Markus Shearer

Photographer
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Location: Portland, Or.
Nationality: USA
Biography: Markus Shearer was born in Portland, Oregon in 1988.  After graduating with a B.A. in Visual Journalism from Brooks Institute, Ventura, California he moved back to Oregon where he’s worked as a photographer, photo assistant and... read on
Public Project
You are my Sunshine
Credits: markus shearer
Updated: 07/06/18

Kenny Riley and Leila McNairy got married on Thanksgiving Day 2008.  They both have children from different relationships--one of Leila's, Kenneth, has lived on and off with them in the Ventura River.

Kenny grew up with learning disabilities, a cleft pallet, and underwent 13 surgeries by the time he was 13.  He and his brother were old enough to witness and retain memories from their abusive stepfather.  Their mother, Nancy Grant, married the former Seabee when he returned from Vietnam.  He provided a good middleclass home so she decided that she'd put up with the verbal degradation.  But within the first year the violence turned physical, "...and I told him 'You lay one more hand on me and this is going to turn ugly.' And he did, and I did shoot him."  Nancy believes that those events acted as catalysts in Kenny's early years with drug use and his uneasiness being at home.  A sandwich was always left by the back door if Kenny was desperate and returned home in the middle of the night or during the day when Nancy was gone.  His mother gave him chances but he didn’t know how to go to school or work. 

He grew up in the bush running from the law.  Riley became a principal drug dealer with close ties to the Hells Angels as well as Avenue gangs.  After nearly a decade in some of California’s worst prisons (Wasco and Mule Creek) he returned to the river to live outside again.  Nancy raised Kenny’s only child Chris, 34 years old; she treasures him and they still live close by in Pahrump, Nevada.

Leila, who goes by Sunshine, was an ambitious gymnast at a young age in Texas.  She was lifted into exotic dancing by a biker gang as a young teen and subsequently got addicted to hard drugs and alcohol.  She’s worked as a nightclub bouncer, sheet-rocker, and motorcyclist mechanic while fighting her addiction.  Her oldest daughter, Shannon, is a Portland State University graduate and rarely stays in contact with Sunshine.  Kenneth Stults, who is pictured throughout this story, had bounced around the West in his late teens and early twenties, hopping trains and staying with his paternal father in Texas.  When Sunshine became homeless just over a decade ago, he moved into the river with her, ultimately dropping out of high-school.  Kenneth's body was found on the side of train tracks near Las Cruces, New Mexico March, 2018.  Authorities concluded it was an accident and claim he died by way of blunt force trauma.  He was on his way to visit his mother.

Kenny and Sunshine now live in a residence in Pahrump, Nevada.  

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