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Local business owner found dead in Cleveland County Detention Center

Cookie Cottage

The Okie Baking Company's cookie cottage on Dec. 9 after the death of its owner, Shannon Hanchett.

An investigation is underway following the death of an inmate and Norman business owner at the Cleveland County Detention Center on Thursday. 

According to a statement from the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, OU alumna Shannon Hanchett, 38, was discovered unconscious and not breathing in her cell around 12:45 a.m. Life-saving measures were taken and emergency medical services responded.

Hanchett’s death is under joint investigation by the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, according to the statement. The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office will determine the cause and manner of death.

Hanchett was arrested around 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 26 in the 1400 block of 24th Ave. NW after an officer responded to a welfare check, according to a statement from the Norman Police Department. The call for service was the result of multiple 911 calls requesting assistance in verifying the safety of Hanchett's family. 

The responding officer located Hanchett inside a nearby business, according to the statement. Hanchett was observed to be "exhibiting irrational behaviors" and providing "inconsistent information regarding her family and their safety."

Hanchett placed additional phone calls to 911 using a cell phone and the business phone and, according to the statement, continued to interfere with the operations of the business. Hanchett was placed under arrest for placing false 911 calls and obstructing an officer. 

Hanchett was transported to the F. Dewayne Beggs Detention Center where she was released into the custody of detention center staff, according to the statement. Additional officers completed a welfare check on the family and found they were safe. 

Hanchett was ordered to be released once a $1,000 bond was posted, according to an arraignment summary order filed Nov. 28. She was set to have a misdemeanor sounding docket hearing before Cleveland County Judge Scott Brockman at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 19, according to the order. 

The NPD was advised by the Cleveland County Sherriff's Office on Dec. 9 that Hanchett died, according to the statement. 

While an initial review has discovered no policy violations by the responding Norman officers, a complete review of the department's involvement in the arrest will be conducted to ensure compliance with policy and training standards "as a matter of routine process." 

"Our agency extends our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Hanchett for their loss," the statement read. 

Kate Bierman, a former Ward 1 Norman city council member, said she has a lot of questions about the circumstances of Hanchett's death and detainment. But, for now, she said it’s important to focus on who Hanchett really was.  

“As someone who also very much cares about the policy implications of what happened, I want to be sensitive about the fact that we are talking about real people who had lives and loved ones,” Bierman said. “I think, at least just for the next couple of days, that's what we need to focus on.” 

Family and friends have left flowers and dozens of messages in chalk outside Hanchett’s cookie cottage on Main Street. The bakery is an extension of Okie Baking Company, a homestyle cookie company Hanchett founded in February 2018. 

Hanchett, a fourth-generation Oklahoman, received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in human relations at OU. She spent 11 years working for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services before leaning into her passion for baking. 

Hanchett was also known for organizing drag queen story hours in Norman and has served on the Norman Pride board, which is a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting and advocating for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, according to its website. 

“She was one of our community's most vocal and active supporters of mental health access and awareness and for the LGBTQ community, which was where her passion was,” Bierman said. “That was the other side of her story because her life had been so impacted by mental health, and she had been very open about that. She was just someone who instantly loved everyone she met because she could find many things lovable about everyone.” 

Normanites fondly referred to Hanchett as the “Cookie Queen,” and have donned cookie profile pictures on their social media accounts with chocolate chips shaped like broken hearts in remembrance of Hanchett. 

Bierman said Hanchett was “sarcastic, sharp as a tack and drank Dr. Pepper like there was no tomorrow.” She said she is thankful for the impact Hanchett had on the Norman community. 

“There are impressions of her everywhere,” Bierman said. “She left her fingerprints everywhere, and that is going to be the best that comes of this, is that we'll all get to see it just a little more clearly.” 

A candlelight vigil for Hanchett will be held 7 p.m. Monday at the cottage, 231 W. Main St. Hanchett’s celebration of life will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday at Havenbrook Funeral Home. Condolences can be shared on the funeral home’s website and flowers can be sent to her family on its tribute store

This article was updated at 6:14 p.m. to include a statement from the Norman Police Department.

Jillian Taylor contributed to this report. 

senior news reporter

Taylor Jones is a journalism junior and senior news reporter at the Daily. She started at the Daily in the fall of 2020 and has previously served as a news reporter. She is originally from Anna, Texas.  

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