SAN JOSE, Calif. — For months, they thought Shannon O’Connor was the adult in the room. As far as they knew, their 14- and 15-year-old kids were hanging out with the Los Gatos mom’s charismatic freshman quarterback son, playing ping pong and swimming at the family’s $4.7 million French Colonial-style home in the hills.
Little by little, their kids’ strange behavior hinted that something disturbing was going on.
They eventually discovered how O’Connor had befriended their kids on Snapchat, luring the teens to parties with their favorite beer and showering the girls with roses and jewelry from Tiffany & Co., even whisking a group off to a secret alcohol-fueled party at Lake Tahoe.
Now, interviews with three of the parents reveal their astonishment when they discovered what prosecutors say was really happening: A 47-year-old social-media-savvy mom had manipulated their kids into frequenting a party house of underage binge drinking and drunken teenage sex.
“It just infuriates me,” one of the girl’s mothers said. “They just thought she was a cool mom.”
The parents’ accounts add a new layer to the startling allegations against O’Connor detailed this month in a 39-count criminal complaint that has shocked one of the South Bay’s toniest communities. The Bay Area News Group is not naming the parents interviewed for this article and is also identifying O’Connor by her maiden name to avoid identifying the kids involved, whom prosecutors consider abuse victims.
While the smell of alcohol eventually tipped off some parents to what was happening at O’Connor’s home, it was their kids’ smartphones — the quintessential Silicon Valley accessory — that revealed her role in orchestrating the lurid gatherings.
“She’s really good with the phones. She’s a pro with social media,” said one girl’s mother. “She tries to put a wedge between the parents and children. She’s a predator.”
O’Connor was arrested Oct. 9 in Idaho, where she had recently moved with her two sons. She was back in Santa Clara County last week to answer the criminal complaint accusing her of hosting drunken parties for teens and manipulating the kids into sex acts with each other. Other times, the parents and court records claim, she supplied the kids with alcohol and left them on their own.
O’Connor offered no plea, was denied bail, ordered not to contact the 15 alleged victims and scheduled for a Dec. 17 hearing. If convicted she could face more than 20 years in prison and have to register as a sex offender.
O’Connor has denied interview requests and her lawyer offered no comment on her behalf. But interviews with parents this past week provided a disturbing look at how their teens were seduced — and how the secret unraveled.
One teen boy had known O’Connor’s older son since elementary school. They played sports together and O’Connor’s home became the hangout house.
When O’Connor said she was having a Halloween party for her son and his friends at her home last Oct. 30, the only real concern of the boy’s parents was COVID-19, but “she assured us it was all going to be outside, they’d be playing ping pong, basketball,” the boy’s father said.
When they picked up their 14-year-old son later that night, he was standing at the end of O’Connor’s driveway, barefoot, wet and cold. He told them he just didn’t want to trouble them with driving all the way up to the house. When they got home, he vomited and they smelled alcohol.
While their son slept off the bender, they noticed his smartphone light up with Snapchat messages from O’Connor and other teens. Her username, the dad said, was “Nun.” It became clear, the father said, she’d arranged for them to have a drinking party at the house while she went out with her husband:
“how did it all go,” nun messaged.
“Thank you Shannon!” one boy replied.
There were references to drinking, sex, a girl throwing up on the bathroom floor and passing out, and a boy’s parents finding out he was drunk and asking questions. Her only concern seemed to be other parents’ questions: “do ur parents knkw,” “Did anyone know I wasn’t there.”
Worse, the father said, was a message from the boys that his son “drank a lot for his second time” and “handled it like a champ,” suggesting this wasn’t the first time his son had been drinking at O’Connor’s house. Then the father watched as notices popped up on the screen that “Nun” was deleting the threads — a feature on the app that lets users control the lifespan of their messages.
The incident led to a falling out between the families over a video chat with O’Connor, her husband and son, the teen boy’s dad said. O’Connor’s husband — who has not been charged and whose knowledge of his wife’s role in the parties is unclear — insisted some of the girls at the party must have brought the alcohol. But the boy’s dad said he had screenshots of disturbing Snapchat threads implicating O’Connor, and that their boys would no longer be allowed to see each other.
The teen boy’s dad said he spoke to other boys’ fathers who made similar decisions not to let their kids hang out at O’Connor’s anymore. He thought that was the end of it until the mother of a teen girl at the high school reached out to him early this year with a horror story of her own.
That girl was in a class with O’Connor’s son, and he invited her over to work on a class group project in December 2020 with another friend, the girl’s mother said. At the time, school was still remote, and she felt it would be good for her daughter to socialize with other kids.
Her daughter soon after began dating O’Connor’s son. But the girl’s mother noticed troubling changes in her daughter’s behavior — lying, falling asleep at the table, drinking. It wasn’t long before she discovered that O’Connor had been messaging her daughter constantly for weeks.
“Shannon was telling her what to do and when and how to lie to me and her dad,” the girl’s mother said in an interview. “It was just completely insane.”
Her daughter later opened up to her mother about the abuse she said she’d suffered in a series of alleged secret alcohol and sex-fueled parties at O’Connor’s house, where she says she was asked to recruit other girls to join. Prosecutors allege O’Connor urged drunken boys to perform sex acts on the girl and pressured her to perform sex acts on boys while she was intoxicated, court documents say.
When the girl confronted O’Connor after one of those incidents, she said O’Connor laughed, prosecutors say. O’Connor also failed to stop another teen boy from beating her after the girl had told him not to cheat on his girlfriend, the complaint alleges. A few months later in April, after they’d had a falling out, court documents say O’Connor pulled her car alongside the girl to intimidate her. The girl’s mother went to police and began warning others about O’Connor.
One who got the warning was the mother of a girl in the suburbs of Boise, Idaho, who said her daughter met O’Connor’s son through the online video game Fortnite in March. The mother happened to meet O’Connor virtually during a video chat her daughter was having with O’Connor and her son. O’Connor said they were looking to move to Idaho, and the girl’s mother offered to help. The two families met for dinner in Idaho a few times, and the girl’s mother could tell her daughter was falling for O’Connor’s son.
Looking back on it, there were troubling signs about the relationship, the girl’s mother said. O’Connor was a constant presence in the relationship. She’d shower her daughter with gifts, a $200 Tiffany necklace, a dozen roses. If her daughter mentioned during a chat that she was hungry, Uber Eats would deliver her food.
Then her mom got a call out of the blue from the Los Gatos girl’s mother. By chance, another one of the parent’s sons had overheard Shannon’s son say he had a new girlfriend in Idaho. So the parent hunted through Instagram and found what seemed like a likely contact and passed it on to the girl’s mother, thinking it would be better for another mom to call.
Shocked, the Idaho girl’s mother said she immediately began rolling through the text messages on her daughter’s phone, with dozens from O’Connor showing she’d schemed with the girl to sneak her son into the Idaho family’s house while the woman and her husband were asleep:
Are you alone? the Idaho mom recalls one of the messages saying. Are your parents asleep? Did he get in OK?
The mother confronted O’Connor and ended the relationship. But O’Connor, she said, wasn’t done with her daughter, and she came to believe their relocation to Idaho over the summer was to facilitate her son’s relationship with the girl. Through the summer O’Connor continued trying to contact her daughter through Snapchat, using different profile names. Her daughter got three dozen calls from a line with no caller identification, she said, 27 of them in a three-hour period one night. If she answered, there was just heavy breathing.
Their phone carrier helped them identify whose phone was being used to make the calls, the mom said. It was O’Connor’s. In hindsight, the girl’s mother feels she should have been more alarmed by O’Connor constantly texting her daughter.
“We were really all fooled by the ‘cool mom’ thing,” she said. “Looking back … the red flags were there.”