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Baby still missing 25 years after mother’s murder

Rachel Timmerman and her infant daughter Shannon Verhage.
Shannon Verhage, age-progressed photo to 25 year old.

By Judy Reed

It’s a tragic story—a young woman is raped. She doesn’t want to report it because she’s afraid the man will kill her if she does. She decides to report him anyway. And then two days before the trial, the young mother and her baby disappear. The mother is later found murdered, and the man is sentenced to death. But where is the baby?

It sounds like a murder mystery that you might watch on tv that gets all wrapped up nicely after two hours. But it’s not. Instead, it’s a story that has caused immense heartache for family members and a sense of loss in the community. Our community—because it happened right here in our own backyard. And the baby has never been found.

Rachel Timmerman disappeared from her father’s house in Cedar Springs in June 1997. She had told her father she was going on a date with a man named John Weeks, who had been calling her. He asked her to bring her 11-month-old baby, Shannon, along with her. Weeks was reportedly calling Rachel at the request of Marvin Gabrion—a man with a motive to harm Rachel.

Her body was found in Oxford Lake, in Newayo County, weighted down by cinder blocks, on July 5, 1997.

Marvin Gabrion is on death row for Rachel’s death.

Prosecutors believe Gabrion murdered Rachel to keep her from testifying that he raped her the previous fall. The rape trial was set to begin within days of her disappearance.

Rachel’s infant daughter, Shannon Verhage, was never found. Gabrion reportedly told inmates that he killed the baby, too.

Gabrion is also suspected of killing at least three other people—including John Weeks, who disappeared shortly after the crime and was never seen again. The other two were Wayne Davis, a witness to the rape, and Robert Allen, a mentally disabled man. Gabrion had stolen Allen’s identity and was collecting his disability checks.

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.

During the penalty phase of Gabrion’s murder trial, 58 people testified regarding violent acts by Marvin Gabrion. He is on death row at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana and has continued to appeal the verdict.

Rachel’s father, L.C. (Tim) Timmerman and his brother, John, wrote a book that tells the story of Rachel and Shannon’s disappearance and Gabrion’s subsequent arrest called The Color of Night. The book can be found on Amazon.

Shannon Verhage would now be 25 years old. If you have any information on what may have happened to her, please call 1-800-843-5678 or the Michigan State Police at 1-989-732-5141.

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