

A detective met with a confidential informant on May 29, 2018. The informant told the detective that Nicolas asked him to kill his parents in exchange for $10,000 a month.

Nicolas allegedly told the informant he expected to get $8 million after the death of his parents — comprised of $2 million from life insurance and the sale of his parents’ business and house.

On June 13, the detective met with another informant, who said Nicolas traveled to Austin on Feb. 28, 2018 to kill his parents himself.

The informant said Nicolas turned off his parents home security cameras remotely before traveling to Austin and then turned them back on after not going through with his plans to kill them, court documents show.

Records confirmed a cellphone belonging to Nicolas was in Austin during the early morning hours of Feb. 28, before returning to College Station. During a previous interview with investigators, Nicolas said the last time he traveled to his parent’s home was between Feb. 9 and 11.

Nicolas allegedly told the second informant that he found someone in a club who agreed to kill his parents. After Ted was murdered, the informant said Nicolas showed him a threatening text message sent to Nicolas in March that stated “they knew where Nicolas lived and still needed to be paid,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Text messages sent from Nicolas to his wife, Jaclyn, on March 9 involved Nicolas getting texts from an unknown number. Jaclyn allegedly replied, telling Nicolas to respond to the texts by saying, “Say moving back to Austin. Some s—t happened. And that police are on to you.”

‘A big piece’ of the puzzle

A detective found surveillance video from Nicolas Shaughnessy’s home in College Station that showed two men arrived at his house on Feb. 28, two days before Ted was killed.

The detective was able to meet and speak with one of the men — described in an arrest affidavit only as “source” — who identified the other man in the video as Johnny Leon III.

The source said Leon had initially asked him if wanted to make some cash helping a friend move. When they showed up, Nicolas allegedly told them he actually needed help killing two people who were costing them $30,000 a month. 

Nicolas said some dogs may need to be shot as well, according to the affidavit. The source said he was offered $10,000 to help with the murders, paid in three installments.

The plan, according to the source, was for Leon to use his pistol for the killings. They were also told they would have access to another pistol inside a desk drawer in the “target home.”

Driving from College Station to Austin in Nicolas’ car, the source said they planned to be in Austin for only 30 minutes and then immediately drive back to College Station, arriving by 5 or 6 a.m.

The source said he was told to leave his cellphone at home during the murders, so it would appear he was still at home sleeping.

A detective said Nicolas’ vehicle described by the source matched the description given by a resident of Nicolas’ College Station apartment complex. 

Investigators learned from March 9 through March 25, repeated calls were made from Leon’s cellphone to Nicolas’, but none of the calls were answered or returned. 

Sheriff Hernandez has said investigators believe Leon was the shooter who gunned down Ted Shaughnessy. However, court documents do not detail the exact role of the source in the shooting.

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