It was a gruesome murder with a woman's body parts turning up in the Miami Valley over a half century ago. However, the case went unsolved for so long, it was mostly forgotten until now. Detectives said a witness has finally come forward and they believe with just a little more help, this cold case can be closed.
The case began in June 1964, when a man fly fishing at a local gravel pit hooked a grisly catch; a human arm. The next day, divers found the woman's other severed arm and that discovery launched a full-blown recovery effort that brought in search boats and pumpers to lower the water level in the gravel pit.
At the time, it was such a compelling mystery that the Dayton Daily News reported "thousands of people, many with picnic baskets" came to watch as crews searched the water for more body parts. Over the next two weeks, the woman's torso, leg and head turned up about a mile away in a section of the old Miami-Erie Canal in Tipp City. She was later given the name of 43-year-old Daisy Shelton of Dayton, but she was never given justice.
Dayton cold case detective Patricia Tackett believes the killer is still alive. So does Chief Deputy Steve Lord of the Miami County Sheriff's Office, which handled the original investigation. Tackett said she received new information in December 2016 from a potential witness.
"Somebody has lived with this for a very long time and felt that they needed to come forward with the information," said Tackett.
The detective contacted Daisy Shelton's two children, Rita Bellisario and Rodney Shelton, to tell them about the new development. Rodney, 77, had just moved back to the Dayton area two years ago. He joined the Navy after graduating from Kiser High School and had not seen his mother for several years when her remains were recovered. He knew that she had been laid off from her job at Delco and that his parents had separated.
"They had a problem with alcohol. Both of them," Sheton said.
He does remember the woman who raised him as, "a very nice person to me and you known, we loved her."
The new information that detectives received indicates Daisy Shelton frequented the Lido Bar on Springfield Street in Dayton, and maybe to survive, she fell in with a group of people who were trafficking teenage girls for sex.
Det. Tackett took Rodney Shelton to nearby Eastwood Park, believed to have been one of the last places his mother had been seen before she was killed. Shelton said he remembered that it was a very population spot among teens in those days.
"Oh yeah, hundreds of people were in that pool," Shelton said. "It was a big hangout."
Tackett said it may have also been a perfect place for using cookies and treats to lure innocent teenage girls to have sex with men at a house that stood a few blocks away on Springfield Street. Those girls would now be women in their late 60's and the detective is appealing directly to them for information.
"Have you been a victim of sex trafficking in 1964, 1963? Do you have information of Daisy being involved in this?" Tackett said.
Chief Deputy Lord adds, "We just need to know, be able to trace her whereabouts and we need people that knew her and knew of her associates at that time."
He believes the killer butchered and dumpy Daisy's body to get away with the crime and has, for half a century.
The victim's daughter, Rita Bellisario, said she hopes, "The guy who did it will have to pay for it."
Her brother believes there will be justice one way or another.
"Still, he's got to face his maker," Shelton said. "There's no way out of it. You can't lie to him."