Ruthie Shelton of St. Augustine, Fla. knew nothing about her dad's family or his early life because "Pop" wanted it that way and no one questioned Pop.
He was a loving father, even indulgent, but there was one thing no one talked about and that was Pop's past.
The family lived well in St. Augustine, Fla.; they owned land and often rode motocross bikes all over their property. The family possessed a love of horses as well.
Ruthie grew up, married well and stayed in St. Augustine, Fla.
When her father grew ill and required open-heart surgery in 2003 Ruthie was there by his bedside as he struggled to regain consciousness.
Pop took a long time to shake the anesthesia. While recovering he lapsed into memories, long buried, and shouted things like, "I've been kidnapped! They have me on a dock. You've got to come get me."
A solid week of these surfacing memories troubled Ruthie and when her father became more lucid he started letting loose about his early life.
That life included fast cars, liquor, guns and an incredible amount of money.
What Ruthie learned was that her father was one of the Shelton Gang from Fairfield. The Sheltons at one time were on a par with the Capone Syndicate out of Chicago and the Sheltons controlled, gambling, liquor and prostitution throughout Southern Illinois. Her father was known as "Little Carl Shelton."
Ruthie, an aspiring journalist, had the story of a lifetime.
Pop and Ruthie and other family members eventually travelled back to Fairfield in Lane County. The old man was remembered well and treated like royalty by local residents. But a day of this rock star life was all Pop could take. He wanted to go home immediately for fear of being found and killed.
Ruthie has researched her family's past in many courthouses, libraries and newspapers. Her countless hours going over FBI files and the like have produced a remarkable and very readable book titled "Inside the Shelton Gang, One Daughter's Discovery."
She was assisted in the writing and publishing by local author Jon Musgrave.
"The majority of it is my own research," said Shelton in a telephone interview recently.
"But Jon provided dates and places where needed. I sent for FBI files and spent countless hours in courthouses and libraries, even in Jacksonville," she said.
"It has been very interesting. Getting to know my family is what I liked best about it.
It is what it is. No matter how bad it is, it is better than living with the veil of secrecy I grew up with.
"The best part of it is having my sister Elaine in my life," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Elaine remained in Illinois when Ruthie's father "Little Carl Shelton" escaped to Florida during a gang war with what remained of the Capone Syndicate.
"My husband and children are so proud of me. I had my family's backing all the way," Shelton said.
Shelton is currently writing a novel, a work of fiction based on her family, that is titled "The Untold Story."
Ruthie Shelton is holding a book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 12 at the Book Emporium in Harrisburg. The Book Emporium is located at 303 S. Commercial St. in Harrisburg.