Hotel clerk was a funny, caring friend
January 12, 2024
"To know Shellby was to love Shellby," said Lizzie Strickland of Shellby Trettel, the 22-year-old Cloquet woman who died Monday after being shot during a shift as a clerk at the Super 8 hotel in Cloquet. Police are still trying to find out if there was a motive behind the shootings, and if Trettel was targeted.
Her friends and family want people to remember Trettel for the person she was, not as just a tragic statistic.
"I think everybody should see her smile, and her laugh and how she was. Who Shellby was should be highlighted more than anything through this tragedy," Strickland said. "She was probably the funniest person I have ever met. She was hilarious and had the best humor about everything. She would always lighten the mood ... into talking to anyone and got along with everyone. She was just a great, great person."
"Shellby was a caring compassionate and wonderfully colorful person," wrote Shellby's dad, Tim Trettel, in an online post that came earlier than he wanted due to media pressure, he noted. "She loved her siblings and friends and her music. Shellby was a person who you could always count on ... a memorable person who has touched many lives."
"She will be so dearly missed and forever in our hearts," Tim Trettel continued.
Another good friend and 2020 grad, Jessica Teitelbaum, described her as caring, and very upbeat "when she wanted to be" and always cracking jokes.
"She tried to make everyone else around her smile," said Teitelbaum, who had known Shellby since elementary school at Churchill.
An A honor roll student who received principal's honors at graduation from Cloquet High School in 2020, Trettel was involved in school. She was in band and choir, and ran track for a time. She attended sports games, often as part of the pep band. She was active in theater.
Strickland said she liked researching random things and "liked to learn new things all the time."
She called Shellby her "platonic soulmate" and best friend and described her as a "caring, unique and special person" when asked.
The two met during their freshman year of high school.
"Right when I met her, I knew she was going to be a really big part of my life," Strickland said. "She was one of those people that you meet and you just like, everyone loves her. ... She was an extremely kind soul. Loved everyone. Was always there for everyone. She went through a lot of struggles, but that never stopped her from being the person there for other people."
The two could have a good time together doing just about anything, from painting nails to window shopping, to making fake prom and graduation videos in 2020 as those rites of senior year passage were canceled and reimagined during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"She was pretty much down for anything and, honestly, so was I as long as I was with her," Strickland said. "We kind of went on adventures together. It didn't really matter what we were doing as long as we were together."
Behind the scenes
Although Shellby and Strickland were in CHS musicals during high school, Shellby wasn't one to seek the limelight. She worked hard behind the scenes and on stage. She was part of the close-knit relationships that come with a theater program that consistently crosses high school demographic lines.
Darrell Davey was assistant musical director and met Shellby in the theater. He attended her graduation party and was looking forward to seeing where life took the person with that "special, spicy spark."
"I am grateful for the short time our paths intersected while at the CHS Theater and for all that they brought to the department," he said of Shellby. "To see someone so fiercely themselves, who expressed such quiet kindness taken so abruptly and senselessly is truly heartbreaking."
Katy Buytaert was musical director when Shellby was in play.
"It was very evident that Shellby was a fantastic friend to their closest people and so kind to everyone," Buytaert said. "Gentle, quiet, kind."
At the same time, Buytaert said Trettel had an incredible work ethic and "always managed to balance getting things done with having fun with everyone."
Shellby was very secure in herself, said the admiring Strickland.
"Shellby knew who Shellby was: Shellby was Shellby," she said. "She never ever tried to change herself to be someone else. ... It's not so easy when you're in high school and middle school and she - from the first time I met her - was always exactly who she was and she didn't apologize for that. I loved that about her."
That included her own sexuality. Shellby came out as lesbian years ago, and had identified as nonbinary over the past two years - adopting they/them pronouns but never minding when people forgot, Strickland said.
"She was just always very open," Strickland said. "She knew people didn't really have ill intentions and if they did, she just didn't care. She never got offended by anything."
What could be a deeply personal fact became part of her humorous charm. Online, Shellby referred to herself as an "autistic, queer, norse pagan witch."
Shellby was open about her struggles. In January of 2022, she posted on Facebook that "I have had a mental breakdown almost every day" and had been crying "more times than I'd like to admit."
She said she was stressed about work and was suffering from back pain. She wasn't unlike many people in a post-pandemic world.
"Just because I don't show it, doesn't mean I'm not struggling," Shellby wrote, urging people to "acknowledge and validate my struggles."
Strickland said she and Shellby became even closer friends after high school, when friend groups changed.
"She was that person who was always there for me. We hung out all the time, talked almost every day."
Shellby took Strickland to her first Gay Pride event in Minneapolis two years ago, and again last year.
"She kind of opened up a new world of people to become friends with because of that," said Strickland, who said her longtime boyfriend Joe Tomsche was also friends with Shellby. "She was a very open, kind person and very understanding."
Shellby worked six days a week at the Super 8 and nearby AmericInn hotel next door, Strickland said, mostly at the Super 8.
Teitelbaum helped Shellby get the job at Super 8 right after she started there. Both of them were 15 at the time. She said Shellby loved the job, and they loved nothing more than talking about work.
"That was a huge connection point for us," Teitelbaum said. "We both absolutely loved working there. I know it's a weird job to love, but you meet so many people and you never know what you're gonna get."
Like broken light bulbs from people jumping too hard on a bed, or hockey teams that keep you running, and laughing.
Some people could be rude, but Teitelbaum remembers a loving place to work. She never felt unsafe in her time there.
"It felt like home," Teitelbaum said. "I never felt in danger."
Shellby was close to her family, including her dad, Tim, and stepmom, Beth, and both biological siblings and stepsiblings, Strickland said. Shellby had recently moved back home to save money, and because she had a good support system there.
The last time they spoke was just before Christmas, Strickland said. She plans to keep in touch with the family. Both Strickland and Teitelbaum got permission from Shellby's family to speak with the Pine Knot.
"I've been keeping in contact with Gracie (Shellby's 17-year-old sister) since we found out and I will continue to do that," Strickland said. "I promised Shellby I would take care of her sister, so I will do that."
A GoFundMe page simply called "Shellby Marie Trettel" was started to help the family with funeral and other expenses.
"Shellby Marie Trettel was just planning out her future, living life to the fullest, and most of all had a huge heart and cared deeply for all of those she knew," organizer Kasey Murray wrote on the fundraising site.
The Anchorage Wolverines junior hockey team donated $1,600 to the fund on Tuesday. A total of 350 individuals in addition to the hockey team had donated more than $15,000 by Wednesday morning.
"Sincere condolences from the entire Anchorage Wolverines Hockey team players, coaches and families who spent the past weekend at the hotel where they were met with smiles and positivity from Shellby," a team member wrote.
Pine Knot News reporter Mike Creger contributed to this story.