Suspect in teacher’s slaying described as loving, smart boss
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Ed Shaw was one of the best bosses Graysen Fox ever had: smart, supportive and unrelentingly optimistic, a father figure who mentored him at work and gave his kids toys for Christmas.
Shaw, with his Velcro shoes and mussy hair, was “the absent-minded professor” who hired good people at his engineering company in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Fox said. Then he let them do their jobs while heaping praise on them in and out of the office.
“I don’t think I ever saw him frustrated or angry,” he said.
Shaw, 70, was more than just a boss to Fox, now 42. The men happened to live in neighboring towns 150 miles from the office, and went to the same Mormon church. On religious holidays, Shaw invited Fox and his family to backyard barbecues he hosted with his wife, Evelyn “Rumi” Shaw. He would get on the ground to be at eye-level with Fox’s 2-year-old twin daughters. They had trouble saying his name, so they called him “Egg.”
“He was always really loving,” said Fox, who’s known Shaw for about 10 years.
So the past six weeks have been a steady descent into the twilight zone as Fox has tried to reconcile what he remembers of Shaw with what police and prosecutors in Norfolk say he did.
Shaw is charged with second-degree murder, accused of gunning down an elementary school teacher near Wards Corner on New Year’s Eve. But detectives don’t believe Caroline Hendrix was the intended target. Instead, a prosecutor said, Shaw was trying to shoot a romantic rival, 44-year-old Alex Novak. Investigators say they found evidence Shaw and Novak had been having sex with the same 22-year-old Virginia Beach woman, Teniqu Cushman.
Cushman told detectives she met Shaw about 1½ years ago at the Oceanfront and that the two were “friends with benefits,” prosecutor Brent Johnson said during a recent court hearing. During that time, Shaw had written her at least $15,440 in checks, which detectives found in his office in Hendersonville, N.C., so she could start her own HVAC business.
Shaw traveled a lot for business, Fox said. In court documents, Shaw said he had been working as a consultant in North Carolina since May.
Novak, who also gave Cushman money for bills, met her two years ago through the online dating site Plenty of Fish, Johnson said. But he cut her off after their relationship “fizzled” in early December. At some point Novak became Hendrix’s boyfriend, a detective said in a police report, although it’s not clear when that happened.
Cushman told Shaw that Novak emotionally abused her to the point she would cry herself to sleep, Johnson said.
In text exchanges, according to the prosecutor, Cushman said Novak needed to be taught a lesson and “had to be gone.” Shaw responded that the “Novak situation” would improve, Johnson said.
On New Year’s Eve, Novak and Hendrix were housesitting at a friend’s home. After Hendrix came out of the house and got in the driver’s side of Novak’s minivan, Shaw came up and opened fire, police say.
Hendrix was struck twice and died.
Novak saw the shooting and fired back, hitting Shaw multiple times. As the older man fled, he texted Cushman: “Shot him. I’m shot also.”
An hour later, Chesapeake police found Shaw parked on the side of the road. He said a stranger shot him while he was parked on the shoulder of Interstate 64, but state police said they found no evidence to support that.
Nothing about the picture Norfolk authorities painted of Shaw - having an affair with a woman who could be his granddaughter, opening fire on a car and killing a teacher - reckons with the quirky, mild-mannered engineer Fox knew.
Around 2008, after the market crash, Fox moved from Las Vegas to Utah, where Shaw hired him to work at his company, Best Engineering.
Fox left the job after about two years to finish college, but the friends stayed in touch.
Shaw might not have dazzled on first impression: His office and home were stacked with boxes and files, and his business look included untucked, sometimes wrinkled shirts and double-strapped Velcro shoes.
But his unrelenting positivity won people over, Fox said. He always wanted to hear the one way the team could solve an engineering problem, not the nine ways it might fail. And he made his employees feel valued, introducing Fox to outsiders as “one of my best employees.”
Fox recalled a story that he felt epitomized his former boss: One day, Fox cursed because he was frustrated at a coworker who was ragging on him. Calmly but firmly, Shaw told him they didn’t swear in the office. Still heated, Fox tried to play it off: It was fine, no big deal. Shaw insisted: No, it wasn’t fine.
But he wasn’t mean or holier-than-thou about it. Just firm and caring.
Shaw took his employees, all Mormons, to church together once or twice a year. Back home in the community of Joseph, he preached, led a gospel essentials class and worked with teenagers serving their two-year missions.
Besides being a good boss, Shaw was a fine engineer. Fox said he’d often come up with a solution no one else had thought of. His firm, Best Engineering, has consulted on energy projects including solar-panel installation and mining. It’s also built government buildings, water tanks and fire stations, according to the company website.
Shaw’s adult daughter, Jewel Kloth, also works for Best Engineering. Kloth said that neither she nor any other relative wants to talk about Shaw. Shaw’s wife, Evelyn, didn’t respond to phone messages or a letter sent to her address.
Shaw is locked up at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. He declined an earlier interview request and hasn’t responded to two letters The Pilot sent to the jail.
Shaw could seem to have blinders on when he was focused on a project, Fox said. He worked long hours and traveled a lot - usually by car since he didn’t like to fly. He took power naps in the office and on the side of the road. His advice: Pull over near the start of an on-ramp, where cars haven’t picked up much speed, rather than on an off-ramp where a speeding car might ram into you.
That’s why Shaw’s road rage story made sense to Fox.
What still makes no sense is how the hardworking, God-fearing man he knows could be accused of murdering a preschool teacher after having an affair with a 22-year-old woman - all of this thousands of miles from home.
Fox confessed he’s occasionally wondered if this is all an elaborate conspiracy.
Maybe homicide detectives should dig into Shaw’s business competitors. Did one have a motive to take him out? Perhaps someone heard about his new system for storing hydrogen generated from solar panels, an innovation Fox said Shaw mentioned about a year ago and had presented in public.
Then Fox returned to a simpler explanation for the two vastly different versions of Shaw fighting in his head.
“I guess you never really know anybody.”
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com