Shaun Walsh asked Nathanael Gehrer to return a friend’s tablet before Gehrer murdered Walsh in his Carrollton home, neighbor says
CARROLLTON — A day before Shaun J. Walsh was brutally murdered, he and Nathanael Gehrer visited a mutual friend’s house.
During the visit, the friend accused Gehrer of stealing his iPad, according to one of Walsh’s neighbors who asked not to be identified.
Later, after Walsh tried to convince Gehrer to return the iPad, they got into an argument that ended with Gehrer brutally murdering Walsh by stabbing him multiple times and beating him with a baseball bat.
Carrollton police arrested Gehrer, 25, on Tuesday in connection with the murder of the 22-year-old Walsh — whose legal name was Dustin Reeb.
Walsh’s housemate, Tony Adams, found his body when he got home from work at about 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, according to police. A number of items had been taken from the house. Police found the knife tossed behind a water heater.
Adams gave police several names of people he suspected could have committed the murder and was never himself considered a suspect, police said.
On Monday, Carrollton police went to JR.’s Bar & Grill on Cedar Springs Road and questioned bartenders about whether they had seen Walsh on Friday and if they remembered him leaving with anyone.
When Gehrer tried to pawn the items taken from the house, police tracked at least one of the items to Adams and Walsh. It’s not clear whether the iPad was among those items.
Gehrer has been arrested a number of times in Dallas on charges including assault, domestic violence, theft and criminal trespass. His most recent arrests were in September and June this year. He was being held in the Carrollton Municipal Jail.
Dallas police Detective Laura Martin said she contacted the FBI the day before the arrest and put them in touch with the Carrollton Police Department to offer any assistance they might need under the the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. But Martin speculated before Gehrere’s arrest that the bloody, violent scene indicated the victim knew his assailant. She said random break-ins or targeted hate crimes typically aren’t so brutal.
Originally from Enid, Okla., Walsh has lived in the Dallas area for about three years.
Howard Korn, from Frisco Community Theater where Walsh has performed, called him a nice young man.
“It shook us all up,” Korn said.
Daniel Shipman knew Walsh from Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas. He said Walsh had Asperger syndrome.
“Shaun deserved the gentlest compassion anyone could give,” Shipman said. “He was very vulnerable.”
Asperger is often described as a high-functioning form of autism. Most people with Asperger have difficulty interacting socially. Shipman said Walsh’s communication skills didn’t flow normally.
“He couldn’t handle being touched unless it was exactly his way,” he said. “I can picture how something could go wrong so fast.”
After coming out, Shipman said Walsh was estranged from his family but earlier this year he reunited with his mother and spent a month with her in Oklahoma.
Walsh’s mother, Karen Reeb-Doss, commented on the Dallas Voice online post about the murder earlier this week.
Reeb-Doss wrote that she wanted to “thank all for your prayers and help and especially want to thank Tony for being there for my son during his time in
living in that area. I will miss my son and thanks to all who knew and loved and cared for him.”
Among his friends at church was Buddy Shanahan, who played the piano for MCC each week until his death in October.
“When Buddy died, it really hit him hard,” Shipman said. “He wrote on his Facebook, ‘Can’t wait to see you at the gate.’”
Shipman said that Shanahan would play at the church and then go outside to smoke. Walsh would follow him out and talk to him in the parking lot.
“Buddy was really sweet with him,” he said.
Shipman said that although Walsh was awkward socially, he got along well with kids and he was close with an autistic boy in church.
The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, pastor of MCC of Greater Dallas, said that Walsh was an artist and loved drawing with kids at church.
Adams, who did the lighting and sound for the church, performs, directs and does technical work with Frisco Community Theater. For a recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Adams designed the sound in addition to acting. Last June, Adams directed the company’s production of The Sunshine Boys and Walsh had a featured role.
“He was so proud to be acting in the play,” Darraugh said.
Darraugh described the murder as brutal and said the house would be unlivable until a professional crime scene crew cleans it up.
After police released the house as a crime scene, a crew began work on Wednesday removing bloody carpets and furniture and priming blood-stained walls.
She said that professional crime cleanup is expensive and the church’s Benevolent Fund was accepting donations to help Adams with the cost of the cleanup and replacement.
Darraugh said that with Shanahan’s sudden death in October and the murder last week, the church is reeling.
Adams declined an interview for the article, but in a message he said, “I have not stopped crying since I found him Friday.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 7, 2012.