Television show casts spotlight on local cold case

Detectives hope a TV show airing Friday night will lead to new information that will help them crack open a cold case. 

Firefighters were called out to Dr. Frank Shemwell’s home on Buckner Lane in 2006. They found his burned body inside on the kitchen floor.  His death, at age 81, was ruled a homicide, but detectives weren’t able to determine the person responsible.

On the show, TNT’s “Cold Justice,” former prosecutors and detectives look through the files and rehash the details of cold cases from former witnesses, tapes, and suspects with local law enforcement. Detectives hope it will give them the key they need to solve the Shemwell case.

At the Shemwell house today on Buckner Lane — with its manicured lawn, new additions, and a walkway — looks nothing like it did nine years ago, but the updates to the home can’t hide its history. When Jane Gamble and her husband picked out the new kitchen floors, they knew they were replacing the scorched ones where Shemwell was found.

Gamble says the home’s history hangs with her since they started caring for the home, always sensitive to its past. She says it’s history was sensationalized. “then you throw in being murdered and set on fire in the house,” she says. 

The Shemwell case is an unsolved crime Paducah police haven’t been able to solve so far. 

“We opened it up, we let them take a look at it and see if they came to the same conclusions we did.” Paducah Police Capt. Brian Laird says. Nearly a decade after the murder, Laird says police hope someone will feel compelled to come forward with new information. He says people often remember something or someone who knows more details important to the case.

The television show is a national spotlight to solve a local mystery, and hopefully bring the one thing Gamble can’t restore in the house: peace.

Laird says the police department is always working on these cold cases, but this was an opportunity to dedicate time and resources. He says it has continued working with Commonwealth Attorney Dan Boaz on this case, but police wouldn’t have gone forward with the national television show if they didn’t first have the blessing of the family. He said the children want to find out who murdered their father.

Penny Baird Shemwell was Shemwell’s wife at the time, and a primary suspect, but she was never charged in his death.

The show will air Friday night on TNT at 7 p.m.

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