Overview of Shawn O'Brien
Shawn O’Brien was a loving father and a kind, genuine man whose life ended far too soon.
Shawn was always a funny, genuine, and caring man at his core. Shawn was also a true gentleman, according to his daughter, Natalia, who explained that Shawn was a “pull out your chair, hold the door, always pick up the tab kind of guy”. Natalia further describes her father as the funniest guy on the planet, who would also give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it. Though Shawn did struggle with drug and alcohol use in his life, he always made sure to make time for his children. They were truly the highlight of his life and he would do anything to make sure they were happy and taken care of.
Shawn was quick-witted and an absolute jokester, who loved to pull harmless, fun pranks. Shawn was the life of the party and carried himself a certain way, where you couldn’t ignore him when he entered a crowded room. One of his favorite things in life was making people smile.
Shawn’s living situation was rocky.
Shawn was living in the basement of a duplex-style apartment that was owned by a man named Armand Rouleau, who lived in the ground-level space. On June 8, 2006, Authorities responded to a report of a disturbance between Shawn and Armand, regarding noise-levels. At the time, Shawn informs the responding officer that he would like to file a police report that would help him in the eviction process.
July 21, 2006 was an average day for Shawn.
Shawn went to work as usual on July 21, 2006. After work, Shawn’s companion, Amy, visited his apartment with one of their daughters to confirm plans that they had to go to a local festival later in the evening. These plans change because his daughter has a headache, so Shawn asks Amy if she would drop him off at a local bar, Billy’s Frosted Mug, because he did not want to be in the home alone with Armand, his landlord, and his girlfriend, Lynn. Shawn had previously expressed that he specifically did not want to be in the home alone with Lynn because of threats she had made against him in the past. Officials note that tensions in the home were high at this point in time.
When Amy agrees to drop him off at the bar, Shawn calls his sister, Erin, to see if she was in town and whether she would like to hang out with him at a local bar. When he is told that she is not in town, he decides to go to the bar by himself. Amy drops him off at the bar at approximately 6:10 pm.
The following day, Shawn is found unconscious in his apartment.
Shawn is usually scheduled to arrive at work sometime between 7:00-8:00 am, leaving the first red flag that something may be wrong when he doesn't show up for his shift. Around 5:30 pm that evening, Shawn’s sister, Karen, stops by his apartment to speak with him. Upon entering the apartment, she finds Shawn on the floor unresponsive.
When she finds Shawn, she immediately calls 911 and explains that she needs rescue at 145 Pleasant Street because Shawn is having or had a seizure. At this time, he is reportedly laying on his stomach with his feet facing the door and his head is laying in a small pool of blood. Shawn’s daughter, Natalia, who is leading the charge to bring national attention to Shawn’s case, explains that Armand had run out of the home as Karen arrived, shouting for Karen to “come in quick, Shawn’s been in a seizure for over an hour”.
Authorities arrive on the scene.
Police are dispatched to Shawn’s apartment just before 6:00 pm. By the time responding officers arrive, they witness Shawn being moved into an ambulance to be rushed to a hospital. During a discussion with Cranston Fire officials, police learn that Shawn had a history of seizures. Fire officials also explained that he had bitten the inside of his mouth, causing it to bleed, but they did not note any further injuries. When police entered Shawn’s apartment, authorities noted no signs of a struggle in his bedroom.
Shawn is taken off life support 3 days later and a brief investigation begins.
When he arrives at the hospital, doctors note that they do not believe that Shawn’s injuries were the result of only a seizure. Shawn’s injuries are severe. He struggled with brain swelling from blunt force trauma to his head and he had several abrasions, bruises, and cuts on his head. On July 25, 2006, Shawn was taken off life support and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
It isn’t until five days after Shawn is found in his apartment that the apartment is sealed as a crime scene and is revisited by police, after several requests made by Shawn’s family members to do so. Unfortunately, the investigation in Shawn’s case is very brief and seemingly ends without any answers.
Some time after Shawn’s death, Amy and his sister return to the apartment to retrieve Shawn’s belongings. Inside the apartment, they find additional blood stains that had been covered by various items. They reported to have found blood on the walls, floors, doors, pillows, blankets, and dining room chairs, around Shawn’s apartment.
Cause of death reports are conflicting.
“Unfortunately, as I sit here today, we still don’t know exactly how that blunt force trauma occurred.” - Col. Michael Winquist, Cranston Police Chief.
Shawn’s initial cause of death was reported by a Rhode Island medical examiner as “blunt force trauma to the head”. In the report, the medical examiner explains that Shawn’s skull was fractured and there were several other injuries to his head. He also noted that there was cocaine found in his system. All of these, plus Shawn’s history of seizures, led the medical examiner to officially label Shawn’s manner of death as “undetermined”.
“So, he cannot with one hundred percent certainty rule out that it was an accident, because there are no witnesses to corroborate what exactly happened in his final moments," said Dr. Timothy Gallagher, independent forensic pathologist.
Where the case stands today.
A year after Shawn’s death, his landlord/roommate, Armand Rouleau, and his then-girlfriend, Lynn Hallal, were officially named people of interest by Cranston police. In more recent news, in June of 2022, independent forensic pathologist Dr. Shiping Bao, determined that Shawn’s cause of death was a “skull fracture with intracranial hemorrhage due to a strike by another person”. He also determines that, in his opinion, Shawn’s manner of death should be relabeled a homicide, rather than undetermined.
Shawn’s daughter has been fighting to find answers in her father’s case and has been trying not only to raise awareness, but also to have his case officially relabeled as a homicide investigation.
“There is a reason I am who I am. I am aggressive, hungry, and relentless. I am my father's daughter. So to the men expecting me to back down, you will need to stand taller to look me in the eyes to tell me to move on.” - Natalia St. Louis, Shawn’s daughter.
If you have any information regarding Shawn’s case, please contact the Cranston Police Department at (401) 942-2211 or send your tip in an email to [email protected]. Natalia, Shawn’s daughter, is personally offering a $1,000 reward for information in her father’s case that would lead to an arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for his death.