THE FOLLOWING STORY IS A DRAMAITZATION BASED ON FINDINGS FROM ;NEWS PAPER REPORTS FROM THE SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL 1969 - THIS STORY IS BEING RETOLD TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY.
During the early 1970’s Santa Cruz County was described as The Murder Capital of the World. This is the Story of Deborah Lee Shelton 1969.
IMAGINE IF YOU WILL: The date was January 3rd, the year 1969; Christmas and New Year had come and gone. The local school children were still enjoying their winter break and playing with their long-anticipated new holiday gifts they had received only 10 days prior.
It was a chilly Friday morning on January 3rd, when 12 year old Deborah Lee Shelton of Aptos went bicycle riding with friends around 9:30 a.m. and was expected to return home to her mother around noon this day. It’s easy to imagine the young 7th grader, who stood a mere 5 feet tall and weighed about 85 pounds, standing in her bedroom, looking into the mirror of her desk vanity, with her bright blue eyes reflecting back at her as she brushes her long shiny blond hair.
She dresses for the day, putting on her warm purple hooded jacket over her blue turtleneck and sits on her bed to tie white tennis shoes; before having a bowl of cereal for breakfast This is not just any cereal, but the kind with a colorful logo on the front and a prize in the box. She quickly brushes her teeth and rushes out the front door with a flamboyant preteen “bye”; to her mom and two younger sisters, Melissa, age 5, and Vicki, age 11, , who don't even see her as she hastily leaves to get on her bike to meet her friends and visit with an older boy that she secretly admires.
It was like any other day and Debbie’s mom, Marcia Shelton, went on with her daily routine; doing household chores and caring for the two younger children. Times hadn’t been easy for Mrs. Shelton. Just a year before, she had moved to the small town of Aptos from Los Gatos with her three daughters in tow. It had been only three years since her husband was killed in a tragic car accident. Being a single mother of three children isn’t an easy task, and in the early 70;s, it was even harder. That particular morning, 11:30 a.m. came and went and Deborah's mom was not overly concerned, perhaps thinking young Debbie may have just lost track of time and continued on with her day.
2:00 p.m. rolls around, Marcia Shelton receives an alarming phone call: ";We have your daughter. Bring $500.00 up Trout Gulch Road. Dont call the police or we will kill her" Mrs. Shelton, makes a snide to the obvious under age teenage caller and dismisses the phone call as a cruel joke.
As the hours began to get later in the day and Debbie does not return home, the words from the caller began to replay in Mrs. Shelton's head, over and over, remembering the sound of the faceless voice that she believed sounded like a teenagers. She gets in her car and begins to drive around the small town of Aptos, heading towards Trout Gulch Rd, urgently hoping to spot Debbie or one of her friends; someone out of place or someone who may recognize her daughter. Fear begins to set in as she drives towards Rio Del Mar beach; where she sees some of Debbie’s friends and learns that Debbie was last seen around 11:00 a.m. But there is still no sign of the pre-teen.
Ms. Shelton heads toward home as the onset of panic starts to overwhelm her. She begins to stare at each passing bicyclist; to glance down each street as she drives by; to look twice at each young girl with long blonde hair, each group of friends hanging out together, urgently hoping to see another one of Debbie’s friends, desperately hoping to see her Debbie. But there is still no Debbie. As Mrs. Shelton gets closer to home, she tries to convince herself Debbie's bike will be in the driveway, carelessly thrown down on the ground right in the path of the walk way as usual. She tells herself the phone call was just a horrible prank by one of Debbie’s friends and Debbie will be safe and sound having a snack and arguing with her sisters as they often did. She begins to imagine what a scolding she will give her daughter for making her worry so much, but how relieved she will feel to see her bike in the driveway and her child safe at home.
Mrs. Shelton pulls into the circular driveway, overwhelmed with anticipation to see Debbie’s bike in the yard, but there is no bike. She hastily parks her car and runs into the house yelling first for Debbie, then to her other daughters, Vicki and Melissa, asking if Debbie had returned or if the phone rang. The answer is still “no” Debbie.
Filled with fear and dread, Ms. Shelton calls the police and reports her daughter missing. Detectives arrive at Marcia Sheltons Palmer Street home in Aptos. They obtain an accounting of the events that transpired that Friday. They interview Marcia Shelton, Debbies younger sisters Vicki and Melissa, and anyone else in the home that may be able to provide information. The police learn that Debbie had made plans to ride motor bikes that morning with a boy by the name of Sherman and his two sisters, who they attempt to locate for an interview. They interview friends from Debbie’s school, Aptos Jr. High. as well as neighbors and anyone else that may be of interest in the case. They follow up on the mysterious ransom call, hoping it will provide a lead and all the while wondering if it was just a horrific coincidental prank.
The police go over every possible scenario, retracing Debbie’s steps and piecing together what may have happened to lead to her disappearance. All along the police secretly deducing perhaps that the young girl could have ran away or was picked up hitchhiking, like most young teens . Finally, the media is contacted and asked to publicize the missing persons case and request information from the public that could lead to Debbie’s whereabouts.
Reality sets in for Mrs. Shelton, as she expresses deep regret to a local reporter. She pleads to other parents, reminding them of the importance of knowing their children’s whereabouts at all times. Hours, days and weeks go by without a word from Debbie and the police are not any closer to finding her. Rumors spread: maybe Debbie ran away, maybe she was hitchhiking, or maybe she or maybe she fell victim to a serial killer that was known to be on the loose in the area. Mrs. Shelton stays close to her two younger children, keeping a close eye on Vicki and little Melissa. Five-year-old Melissa constantly asks her mother; When is Debbie coming home? Did they find Debbie? 11-year-old Vicki keeps her comments to herself. Each time the phone rings, Mrs. Shelton gasps a breath of hope; is it Debbie calling? Did the police find her? Is she okay? Each time a car pulls up or the doorbell rings, her heart fills with dread.
Nearly two months go by without a trace of Debbie Shelton; until Saturday, March 8, 1969, when a young boy playing with his B.B. gun near the railroad bridge and the old riding stable in Aptos Village comes upon a grisly discovery. Up on a hillside, covered in vines, he discovers the decomposing body of a young girl. Police are immediately called to the scene and began working on the assumption that they have, in fact, found the body of Debbie Shelton. The Santa Cruz County Coroner’s office positively identifies the body as being that of 12-year- old Deborah Lee Shelton, daughter of Mrs. Marcia Shelton and elder sister to 11-year-old Vicki S and 5-year-old Melissa.
Imagine if you will, hearing the grisly news of the discovery of Debbie’s body, as it is made public that fateful Saturday. Imagine the feelings that Mrs. Shelton had to endure: the hope that it was not true, that it was not the child she gave birth to lying there dead on that hillside; that it was not the child she loved and cared for the last 12 years, the first born of three; the constant hope that her daughter was still out there somewhere, alive and well and would eventually be found; would eventually come home.
…Then the realization sets in. It was Debbie. It was her child and no one elses, and the only solace she could bear was accepting that the mystery was over, her child was found. Her child was with her father and with God. Her child was in heaven.
The year (this story was written) is 2011, 42 years later. The murder of 12-year-old Deborah Lee Shelton has never been solved and her killer never brought to justice. Her family continues to live without closure and without any answers as to what happened to their daughter, sister, and young Debbie's life that fateful January day.
Debbie Lee Shelton was a 7th grader at Aptos Jr. High School. Her body was found dumped in a wooded area in Aptos, her hands taped behind her and more tape covering her mouth. It is believed her body had been lying where it was found for at least a month before being discovered. Debbie’s panties had been wrapped around her neck in a strangulation fashion. Her body was found still dressed in her jeans and sweater. It was undetermined whether or not there had been a sexual assault.
According to FBI reports, no evidence was found indicating that Debbie had been poisoned, nor were any sedatives, drugs or alcohol found in her system. Infamous local serial killers Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin were ruled out as being Deborah’s assailant. What happened to Debbie? What could this young 7th grader possibly have done that would justify someone taking her life before she had even had a chance to live it?
After discovering this case on the Santa Cruz County homicide website, S.C.G.H wanted to know more. Although homicide detectives were limited in providing information due to the open status of this, now, nearly 50 year old "cold" case. Lead S.C.G.H, investigator Mari A. Porter chose to attain opinions from a few random psychics all over the nation in hopes to find any missing clues on this cold case.
Here’s what was found. In April of 2011, S.C.G.H heard from retired deputy sheriff and psychic / sensitive Mike Burton who resides in Florida this is what he said about the Shelton case.
“I am getting an older vehicle maybe a hippie van, a white male, collar length hair, unshaven, a hippie.” “He would park near her home and watch her; he followed her around, from home and school, he planned his actions. He is still alive, maybe in prison on a different crime. He strangled her and dumped her in a ravine or ditch, in a remote area. "
S.C.G.H also heard from a psychic / intuitive from Canada by the name of Rhonda, this is what she felt.
“I see a park, a small one in a wooded area. I feel Debbie met someone and she did not get far afterwards, she may have died somewhere else. I see her killer to be in his late teens, maybe 18-19 and he hates adults, he communicates better with kids or teens and shys away from adults. I feel Debbie may have lied about meeting Sherman and his sisters. She met someone else, someone she trusted, and he wanted sex. She used Sherman as an excuse to see this guy, she had some problems with her mom, and she regrets lying to her.”
S.C.G.H also spoke to well known Chicago radio psychic Ursula Kalin, this is what was said;
“I see prickly bushes, not exactly grassy. I feel she knew this person, a young guy, he used to watch her. The name Jo or Johnson? She did not die where she was found. I see her as being a girl that may occasionally sneak out of her house, or could go out a lot. I feel it was made to look sexual; he may be in jail for another crime.”
Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters also had a private phone conversation with local and well known psychic intuitive Monnica Sepulveda, Monnica hosts Intuitive Tuesdays on 104.3 The Hippo Radio station and has also been seen on television shows such as Maury Povich, Leeza Gibbons and Talk Soup.
Please see youtube link on bottom.
FINAL THOUGHT: The death of 12 year old Debbie Lee Shelton is an unimaginable one and remains unsolved. Is Debbie's killer still out there committing other murders that remain unsolved, or is he currently in prison on another charge, as many of the psychics believe?
Is it possible their is more than one killer, perhaps one that still is amongst the general population and the other is in prison?Did Debbie know her killer, did he watch her, perhaps was a little older than her, maybe he went to a school nearby,...was her killer the boy she went to meet? Did the killer at one time own a van or maybe even a Nova as suggested by some of the mediums spoken too?
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Debbie Lee Shelton, please contact the Santa Cruz County Sheriff Department.