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May 7, 2014

Area native shot dead in S. Carolina; man charged

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A 55-year-old former Otsego County woman was allegedly murdered by her estranged husband in South Carolina last week.

Mariann O’Shields, formerly of Edmeston, was shot on April 30 outside a Spartanburg domestic violence shelter where she was staying. Her husband, Robert O’Shields Sr., allegedly drove to the Safe Homes Crisis Center at about 7 a.m., pulled up beside her and fired two shots at her before driving away in a van.

Mariann had been living at the shelter with her 8-year-old daughter for six weeks and had just taken the girl to the bus stop before she was fatally shot, according to the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. The young girl did not witness the shooting and is in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

Deputies said Mariann had an order of protection against O’Shields that allowed him to only contact her via text message about custody issues regarding their daughter. Mariann went to the sheriff’s office the day before she was killed to report that O’Shields had violated the court order by contacting her about other things, deputies said.

Mariann died in surgery about two hours after being shot. According to her daughter Amy Slater, Mariann told emergency personnel that it was O’Shields who had shot her. O’Shields was then arrested and charged with her murder. It was unknown on Tuesday whether he has a lawyer.

Slater, who lives in Oneonta with her husband, David, and their three children, said Tuesday that she is overwhelmed.

“I don’t know what to think or feel,” Slater told The Daily Star.

The 35-year-old said she just returned from South Carolina, where she was questioned by police. The family will have private calling hours, but right now, she said, it’s important to focus on cooperating with police during the investigation and helping them figure out what happened.

Slater said she was very close with her mother. She spoke with her almost every day, whether it was to get a recipe from her, tell her about her three grandchildren, or help her with “what she was going through.”

As a girl, Slater said, she lived in Edmeston with her mother and “Bob” O’Shields. The two met and married in 1984 after Mariann divorced Slater’s biological father years earlier. Slater, who was 5 years old at the time of the marriage, said O’Shields would not allow her biological father, Richard Moratto, to see her.

For a time, Mariann worked at New York Central Mutual Insurance Co., in Edmeston, Slater said. But for the majority of Slater’s childhood, Mariann was a stay-at-home mom. Slater said she has a 29-year-old half-brother who lives in Pennsylvania and a younger sister, the girl who lived with Mariann at the shelter.

“She was a very loving and caring mother,” Slater said.

When O’Shields and Mariann moved to South New Berlin years later, they owned a carpet store there called “The Carpet Cave,” Slater said. In 2008, they sold their house and moved to South Carolina.

But it wasn’t long before it became obvious to Slater that O’Shields was not letting Mariann see her sister or call Slater, she said. After living with what Slater described as the controlling husband for many years, Mariann decided to move into the Safe Homes Crisis Center six weeks ago.

“She didn’t feel safe,” Slater added.

Deputies said they are still trying to determine how O’Shields knew Mariann was living at Safe Homes Crisis Center. It would not have been difficult for O’Shields to follow a cab back to the shelter, Slater said, but it’s torturous for her to speculate because she wasn’t there.

“There are so many unanswered questions,” Slater said. “I’ve been running things over and over in my mind trying to figure it out.”

Usually when an individual violates a court order of protection, like O’Shields allegedly did a day before the shooting, he or she is arrested and taken into custody, Slater said, adding that if O’Shields had been arrested, Mariann’s death might have been prevented.

The tragedy will likely make women rethink going to a shelter, Slater said.

“They are supposed to be a safe place where someone can go and be protected,” Slater said. “I don’t understand how this happened. This will make women wary of even leaving the shelter at all.”

Slater said she and her brother are trying to stay out of the investigation and let police do their job. They wish the public would focus on remembering their mother and not on O’Shields, she said, because he doesn’t deserve to be glorified for his senseless crime.

“We just want to be able to get through this,” Slater said.

Mariann’s father, Arthur Geier, of Pittsfield, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Slater said he is “devastated.” Mariann’s mother, Eileen Geier, died in 2000.

Slater said teachers at the Oneonta school her children attend have been very understanding about letting them miss school if they need to. Her oldest son, whom she preferred remained anonymous, said he remembers his grandmother as the sweet woman who discouraged him from playing in the dirt and made him ravioli. 

“She loved spending time with her kids and grandkids,” Slater said. “Everyone that knew her loved her.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.