'Hoedown' star's murder never solved

Taken from a Special Edition of "The Gleaner"
printed December 12, 1999
permissive use granted by Editor
newspaper provided by Vonette Shelton-Curtis

But most people think his death was probably woman-related

By Frank Boyett
of The Gleaner staff

The murder of a local TV star in 1957 was never solved, but the consensus from press reports indicates that it had something to do with a woman. William Arles "Curly" Shelton was apparently quite the ladies' man. Shelton, 33, was found beaten to death Dec. 5; he was lying in the front seat of his car parked at the Veterans of Foreign Wars club on U.S. 41-Alternate. He had been beaten in the parking lot, and then thrown into the car. His leg was also broken, but he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

He was a handsome fellow, standing about 5-feet-10-inches tall, but was a little on the skinny side at 130 pounds. He had long been involved in the local music scene, playing with Les Smithhart for several years before joining Doug Oldham's Dixie Six band. At the time of his death, he was a featured performer on "Hillside Hoedown," a popular Saturday night show on WEHT-TV, where he played with Oldham. An employee of WEHT told the Evansville Press that Shelton "usually brought a girlfriend to the Hillside Hoedown show on Saturday night and 'seldom brought the same girl twice.' "The WEHT spokesman said he had no knowledge of Shelton's having been threatened at any time, but added that 'there are a lot of men who might have had reason to do so because of Shelton's heavy dating."

Furthermore, the Press quoted the sheriff as saying that Shelton had received two threatening letters "from a former Henderson man regarding an affair between Shelton and the man's wife." Whoever killed Shelton obviously felt strongly about it. "The head was beaten so badly that it was not immediately certain whether he had been beaten or shot in the face," The Gleaner reported. "State Police Detective Edward T. O'Grady said yesterday that whoever killed him used his fists and no weapon." Police immediately launched a massive investigation, interviewing nearly 40 people the first day. Within a few days the interview list had grown to hundreds of people. After about a week, though, the investigation slowed and the story dropped from the news. The last story in The Gleaner quoted the sheriff in a plea for the public to disregard the wild rumors that had accompanied the case. Details of the wild rumors were not specified.

Shelton was buried on Dec. 8; his guitar was draped with flowers and placed near the coffin. "A huge throng turned out Sunday for the funeral of Shelton at the Tapp funeral home," The Gleaner reported. "Upward of 4,000 persons were reported to have viewed the body and attended the funeral. Some sources said there appeared to be a heavy preponderance of women in the crowds, but spokesmen for the funeral home said that is the case in any funeral."

transcribed by Tina Hall 5-28-2007

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