The Illusionist

The company that supplied the neighborhood association with its water had a rule that demanded that each household pay its bill once a year, and if anyone failed to do so, no one in the entire association would get water. Shaw and Jessie Jackson showed up at county regulatory board meetings again and again to fight the policy, but were unable to change the rules. Outraged, Shaw began researching Idaho code and lugging a huge three-ring binder and two legal folders to the meetings, all of them overstuffed with passages and precedents that proved — proved! — that Shaw was in the right. Shaw labeled his papers by case file, and could display any page at a moment’s notice. “Jay,” Jackson would tell him, “you should be a lawyer.”

LAST SUMMER, the calm that had characterized much of Jay Shaw’s life in Idaho ended abruptly when Cara Pace packed up the couple’s kids and moved back to her parents’ place in a Salt Lake City suburb. The move wasn’t entirely a surprise. Verceles says that shortly before Pace left, Shaw had discovered Facebook chats she’d been having with other men. Still, the allegations that followed shocked Shaw’s neighbors, and had a profound effect on Shaw himself.

Pace filed an affidavit in which she claimed Shaw “has been a heavy drinker for many years. His aggression was growing toward me so much that I was fearful for my life. I do not want my children exposed to this abuse or for them to think it is natural for men [to] treat women that way.”

Pace, her lawyer, and her family all declined to comment for this story. Bodie Clapier, Jessie Jackson, and Kelly Verceles all say that the person described in Pace’s affidavit is not the man they know. They never saw signs of physical abuse on Pace, and while Shaw did drink, it was only socially — he’d even given up alcohol at Pace’s request prior to her leaving town. He had also agreed to try marriage counseling. But nothing worked — or rather, Verceles says, things had quit working some time ago. After Shaw found the Facebook chats — this even before the couple had officially split — he snapped photos of the conversations as evidence for a custody battle he seemed to have sensed was coming.

When it arrived, it consumed Shaw. “That’s all he did,” Verceles says. It was like the water-association squabble all over again, only magnified many times: foot-high stacks of paper, briefcases crammed with custody-case precedents. Making things worse, according to Shaw’s friends, Pace’s parents refused to allow Shaw into the house when he came to pick up Gavin and Fiona for a visit. They made him stand in the street, waiting for the kids to run out. He fumed.


Listen to Paul Kix as he talks about his experiences researching Enrico Ponzo and reveals snippets of his interviews from his Idaho visit. 

  • Idella Tanna

    This is one of the best posts I have seen on this topic. Let me know if you do any further related posts and I’ll come check them out!