Award-winning journalist, bestselling author and former Times Media Group executive editor Shanna Hogan died Sept. 1 following injuries sustained after a fall at her North Phoenix home.
She was 37 and leaves behind her husband of 17 years, Matt LaRussa, and their 15-month-old son, Zander. They lived near Sonoran Desert Drive and North Valley Parkway.
Hogan earned more than 20 awards for investigative reporting and feature writing, including the 2009 Arizona Press Club’s Virg Hill Journalist of the Year award and the 2011 Arizona Newspaper Association’s Journalist of the Year.
She gained national recognition for her coverage of high-profile criminal cases, including the Jodi Arias trial. She reported on the case for more than two years before it went to trial, becoming a nationally recognized expert and the go-to source for Nancy Grace.
Her second book, “Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story: A Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Brutal Murder,” made the New York Times bestseller list in 2013.
“Shanna was an intrepid journalist, a talented writer, a natural podcast star, and an enthusiastic and loving first-time mother,” said Charles Spicer, vice president and executive editor at St. Martin’s Press. “Speaking as her editor, she was a dream to work with, the consummate professional who was also a kind and thoughtful person with a natural warmth and a delightful sense of fun.”
She authored four true-crime books, two of which were optioned for television shortly before her death.
Two days prior to her death, she turned in the outline for her book “The Stranger She Loved: A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder,” which was optioned by Sony.
Hogan was born in Olathe, Kansas, and grew up in Arizona. In 2005, she graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism.
The following year, she joined the East Valley Tribune as a reporter and was later promoted to the role of executive editor, overseeing multiple publications at Times Media Group.
Steve Strickbine, founder and president of Times Media Group, recalled that Hogan would always come to editorial meetings with the most interesting story ideas.
On one assignment, she spent the night in the middle of the forest with a team of Bigfoot hunters. She also covered the notorious Baseline Killer case, which brought to light the mishandling of evidence by the Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab.
“Shanna had a lot to do with our success,” Strickbine said. “She was one of the best writers I’ve ever known. She had a very distinctive passion for her work and the difference that it could make in communities. It was incredible to watch her grow as a writer. When she became our executive editor, she mentored a lot of young writers, which was another one of the many great things about her.”
A former Tribune colleague, Tom Gibbons, said that one of the things that impressed him most about Hogan as a reporter was her ability to gain access to hard-to-reach sources.
On one occasion, she managed to get a tour of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, which had previously avoided the media.
“When it came to writing her books, Shanna wanted to give a voice to the victims and tell their stories,” Gibbons added. “I always thought that was a noble approach to the true-crime endeavor. She also wanted to write young adult fiction, but she never got the chance to.”
Another colleague, Zac Reynolds, remained close with Hogan throughout the entirety of her career at Times Media Group. The two would eat lunch together several times a week.
“Shanna was the kind of person who brightened every room she walked into,” Reynolds said. “She was kind, funny, insightful and a heck of a journalist.
“She knew how to tell a story, to take the craziness of a story like the Travis Alexander murder or the Baseline Killer story and dig into the case, and find the story that hadn’t been told before. But she could also tell the light-hearted story with the same great wit and writing. She was genuine and will be missed.”
Katie Mayer met Hogan when they were both reporters at the East Valley Tribune. The two remained close friends, often getting together for playdates with their kids.
Days after their last meetup in July, Hogan surprised Mayer’s 3-year-old son by sending him a star projector.
“She went out of her way to make everyone feel special. I was in awe of Shanna’s dedication as a mother—she shared a bond with her son like no other I have seen,” Mayer said.
“The two were inseparable, and she brought the same joy and magic to Zander’s world as she brought to ours. Without a doubt, a piece of the magic in all of our lives is gone without Shanna, but we will continue to honor her life by working every day to live our lives with the kindness, grace and humor that she did.”
Hogan was also passionate about inspiring the next generation of writers and in 2015 joined her alma mater as an adjunct professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she taught a news reporting and writing course.
Services for Hogan are pending. Her husband donated her organs, stating, “I wanted as much of her in this world as possible, and I hope that I can someday meet the recipients.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for memorial costs, medical bills and to support Zander Hogan.