Could home renovations be the reason Shanti Cooper is not alive today? Could this be a home renovation homicide? These questions and more are still awaiting answers, as David Tronnes’s case sits in court and David is in jail, awaiting trial.
David Tronnes, alias Dave, found the house of his dreams, a gargoyle-adorned home in the upscale Orlando in 2015. The home was beautiful, with a vast compound, and it had a pool. The garage apartment measured 4000 square feet.
Dave bought the house from Tyler Steve at slightly more than $600,000 and immediately started remodeling it with Shanti, his wife. He later married Shanti Cooper and lived in their home in Florida, where Shanti died.
The renovation did not seem to go well, and out of desperation, Dave contacted the local contractor, Keith Ori, for help. Dave told Ori that he wanted him to see his project, which he had done some work on. However, in his narration, Ori says that the “some work” was an understatement of what he saw.
In his interview with CBS’s 48-hours, Ori tells Erin Moriarty, the correspondent, that the contractors had fully disassembled the house to a degree he had never seen. “When you entered the house, it felt like you had entered into a giant shoebox,” Ori reported.
The former prosecutor Ryan Vescio told Moriarty that David seemed to have given his all to this house. The house was more than just a project to him, and he appeared to be obsessed with it. It was in a good and quiet neighborhood, was big, had a pool, and was guarded all through. It was beautiful. Is this lovely home the reason why the 39-year-old beautiful lady, Shanti, lost her life?
On 24th April 2018, Dave called 911 to report that he came home and found his wife floating in a bathtub, ‘not breathing.’ In the 911 call, when the operator picked the phone, Dave was on the other side crying. “My wife—I found my wife. She is not breathing,” were the exact words that he said.
When Moriarty asked Vescio if Dave’s story on the call made sense during the interview, the prosecutor said it didn’t because when the first responders arrived, Shanti was dead, and her body was dry. Marks on her body show that she was significantly beaten. Shanti’s dry body was an indication that she had died earlier or even a day before.
Dave Tronnes’ story did not add up, and he became the first suspect of his wife’s death. The cops asked Dave to go with them to the police department headquarters, and he went willingly. Dave even stayed in the headquarters for 14 hours without a lawyer.
When narrating how that fateful day was for him to the police officers, Dave says he had gone to walk his dogs in the afternoon. When he came back later, he found Shanti in her pajamas, inside the bathtub. He suggested that she might have slipped and fallen into the bathtub or just collapsed into the tub.
When the investigators examined the crime scene, they found that the bathtub was dry, and so was the floor. Meaning, there are minimal chances that Shanti slipped and fell into the bathtub.
Detective Sprague also said that there was a lot of dried blood on the bedroom floor, meaning that David’s wife might have died a day or many hours before the call. Furthermore, the autopsy revealed that Shanti died from blunt force trauma and strangulation.
In the police interrogation room, Dave kept telling the detectives that he was innocent. His attorney, Richard Zaleski, says that the two detectives did not want to listen to Dave’s plea of being innocent and kept asking questions to try and get words out of him.
“These two detectives went into this room and decided that David Tronnes was a murderer and went the extra mile to try to put a file together to prove such.” Attorney Zaleski said.
The detectives also asked Dave if he and his wife had gotten into an argument lately and whether she was pissed about the house. However, he said no.
When asked by Moriarty if maybe Shanti could still be alive without this house, Vescio said he thought she was entirely accurate. Yes, if this house were not there, perhaps the 39-year-old woman would still be alive.
David was raised by his mother, in the absence of his father, in Stillwater, Minnesota. He married Carole Tronnes, his first wife, in 1999. Carole describes her ex-mother-in-law as a good and supportive woman.
David worked as a salesperson in a company called 3M, where he earned $140,000. In 2008, he claimed that he was burning out because of work and quit his position, which his boss and workmates didn’t believe was the cause of him quitting his job. David left his job to take care of his then-sick wife, Carole.
David and Shanti met in 2013 on a dating app, Match.com. Moriarty of ’48 hours’ explains that their love story seems like a cautionary tale. Shanti seemed to have fallen in love with Dave at first sight because “well, Dave is handsome, well-spoken and comes along really well.”
Shanti moved to Florida with Dave a few months after meeting, and she probably had not known him and done proper investigations about him, his past life, or family. During the interrogation with the police, there were so many red flags that possibly Shanti had not seen.
During their courtship, David told Shanti that he was a rich man. After his father died, he inherited most of his wealth, which amounted to $4-$6 million. The police later proved that this was a lie, but it seems like Shanti never knew the truth about the wealth inheritance story.
When the couple moved to Orlando, David stopped working. Shanti started paying for the renovation bills. David put his mother and himself as the trustees of the property when he bought the house, and he did not change these details when he married Shanti in 2017.
The renovations cost Shanti $250,000, about a quarter-million dollars. When the cops interrogated David, he said they moved to a small apartment above the garage during the renovation. Things seemed to take a sour turn, and David started sleeping on the couch in the garage.
The couple’s family friends started noticing that Shanti paid most of the bills without David’s help. This was strange considering how David kept bragging about having a ton of money, but Shanti knew he was a miser.
David had been dishonest about his finances and his past because it seemed he lived a double life. It is alleged that Dave killed his wife after she learned about his finances or after she knew the husband’s sexual affairs at the same-sex bathhouses.
It came to light that there are many reasons why Shanti Cooper could have seen his dark side. It’s very possible that they may have had a blazing row once she found out some truths about him.
Tara Stevens sold the house to Dave at a slightly higher amount than $600,000, which he paid in cash. David immediately put the house in his mother’s trust and did not include Shanti in the deed.
When David introduced Shanti to Tara, they seemed happy. Tara thought that David’s wife was beautiful and bubbly. She was a nice person, and he enjoyed meeting her. However, he did not feel the same way with David. His personality was different, and it changed after he signed the contract.
“Were you glad when the deal was over?” Moriarty asked Tori. “Absolutely. I was happy.” Tori said. David and Shanti’s closest friends Cindy and Dow did not like Dave when they met him the first time, but they grew to love him. Cindy said that she loved Shanti, so she grew to love her husband.
Keith Ori, the local contractor, said that a desperate David reached out to him and asked Ori to feature his house in his TV show, “Zombie House Flipping.” Ori’s show features homes that were at their worst and brings them back to life.
The contractor said that David’s house had fully been disassembled. He narrates that it had been taken down to studs and that even the studs had been taken away. It was a drastic change that clearly went too far.
The engineers reported that the only thing holding Dave’s house was two inches of a stucco. The interior walls had been taken away, and the place was left looking like a two-story shell. It was far too much work to take on.
Ori agreed to take the challenge and signed the house up for his next Zombie House Flipping season. That happened in mid-April, and the show was to start at the beginning of May. Dave must have still been very optimistic at this point.
When Orri visited the couple the last time to ensure they were still on board, they agreed. “Shanti said, ‘yes, we understand.’ And she took off immediately.” Ori narrates. It was a sign that she wasn’t fully happy with what was happening.
Ori understood that Shanti might have been pissed off at her husband, hence the question from the investigators at the interrogation room. Also, the fact that Dave slept in the garage next to the dogs raised many questions. Were they really on good terms? A few days after Ori met the couple, Shanti was found dead by her husband.
The detectives wondered if the house had anything to do with Shanti’s death. One thing Shanti desperately wanted in her entire life was stability. She did not get any of this because clearly, she was living in a house that was not hers, even though she had spent a quarter a million renovating it.
Besides all the quarter-million Shanti spent renovating the house, Dave was still asking her to spend more because more renovations could take up more thousands of dollars. It must have been causing some substantial financial pressure.
Anyone who has lived through any sort of home renovation knows how hard it can push you. It must have been tough for this couple, and more so for Shanti. Was it pressure that ended up being to boiling point?
Might Shanti have started burning out from this massive project that she was doing alone and began showing signs of giving up on it? If that was the case, an argument might have been raised from it and cost Shanti her life.
There are possibilities Dave killed his wife over the house because it was the most important thing in his life, and he was on the verge of losing his most important thing.
Detectives Sprague and Sharp interrogated David on the death of his wife for about five hours. They asked him where he was at the time of Shanti’s death, the events before the killings.
These two prosecutors tried to get him to confess, but Dave stood his ground that he was innocent. However, the detectives told David that his story did not make sense. They said there were many contradictions in the physical evidence found at his house, with his explanation.
Sprague and Sharp believe that David killed his wife Shanti the previous night before making the call. According to the investigators, Shanti was killed when she was getting ready for bed. She had removed one earring and placed it on the nightstand, and she was still wearing the other one.
Sprague’s police report reads, “It seems she had placed her cell phone on the nightstand and was removing her left earring when she got attacked.” The detectives noted Shanti did not have defensive wounds on the hand, meaning that the first blow might have knocked her, so she didn’t defend herself.
Sprague also believes that David might have moved her body to the bathtub to clean the scene and then moved it back into the bedroom and placed it on a mattress pad. When David called 911, he said that he found his wife in the bathtub and moved her to the bedroom floor.
Detectives claim that the blood on the bedroom floor was a lot and indicated that Shanti’s body might have been on the floor for a while.
Following up on Shanti’s money movements, David drew $252,000 from her account to pay his lawyers, raising many questions. He was also not remorseful during the interrogation, and he even made notes.
Sprague wrote in one of her statements that David fake-cried during the interrogation and did not shed tears from the cries. In his description of the relationship David had with his wife, he seemed to be the helper, and she might have belittled and made him feel less of a man.
Sprague went to Minneapolis to interview David’s ex-wife, Carole. They asked her questions about her health because she had similar symptoms to those of Shanti. Carole said that her symptoms began a year after marrying David.
When asked about her thoughts on the ex-husband poisoning her, Carole said that David loved her, and she did not believe he would poison her.
Two months before her death, Shanti was in the hospital for treatment following the bursting of her appendix. It was a serious health concern and one where she had to make changes to her diet to prevent complications.
The nanny also told Sprague that Shanti could not eat spicy food and alcohol at the time of her death, and she had lost weight.
However, Carole says that David was this attractive, intelligent, engaging, and energetic man and that their marriage was okay, with a lot of growth. They had fun times and did a lot of things together. However, Carole’s friends claim that she changed drastically when she got married to David, but Carole said that she cut off friends when she fell sick, and it was not because of David.
According to Shanti’s friends and family, David was controlling, and he played mind games on her. On the other hand, Carole claims that the ex-husband was not controlling but stubborn. The detectives tried to get more information on why Carole divorced David, but she invoked the spousal privilege. A spousal privilege allows someone not to answer intimate questions between them and their spouse.
Carole went ahead to say that she called David when she heard of Shanti’s death to express her condolences. They had started taking well before David was arrested. Carole said that David had talked about the wife’s death once with her.
Dave said that Shanti was killed by a random person who broke into the house. She added that David was not a violent person, and she doesn’t believe he was responsible for the killing.
Richard Zaleski, David’s lawyer, says that the suspect did not conceal anything. In fact, “he gave the law enforcement access to what they needed, everything they wanted, and he laid himself there for examination,” those were his exact words.
Ryan Vescio says that Dave has a lot to tell the police, and he is willing to say everything to show the detectives that he was not involved in the murder of his wife. When asked by Moriarty why David agreed to be interrogated without an attorney, Zaleski says, “It’s because he has nothing to hide. He didn’t think this information would hurt him.”
When the detectives questioned how Shanti got blood on the cheek and bruised her eye from a fall in the tub, Dave said he didn’t know how that happened. The only information he knew was what he had reported. Also, when asked about the blood on the mattress and floor, Dave says it might be from her periods.
Although Shanti’s autopsy shows that she struggled to death, Zaleski says that Dave couldn’t give more information about this. “Not because he is hiding anything from the police. It’s because he doesn’t know.” Zaleski said. The detectives went on and on asking David questions and trying to make him confess, but Dave didn’t.
“There are many conclusions drawn off of what David’s reactions were during the interrogations, and I think that is not the right thing to do. We all react differently to stress. We all grieve differently,” were Zaleski’s words.
With David not giving anything away, he and his lawyer put up the best defense they could. Despite this solid defense, many weren’t convinced due to the evidence at the scene.
Since his arrest for first-degree murder, 51-year old David is yet to face charges. He is locked at the Orange County Jail without a bond. Although he is in jail, Dave still solely owns the house.
In all the interrogations, David has always kept his innocence. The pandemic delayed his case, and once it is time, he will be helped by a public defender to fight the case. We’re yet to see what the outcome is going to be.
Zaleski says that it is unfair that the detectives tried to make his client confess and file a case against him. David’s inmate claims that Shanti had learned about David’s secret affairs at the bathtub, and she filed for a divorce.
The inmate went ahead and reported how David kept saying that he had blacked out before the incident that led to his wife’s death happened. In addition, David claimed that he is in the cell for murder, but he is not a murderer.
As Shanti’s investigations were done, the police also investigated the sickness of his previous wife, Carole. The police claimed that her ex-husband’s poisoning could have caused Carole’s deteriorating health. It was found that Shanti also suffered similar symptoms to Carole’s.
Carole suffered nausea and near-fainting spells. She could not eat certain foods and drinks because they made her nauseous and feeling sick. Her doctor advised her to switch to a specific diet to control the symptoms. However, Carole’s health deteriorated even after their divorce.
In his narration, the inmate mentioned that David had talked about a poisonous secretion called Kambo, sold by an Amazonian giant. Kambo doesn’t show up in a toxicology report, and this raises an eyebrow why David would know so much information about this poisonous secretion.
The inmate went ahead and described David as someone who did not care. “He would sit on the bed, close his eyes, put a white rag over his eyes, and hum to himself for hours,” the inmate said. Until the case is resolved, we can only speculate on the outcome.