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48 Hours: Covering a Las Vegas murder case

Vengeance in Vegas

Palms Casino cocktail waitress and mother Shauna Tiaffay, 46, was found beaten to death inside her suburban Las Vegas home Sept. 29, 2012. Her husband, Las Vegas firefighter George Tiaffay, was convicted of hiring a homeless man to carry out the attack and was last month sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. "48 Hours" investigated the case Saturday in the episode, "Vengeance in Vegas." Here, "48 Hours" producer and Las Vegas resident Cindy Cesare weighs in on covering the emotional case.


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"48 Hours" producer Cindy Cesare

LAS VEGAS -- With her petite Barbie Doll looks and infectious laughter, Shauna Tiaffay could command a casino floor while serving drinks. That's how her friends and family would describe her. It was evident from the photos I saw -- and especially in the home video her family shared with us. But she was more than a gorgeous cocktail waitress at one of the coolest casinos in Las Vegas. She was a mom who lived a very normal life in a suburb of Las Vegas, called Summerlin. A place I know very well.

This is a story that is very personal to me because I've resided in Las Vegas since 2001. Before working for"48 Hours," I was a local on-air news reporter with KLAS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas. I covered the crime and court beat for five years. And when I heard about Shauna Tiaffay's brutal murder, I knew this was a story that had to be told by our team at "48 Hours."

We would follow Shauna's family and friends as they sought justice, in a case that would be investigated by a task force of dedicated detectives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. But this story also offered us the chance to tell a story few people know about: life beyond the glitzy strip.

The over 41 million visitors a year to Las Vegas usually spend their limited time on the 4.2 miles of the famous Las Vegas Strip, according to the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority, generating 6.4 billion in gaming revenue there alone.

All the glitter, gambling and gluttony happens because of the nearly 400,000 workers like Shauna Tiaffay who make your Vegas visit amazing.

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George and Shauna Tiaffay with their daughter, Maddie Justice4Shauna

But at the end of the day, she would take off her cocktail uniform and put on Juicy Couture sweats and be a mom, go grocery shopping and work out at her neighborhood gym. The suburb of Summerlin is just 10 miles from the neon lights of the casinos. It's an upper middle class neighborhood where casino workers, cops, teachers and firefighters live side by side in new spacious homes....living the American Dream.

I met Shauna's sister, Paula, not long after Shauna's horrific murder. And soon I was embraced by dozens of Shauna's friends who were eager to recount all of her wonderful, charming qualities. She was the friend who would giggle when she tripped at work, laughing at herself. She was the considerate coworker who would bring in cupcakes for any occasion. And she was the mom who loved her daughter so much that her car's license plate was her daughter's name.

I know people just like Shauna in Las Vegas. She is the definition of a typical Las Vegas resident who kept tourists happy and kept them coming back....because you would be enamored with her infectious smile and sweet personality.

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Family and friends honored the memory of Las Vegas cocktail waitress Shauna Tiaffay with a balloon launch on her birthday five months after her September 2012 murder. Cindy Cesare

Shauna's husband George Tiaffay also left a dynamic impression on those whom he met. The high school homecoming king and star athlete from Newman, Calif. was the small town boy who could also command a room. With his striking looks and kind deeds of civil service, he made friends easily.

After meeting Shauna at the casino where they both worked, he became a firefighter. Friends and family recall how he doted their daughter, Maddie. That's why his involvement with Shauna's murder was so shocking. His family insists that the person convicted of this murder is not the person they know.

Covering this story since 2012, I followed the criminal case through its numerous court proceedings, attended memorials and vigils for Shauna and finally covered every day of the trial. Everyone we worked with on this case -- from the detectives, to attorneys, friends and family members -- were passionate about their involvement. It was an incredible group to work with; regular folks, with regular jobs, who just happen to live in the shadow of this world famous destination.

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