Shedding light through darkness: The 1985 murder of Shannon Saville Cagle

Photo contributed by Desiree Apodaca

July 14, 2023 – A cold case could be getting warmer, as the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office remains open to any possible leads into the murder of Clovis mother, Shannon Denise Saville Cagle.

In 1985, July 23 was the day 23-year-old Cagle lost her life. Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Mesa and Thompson Avenues in Clovis where they found Cagle shot to death in her home. She was found by responders lying on the floor with her purse and keys still in hand, and her wedding ring still on her finger.

Officers found no evidence of force of entry, nothing stolen, and no signs of assault other than her gunshot wounds. Her killer remains a mystery to this day.

Cagle at that time was a mom to her three year old daughter Desiree and a wife to her husband, Thomas Saville. Cagle worked as a display coordinator in Fresno at a store called ‘Best’ on Blackstone and Bullard Avenues, which stands today as a Burlington Coat Factory store.

It is believed by investigators that Cagle had left her place of employment around 6:30 p.m. and drove on her way home. Saville had discovered her body after arriving home at 7:30 p.m. that night and called police to the scene. Desiree was left in Saville’s car waiting, not knowing that everything was about to change.

Cagle’s daughter Desiree Apodaca, now 40-years-old still looks back trying to remember the woman that was her mother. Apodaca is close with her mother’s family who remember her as a free spirit who loved to sing and wear turquoise.

All that is left of Cagle are pictures that Apodaca looks through, wondering what happened to her and why to this day her case was never solved.

“I find myself looking at her pictures constantly because that’s really the only memories that I have of her,” said Apodaca.

“It has been a rough road, there’s a lot of emotions, just about everything you can think of. There is anger, there is grief. It is always kind of lingering in your head, the unanswered questions…that void that has been there since I was so young, I didn’t really understand it.”

After undergoing physical and emotional abuse as a child while under Saville’s custody, Apodaca’s grandparents filed for full adoption and raised her. Apodaca said her grandfather’s last wish would be to see his daughter’s case get solved before he passes.

In efforts to find answers, Apodaca created her facebook group ‘Justice For Shannon Cagle’ which she hopes will make a connection to the public and will help spread the word to find leads to her mother’s case.

Detectives and family members strongly believe Cagle’s murder was due to greed. Cagle had three life insurance policies in her name, which came to the total amount of $800,000. The recipient of the policy was Cagle’s husband, Saville, who is believed to still reside in the area.

Thomas Saville was considered a person of interest since the very beginning of the case, according to now retired detective Ernie Burke. “All I can say is that he was not involved in the killing of Shannon, but we cannot clear him of any involvement,” said Burke.

A lack of evidence and no witnesses to the crime made it difficult for police to make any arrests in the case. “I honestly believe that there was a few pieces of evidence that was kept from us and we didn’t learn about it till sometime after the case went cold, and we could never recover it.”

Tony Botti, Public Information Officer with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said in cold cases like this, he has found that after time passes there is hope that those involved will reveal something important to the investigation.

“They are nervous, they are scared at first but as time goes on they feel a little more emboldened to do the right thing,” said Botti. “There’s gotta be somebody out there that knows something or has had a conversation with somebody that could be valuable.”

In a couple weeks, it will mark 38 years since Cagle’s death. Her burial remains at Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno. She would be 60-years-old on April 5th of this year.

Burke added that sometimes it is just one little piece of information that can be enough to make a break in a case. Apodaca and the rest of the Cagle family look forward to the day they see change in what has remained still.

“To have that closure, to look in the faces of the people or persons responsible for her death…it is just that sweet justice that we’ve all been hoping for.”

Apodaca said if the person that killed her mother is still out there, she wants them to know that,

“You pretty much ruined our lives…you took my mother away from me. You have taken somebody that’s so important to me away…and for money? And so I have now suffered my entire life so you could make a few dollars. It is just not fair…It’s not fair…”

If you have any information regarding the case of Shannon Saville Cagle, call Valley Crime Stoppers. If your information is pertinent to the case, you could receive a cash reward. Call Crime Stoppers at 498-STOP(7867) or contact Cold Case Investigator, Sergio Toscano at 559-600-8027

Nikki is a Fresno resident and a graduate of Fresno State University, with a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Media Communications and Journalism. Nikki spent some time as a staff reporter at the Fresno State Collegian Newspaper, and now currently works part time at the KFSN-TV station in Fresno. She enjoys local community events, arts and entertainment, and crime news.