|“||Well at least we won't get beat. A little rain never hurt nobody. Come on, let's go play!||”|
— John to his brother, Scott
In the 1970s, John and his twin brother grew up relatively poor, living in a trailer at a construction site. While his father was an abusive alcoholic, he shared a more tender relationship with his mother, Ann Sheppard, who was the breadwinner of the family. Due to their mother frequently working, their father's alcoholism meant they were subject to both neglect and domestic violence while under his supervision. John's mother taught him to make origami figures, his favorite being dogs, all of which he insisted on naming "Max." He also had a fondness for orchids.
On the day he died, John and his brother, "Scottie," left their trailer due to threats from their father. Despite a heavy downpour outside, the brothers decided to play together at a nearby construction site. Playing a game of hide-and-seek, John accidentally fell into a concrete pipe filled with rainwater, and his foot was trapped under some debris. Unable to free him, Scott ran to get help, only to find his father was drunk, belligerent, and disinterested in saving John. Scott returns to John, sadly telling his brother that his father would not come. Scott is forced to watch tearfully as the rainwater continues to rise, drowning John.
Events of Heavy Rain
|Spoiler — Plot or ending details follow.|
|“||Don't forget about me, Scottie...||”|
John's death causes the Sheppard family to be investigated by the authorities, and results in Ann and her husband losing custody of Scott to the adoptive Shelby family. The easily preventable circumstances of John's death, as well as the indifference shown by John's father, also causes Scott to become fixated on finding a father who will sacrifice everything, including himself, to save his son. The Origami Killer's modus operandi stems entirely from his brother's death:
- All victims are close in age to John at the time of his death.
- Death is always caused by rising rainwater and a father's failure to intervene.
- The victim has neglectful parents and/or comes from a broken home, similarly to John.
- Origami figures are used as puzzles for fathers and placed on the bodies of sons. Origami is used due to his brother's love for papercraft.
- Orchids are left with bodies as they were his brother's favorites, and because they both represent innocence and, according to Norman Jayden, act as an apology of sorts.
John also potentially causes the death of Charles Kramer, who owned the site where he died. Kramer, feeling responsible for his death, frequently places flowers on John's grave. This causes Lauren and Scott to further investigate (and possibly murder) Kramer.
Additionally, if Madison Paige survives until a late chapter, John's love for orchids and origami can result in Scott being caught; as Ann suffers from Alzheimer's, Madison can use orchids and origami to help her remember both her sons, allowing Madison to learn the Origami Killer's identity.
Should his brother die too, John's grave makes a final appearance in "Origami's Grave."