By Judy Reed
A young mother. A missing child. A cold-blooded killer. They sound like characters in the latest crime thriller. They are—the difference is that they are real live people, and the victims are from Cedar Springs.
The Color of Night, by L.C. (Tim) Timmerman, and his brother John, tells the shocking story of Tim’s 19-year-old daughter, Rachel, and her baby, Shannon VerHage. Rachel and her 11-month-old daughter Shannon disappeared on June 3, 1997, when an unidentified man picked them up at her father’s home in Cedar Springs. She told him she would be home in a couple of hours, but was not seen again until her body was found weighted down by cinder blocks at the bottom of Oxford Lake, in Newaygo County, on July 5, 1997. The baby was never found.
Rachel had disappeared two days before she was scheduled to testify in a rape trial against Marvin Gabrion, a man who had assaulted her the previous summer, and threatened to kill her if she told police. He was eventually convicted of Rachel’s murder, and now sits on death row in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, awaiting execution. Although Michigan does not have the death penalty, Gabrion was sentenced to death by lethal injection, because Rachel’s body was found on federal land, in the Manistee National Forest.
The highly publicized trial tested the death penalty, and painted a gruesome picture of a killer bent on revenge. It appears Gabrion would do anything to cover up his crimes—including making witnesses “disappear.”
Tim told the Post that he thought it was necessary to tell Rachel and Shannon’s story. “A lot of the emotions resurfaced that I thought I’d buried, but it was worth it. Was it pleasant? No. It was a lot of hard work,” he remarked.
When Rachel disappeared and did not turn up by Father’s Day, Tim knew for sure something was wrong, even though he had received a letter in her handwriting previously telling him she was fine. “I knew because she had been so faithful about Father’s Day over the years,” he said.
Even after Rachel’s body was found, Tim still held out hope that they would find Shannon alive. “We had a lot of hope until about her 5th birthday that she’d get enrolled in kindergarten somewhere, but that hasn’t happened. I feel Rachel and Shannon are together in heaven,” he explained. She would be 14 now.
Tim, who is an electrician, wrote the book with his brother, John, a professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Calvin Collge. Tim and John plan to hold a book signing at Schuler Books on 28th Street on February 8, at 7 p.m. Tim said he will also give a short talk during that time.
Reviews of the book have been good. The December issue of the Library Journal said it was a “…harrowing story…true crime and law aficionados will take great interest in her case.” Tim also said that most people have told him that they loved it and couldn’t put it down. “I hope people here like my book,” said Tim. “I put a lot of hours into it.”
Residents in Cedar Springs were riveted by this case, and if they want the inside scoop, with all the gritty details, they will want to read the book.
A word of warning: because of the subject matter, the book is explicit in its detail of certain events, and includes language and sexual slang some may find offensive. It’s definitely not for children.
The book can be bought at Schulers, or ordered from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.