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Mystery still surrounds city resident's death six years later

Rex Barber • Oct 10, 2012 at 10:26 PM

This time of year is always rough for Sharon Shade, but looking at the outside of her home you wouldn’t necessarily know it.

There are Halloween decorations all over her Johnson City house in preparation for the holiday she always celebrated with her son, Gordon Alan Banner II. Shade particularly remembers a fake spider Gordon hung from a flagpole on the front porch. That spider hasn’t been there since 2006 because the sight of it is too much for Shade to bear.

Banner’s body was discovered in the reservoir at Fort Patrick Henry Dam in Kingsport six years ago Friday. He was 23 when he died.

“This is the last thing we done — Halloween,” Shade said looking at the decorations covering her home. “And I’ll probably do it ’til the day I die, in memory of him.”

She can still see her son in her mind stretching out over the bannister to hang that spider decoration.

Shade cannot bear to put up that spider, so it remains in the box. Maybe one day.

“I honestly feel like God snatched his body to save his soul, no doubt in my mind at this late date and time, you know,” Shade said in a recent interview. “But there’s a hole in my heart forever more, you know.”

Shade hurts daily but she’s doing better.

“I’m not where I need to be with the Lord, but I’m not where I used to be either, and I praise Him for that, because I would probably act out,” Shade admitted.

The circumstances surrounding Banner’s death are not known.

Shade said Banner had not been home for a few days prior to the discovery of his body but his absence was not unusual as he would stay gone for days at a time. Shade got concerned, though, when her son did not show up for work when he was supposed to.

Shade said people must know the whole story to understand what may have happened to her son.

He was bisexual and he would sometimes drink to excess and walk alone at night. She thought her son was struggling with many things in his life, including his sexuality and the recent deaths of his father and grandmother.

Banner went drinking the night he disappeared.

Days later Banner’s body was discovered in the Kingsport reservoir.

Shade wants to know what happened to get closure. She will know in God’s time what happened to her son, she said.

“It might not be in my time but in due time it’s going to be revealed,” Shade said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation continues to look for answers in Banner’s death. A rumor began earlier this year that someone had been arrested in connection with his death. That rumor was unfounded. TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said there are no new developments in the case.

While she waits for a break in her son’s case, Shade may try to form a local support group for parents of children who have been murdered.

Shade has a friend in Delaware who sent her information about the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children Inc. The closest chapter to Johnson City is in Clarksville.

She may try to start a chapter after the new year begins, once the holidays are over and things calm down.

“So I’m really going to try to get this thing going for parents who have lost, you know, a child by way of murder,” she said. “I just feel like, you know, I’ve got to do it for Gordon’s ... sake. Keep hope alive, if nothing else.”

Banner was a popular man. Hundreds of people attended his funeral.

“He was genuine. I’m not saying that because he was mine but he was just known all over this community,” Shade said. “He is so highly spoken of still to this day to where I know that’s what helps me to keep on keeping on.”

She doled out tough love to Gordon, but was quick to praise him, too. She does not regret giving him discipline or trying to keep him safe. Shade said she urged Banner to carry his cell phone, but he refused to do so. He said it was her way of keeping tabs on him.

“My thing is to these young adults of today, they need to keep in touch with mom and dad,” Shade said. “You know, I told Gordon that going out there at night under the influence walking these streets, it’s not safe. And that’s just the way Gordon come up missing. But let somebody know where you’re at at all times, at all times.”

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