When Sandra Eagleson describes how much her late husband loved her, she uses her celiac disease as an example.
Shaun Eagleson didn’t need to go gluten-free, but he decided to do so to eliminate the slim chance that he could cross-contaminate his wife’s food and trigger her illness.
“He just wanted to smother me and kiss me all the time,” she said, breaking into tears.
Shaun Eagleson, a Fountain Valley resident, was 30 when he died Sunday night after being hit by a pickup while bicycling along East Coast Highway in Newport Beach. A Huntington Beach man suspected of driving drunk has been charged with murder, felony hit-and-run and possession of a controlled substance in connection with Eagleson’s death.
Police say the Toyota Tacoma being driven by Neil Storm Stephany, 23, a self-described drug-addiction counselor, slammed into Eagleson and didn’t stop.
In an interview punctuated by sobs, Sandra Eagleson said the crash stole her husband, their future and the family they had planned together.
“It’s impossible to describe the hurt and the sadness and the emptiness that I’m feeling,” she said. “To think that this guy took everything from me.… He took my children away.”
Shaun and Sandra met at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley, where they both graduated in 2001.
For years in high school, they were strictly friends, Sandra said. “He was just a really shy guy, and it took him forever to say he liked me,” she said.
But they bonded when Sandra ended up in a hospital because of her celiac disease, a digestive and autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. Shaun offered to pay for medicine that Sandra’s family couldn’t afford and shuttle her to doctor appointments.
“He was always there for me,” she said. “He took care of me.”
On Valentine’s Day eight years ago, the two married, claiming the date as their own.
“We were so loving with each other and wanted to celebrate us more on Valentine’s Day,” Sandra said.
She was out with friends Sunday night when police left her a voicemail about the crash, throwing her into a living nightmare.
“I never realized how physically you can feel your heart disappearing,” she said. “Every time someone texts me or calls me, I think it’s him”
Shaun was struck while cycling along the coast near the Los Trancos entrance to Crystal Cove State Park.
“That was his favorite spot to be,” Sandra said. “At least he was where he loved doing what he loved.”
Shaun biked everywhere he needed to go in Orange County, where they had moved for his job, Sandra said.
She said Shaun was a talented musician who had attended Berklee College Of Music in Boston and landed a job selling and installing high-end audio systems in Huntington Beach.
Shaun’s drive inspired everyone around him, Sandra said, including her.
“He always fixed everything, and he made me live,” she said. “I know he’d be upset at me for being so sad and wanting to give up.”
Sandra, now a widow at 31, began shopping Tuesday for her husband’s burial plot.
The same day, the Orange County district attorney’s office charged Stephany with murder in Shaun’s death. Stephany had pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 2011, and in California, drivers suspected of repeated drunk driving can be charged with murder if someone is killed.
Sandra said it would be an appropriate conviction.
“He can’t do this to somebody else. I don’t wish this on anyone,” she said. “I don’t want my husband’s death to be in vain.”
Shaun’s family has set up a memorial fund at gofundme.com to help cover funeral and other expenses.