"For someone who accomplished so much as a young true-crime author, she above all, cherished motherhood," said her friend Kathleen "Katie" Mayer

By Rachel DeSantis
September 09, 2020 11:04 AM
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The literary world was rocked this week by the death of Shanna Hogan, a popular true-crime author whose tome on the headline-grabbing Jodi Arias case made her a New York Times bestselling author.

Hogan, 38, died on Sept. 1 after she slipped, hit her head and became submerged in a pool at her Phoenix home while swimming with her 14-month-old son, Zander on Aug. 27, her friend and former colleague Kathleen "Katie" Mayer told PEOPLE on Tuesday.

She spent several days in the ICU in critical condition before she died, after which her donated organs saved the lives of at least four people, said Mayer, who who set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of Hogan's family.

"At a time where human kindness is so desperately needed, we've lost one of the people who gave that to our world, but Shanna's writing will live on, the lives she saved will live on and her greatest creation — her little boy — will live on to inspire all of us," Mayer said.

Here’s everything to know about the late author and journalist.

She Was a Proud Wife and Mother

Hogan and her husband, Matt LaRussa, welcomed son Zander Matthew in June 2019 — and spent much of their time doting on the tot.

Hogan frequently shared happy family photos to social media, showing off smiling pictures of little Zander and family outings to places like the zoo.

On Halloween, she and Zander dressed in matching dog costumes, and on Easter, he was outfitted in a sweet bunny costume.

Hogan posted videos of Zander’s firsts, too, like the first time he wore a pair of shoes, and the first time he experienced rain.

"For someone who accomplished so much as a young true-crime author, she above all, cherished motherhood," Mayer told PEOPLE. "She became a mom later in life but flourished in this role with a true grace that was breathtaking to see."

Hogan and LaRussa, who married in October 2003, even had matching tattoos in honor of their son.

“I hope one day my little love muffin brags that both his parents got ‘Z’ and ‘Zander’ tattoos on our arms. He will grow up knowing he’s the center of our world. 😊🥰,” Hogan wrote on Instagram on Aug. 21. “I would be happy if one day Zander is embarrassed by how much we adore him!”

In December, Hogan called 2019 the “hands down best year of my life” thanks to the addition of Zander, and in an emotional Facebook post following Hogan’s death, LaRussa called him their “little miracle.”

“Biggest and best change: I had the most adorable baby boy,” Hogan wrote on Instagram in December. “My days used to be all about writing and true-crime. Now it’s all about, well writing, true-crime and diapers — lots and lots of diapers!”

As for the rest of her family, Hogan was also devoted to her two dogs, Milo and Fiona, as well as LaRussa, whom she thanked for “making my life so happy” in an Instagram post celebrating their anniversary.

In his Facebook post, LaRussa called his late wife “the light of my life.”

She Started as a Journalist and Then Moved to Books

Hogan was best known for her four true-crime books, all of which fleshed out chilling murders. Her first, Dancing with Death, was published in 2011, and told the story of art dealer Jay Orbin’s murder at the hands of his wife.

Then in 2014, she published Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story, which covered the murder of Travis Alexander by Arias, his ex.

She also wrote The Stranger She Loved about the murder of Michele MacNeill by her husband, Martin, as well as her final book, Secrets of a Marine’s Wife, which told the story of the death of young Marine wife Erin Corwin.

Shanna Hogan and her son
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Before she was an author, though, Hogan, a native of Kansas who moved to the Scottsdale, Arizona area as a child, began her career in journalism as a reporter for the East Valley Tribune.

She worked there for two years before becoming an executive editor and writer for the Times Media Group, according to her resume.

In addition to freelancing for Phoenix Magazine and Phoenix New Times, Hogan was also an adjunct journalism professor at Arizona State University, from which she graduated in 2005. She’d been teaching at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism since 2015.

Hogan’s work earned her frequent guest appearances on shows like Dateline, Dr. Oz, 20/20 and The View, as well as a handful of awards, including Arizona Press Club Journalist of the Year in 2009.

She Was Planning for the Future

Mayer told PEOPLE that Hogan had another book planned, and was also hard at work on a screenplay when she died.

“She was so excited about these projects,” Mayer said.

According to her obituary, her books The Stranger She Loved and Secrets of a Marine’s Wife were both optioned to become movies.

Shanna Hogan with her family
gofundme

Hogan’s obituary also laid out her many hobbies, and said she loved Harry Potter, horror movies, buying gifts for others, amusement parks, popsicles, home-designed projects, high tea, mentoring young writers and “planning for Zander to go to space camp.”

“Shanna had an imagination with no bounds, a brain filled with profound thoughts, and a nurturing, caring devotion to family and friends with the goal of helping everyone live their best lives,” the obituary read.

Those interested in helping Hogan's family in the wake of her death can so here.