The Trail Went Cold – Episode 317 – The Eleven Who Went to Heaven (Part 1)

August 4, 1971. Galveston, Texas. After spending the day at the beach, 14-year old Rhonda Renee Johnson and 13-year old Sharon Shaw fail to return home and their skeletal remains are found in a bayou months later. A suspect named Michael Lloyd Self is eventually taken into custody and confesses to the murders, but even though he maintains his confession was coerced and that he is innocent, Self is still convicted of the crime. Decades later, another convicted murderer named Edward Harold Bell becomes an alternate suspect after he sends confession letters to the authorities. Bell claims he was responsible for the murders of eleven female victims which took place in Texas during the 1970s and refers to them as “The Eleven Who Went to Heaven”. His confessions also hint that two of these victims may have been Rhonda Renee Johnson and Sharon Shaw. To commemorate the seven-year anniversary of “The Trail Went Cold”, we are releasing a special two-part episode on “The Eleven Who Went to Heaven” and exploring a number of unsolved murders which may have been committed by the same perpetrator. This week, Part 1 will cover the murders of Rhonda Renee Johnson and Sharon Shaw and the controversial conviction of Michael Lloyd Self. Special thanks to listener Amy Harber for narrating the opening of this episode.

If you have information about any of these cases, please contact the tip line of the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office at 1-800-566-2209.

Additional Reading:

“Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption of the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields” by Kathryn Casey

Join us on Saturday, February 25 at 8:00pm ET for an online streaming marathon where we will be watching classic segments from “Unsolved Mysteries”. You can enter our screening room by clicking on this link.

“The Trail Went Cold” is on Patreon. Visit to become a patron and gain access to our exclusive bonus content.

“The Trail Went Cold” is doing a weekly livestream show on Vokl every Thursday from 7:00-8:00 PM ET as part of their “True  Crime Thursday” line-up. For more information, please visit their website.

“The Trail Went Cold” is going to be appearing on podcast row at “Crimecon UK” at the Tower Bridge, Leonardo Royal Hotel & Spa in London on June 10-11, 2023, as well as “Crimecon” at the World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida on September 22-24, 2023. To get a 10 % discount on the purchase of tickets to either event, please use our specialized promo  code, “COLD23”, by visiting or

The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.