'He was a hero': Brother of Brookeville, Md. murder victim reveals sibling’s final moments

Craig Shotwell

STERLING, Va. (ABC7) — An unexpected phone call woke Bill Shotwell around 6 a.m. Tuesday. One of his sisters was on the other end of the line, relaying dreadful news.

“I just was numb," Shotwell told ABC7 Friday while seated on a stool within his Sterling furniture restoration shop.

From 6 a.m. until 8 a.m., Shotwell sat at the edge of his bed trying to process the gravity of what he had just been told – his baby brother, Craig, was dead, a victim of senseless gun violence.

“When you see your brother’s face on the 10 o’clock news on a big flat screen TV," Shotwell said with tears filling his eyes. "I don’t know... I don't know if it’s really hit me yet.”

Craig Shotwell was born in August 1963, at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. He was the youngest of six siblings, Bill Shotwell being the oldest.

Their father, Jack, a decorated major in the U.S. Armed Forces, drilled traditional values of hard work, no handouts and respect into the minds of his children. Their father, who passed away in 2014, was also known for routinely sharing certain sayings around the house:

  • "Do it better than anyone else."
  • "Do it right the first time because you don't have the time to do it again."
  • "If a man can put it together, I can surely take it apart and fix it."

Shotwell explains those little life lessons greatly influenced his brother Craig, who earned a living as a respected handyman and entrepreneur.

During the 1980s, Craig worked for a number of repair companies, but ultimately decided to start his own contractor company, Shotwell Construction. Yet, during the Great Recession, jobs became so unpredictable and sluggish, the business folded.

Despite defeat, Craig built a second company, 'Your Home Solution' from the ground up. He tapped a former colleague to be a 50/50 partner. The business proved to be a great success.

“He knew his craft and he knew it better than anyone I’ve ever known, and worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” Shotwell stated. “I mean I would get tired just watching him go at it.”

Craig would post photos of his practically flawless work on Facebook. One such picture features colorful-woodwork on the exterior of a brick building in Baltimore. Another photo shows a custom-made wooden table containing dozens of beer bottle caps. A third image showcases a restored miniature wooden church with stained glass windows to boot. The church is put on display each year at a Maryland home, and is capable of playing Christmas music.

Craig — known for his "infectious smile and laugh" — recently launched a YouTube series called "Contractor Craig." The episodes, ranging in length from two to 20-some minutes, focused on a variety of common home repairs.

"His hope was that he could help the average Joe do some of their own house work, rather than get overcharged by untrustworthy contractors," an individual close to the Shotwell family told ABC7. "Craig repeatedly completed odd jobs for neighbors and friends and would refuse payment, simply because he could."

In a line of work where excessive quoting, cutting corners and charlatans run amuck, Craig developed a reputation of being a trustworthy go-to guy, well liked by his many loyal customers.

“Craig was just such a fair person. I would sometimes say, ‘Craig you could charge more for that.’ And he’d say, 'No, that’s what the job’s worth,'" Shotwell recalled.

Craig's work is, of course, what inadvertently led to his untimely demise. Doctors Mary and Richard Olson had hired the 54-year-old to work on a deck at their Brookeville, Maryland, home along Brown Farm Way.

Around 3:30 p.m. Monday, a distressed woman ran to the Olson home, explaining that her husband had been holding her against her will. As Shotwell understands it, Craig hid the woman in the basement and then called 911. Within minutes, the woman's enraged husband, Chris Snyder, forced his way into the house and opened fire.

”The homeowner, a lady, a doctor, greeted him and was like, 'What’s going on? What are you doing?' She was questioning this guy bursting into her home,” Shotwell explained. “That’s when he shot her, and then turned and saw Craig standing there on the phone and shot Craig, and then shot a house guest.”

Craig's co-worker managed to escape from the large home, as did Snyder's wife and a third individual. The colleague, who ABC7 is not identifying, intercepted police officers as they responded to the sprawling neighborhood, but it was already too late.

"We lost our mom to cancer in 1975, Craig was only 12 at the time. And now, coincidentally and quite tragically, Craig’s son is about to turn that same age, and he has lost his dad," Shotwell revealed.

When he wasn’t building or fixing, Craig found enjoyment in riding four-wheelers, exploring nature, collecting reptiles and dreaming of retiring to the Florida Keys. After all, the 54-year-old spent many childhood summers with relatives on Big Pine Key, snorkeling in salt water, fishing for little lobsters and cooking on open outdoor fires. Certain family members have already started to plan a trip to the Keys where they hope to hold a memorial service and spread a portion of Craig's ashes.

“You can’t forget a person like him,” Shotwell added. “He had a magnetic personality. People were simply drawn to him.”

Nothing, however, provided Craig with a greater sense of joy than his three children, Elizabeth, in her early 30s, Alise, 13, and Ethan, 11.

“Craig loved those kids. If he wasn’t working, he was with those kids," Shotwell stated. "Craig had even started to pass on his knowledge to Ethan... It's just so terrible."

Shotwell cannot help but shudder when pondering his brother's final moments on this earth. He does hope to speak with detectives in the coming days or weeks to get a better grasp of what precisely occurred inside that home. Still, the 72-year-old says he takes pride in knowing his little brother displayed bravery and service in the truest moment of fight or flight.

“Craig saved two or three people’s lives. He was a hero," Shotwell said firmly. "God’s word says, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' That was my brother."

Craig Shotwell's funeral will take place Saturday, May 12, at 1 p.m. at the LifePoint Church in Reisterstown. An ash-scattering service will follow at Lake View Memorial Park in Sykesville.

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