On Oct. 15, 1985, Shannon Flynn’s dreams and career went up in smoke — literally.
That was the day Mormon document dealer Mark Hofmann killed two people with pipe bombs in an effort to avoid being unveiled as a double-dealing forger, and Flynn, as his employee, was initially implicated.
The saga recently was retold in a hugely popular three-part Netflix documentary, “Murder Among the Mormons,” and the bow-tie-wearing Flynn became a “fan favorite among its tens of millions of viewers,” says Tyler Measom, one of the filmmakers. “Shannon was a bit of an odd duck, a colorful character, who recognized he was part of a remarkable story.”
Flynn, who died last week at age 63, loved everything about the making of the documentary, “loved being in the front and back of the camera, loved talking about it, and loved the small amount of fame it brought him in a perverse kind of way,” Measom says. “Without Shannon’s vulnerability, sense of comedy, and discretion, ‘Murder’ would not have been as much of a success.”
Jared Hess, Measom’s co-director on the series, echoes that observation. “I’ve never seen more memes and tweets about a character from a true crime series.”
The “witty and gregarious” Flynn was “just as animated and enthusiastic [about Mormon history] in our conversations as he was in the docuseries,” says historian Brent Metcalfe, who was also interviewed about his interactions with Hofmann.
But Flynn, who lost his two-year battle with cancer at his Arizona home Thursday, family members say, was so much more than the character on the screen.
His wife, Robyn Flynn, was “smitten from day one” after meeting him at the University of Utah, where they were both students, she says. “He had such an amazing brain and mind. And I thought he was cute, too.”
The two wed in 1983 and had a month-old baby daughter when their lives were upended by Hofmann’s crimes.
Though Flynn and Hofmann shared a love of Latter-day Saint history, the former knew nothing of the latter’s deceit — and was exonerated of any role in the killings or forgeries — his association with the “Mormon bomber” destroyed Flynn’s hope of an academic career in history.
Instead, he worked for a “pro-firearms tech company,” Robyn says, and then, in 2001, had a chance to move to the Phoenix-area to work in construction with a cousin.
“It wasn’t to escape Salt Lake City and the Hofmann exposure,” she says. “We just came here for a job. But it was refreshing for it not to be in our face all the time.”
The couple had four children — daughters Morgan and Kaytlin, sons Patrick and Collin — all of whom adored their dad.
He was a “quirky dude,” says Morgan, “but so intelligent.”
He was “very protective of us,” says Collin. “He wanted to make sure we had a normal, safe, successful life.”
He “felt everything so passionately,” says Kaytlin. “He felt love and he felt hate both very deeply. No one was confused about whether he hated or loved you. As a person who was loved by him, it was a privilege and honor.”
They all agreed, their father was “irreplaceable.”
Son-in-law Rick Rogers adds: “Shannon’s capacity to befriend and aid others — often without question — was overshadowed only by his unparalleled ability to consume and retain knowledge pertaining to nearly any subject. He was an autodidact in every sense of the word.”
Flynn was also a man of deep faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, unperturbed by controversial history or misdeeds of members.
“He knew the gospel inside and out,” Flynn’s wife says. “He had studied it his whole life, and his testimony was built on Jesus Christ.”
And the bombing’s infamous date — Oct. 15 — continued to play a role in his life.
In 2018, that was the day he got his lung cancer diagnosis. And, in 2020, that was when the couple learned the cancer had spread to his adrenal gland. And this year, it was Oct. 15, when he began his steep decline from brain cancer.
But the family was glad for all the attention and fans the documentary brought to Flynn during his final months.
“It was so satisfying to us,” Robyn says, “to see people love him so much.”
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse at 2080 E. Pinecrest Lane in Sandy.