TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

May 26, 2009

Oregon body could be match

DNA could hold answers for children of Corbin couple, missing since 1971

By Sean Bailey / Staff Writer

The Sheltons spent much of Friday, May 21, 1971, visiting grandparents in Williamsburg before heading back to their home in Gerry’s Trailer Park on 18th Street.

It was a normal enough day.

By all accounts, parents Claude and Sue Shelton loved their children. Claude had been steadily employed for 10 years, and family life seemed fine. So when they tucked their three children into bed that night, there was no reason for any of the children, or anyone in the community, to think twice.

As Sheila started to get ready for bed, she heard her father, Claude, say to her mother, Sue, “Are you going with me or are you going to stay here?”

The couple walked out the door.

That was the last time Sheila, 11 years old at the time, heard her father’s voice.

Thirty-eight years have passed with almost no more information for police or family members to go on. No one has ever heard from Sue or Claude Shelton. For years the case has been handed from detective to detective, and almost no leads have popped up.

But 38 years to the day of the Sheltons’ disappearance, DNA technology may have caught up with Shelia and her sister Debbie (Shelton) Nicely’s need for closure.

On Thursday, Sheila and Debbie had DNA samples taken by Kentucky State Police Detective Colan Harrell, to be analyzed and placed in a nation-wide identification network.

Debbie and Sheila are hoping the simple DNA swab and a single lead in the case will help bring closure to a painful, life-long mystery.

Just two months after Claude and Sue went missing, a body was found in Oregon matching Sue’s description. But in 1971, there was no national system of identifying remains, nor DNA technology.

“I hate to say it, and it’s hard to say, but I hope that is my momma,” Debbie Nicely said about the possible lead. “I just want closure.”

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