Shelton Laurel Creek is known today as a fabulous trout stream and fly-fishing destination. The community in its watershed is located in Madison County, North Carolina, and was settled by brothers David and Martin Shelton in the 1790s. The 1860 census found 137 local residents named Shelton, by far the majority of valley residents. It was a hardscrabble life, and only four of them were over the age of 40. The community voted 532 to 345 against seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy, establishing itself as a bastion of union sentiment. Then, the invading Confederate Army terrorized the community in an assault that culminated when they shot 13 apparently randomly-selected local prisoners in what has been subsequently known as the Shelton Laurel Massacre. In 1970, another violent incident put Shelton Laurel again on the map. There, Nancy Morgan, a twenty-four-year-old VISTA volunteer was raped and murdered. A botched and incompetent local investigation was followed, fourteen years later, by a trial and acquittal of another VISTA worker. This was widely perceived as another possible culture-war-motivated incompetent move by local law enforcement. More recently, North Carolina authorities have refused to submit DNA pertinent to this cold case to national data bases. Journalist Mark Pinsky has followed the case closely from the beginning, and his fascinating and exhaustive account is true-crime writing at its best. "A fascinating and compulsively readable chronicle of one man's forty-year obsession with an unsolved murder. Pinsky's meticulous research, relying heavily on interviews, translates into a beautifully nuanced study of culture clash, machine politics, and the sometimes-hobbled pursuit of justice in a small mountain community."―Vicki Lane. "This compulsively page-turning true crime narrative has it all: smart prose, a now obscure unsolved murder that was notorious at the time, and an investigative journalist trying to pick up the trail. Regarding the victim as a kindred spirit . . . Pinsky followed the story from the start (he was a college student in the area at the time of the murder), and many readers will be convinced that his dogged investigation has at last uncovered the truth."―Publishers Weekly (starred review). "Mark I. Pinsky has delivered a powerful narrative of mystery, death, and tragically squandered idealism in this tale of murder and mayhem in North Carolina's western mountains. But this is more than a whodunit: it is an enthralling journey into the heart of an isolated rural community burdened with a dark legacy of violence and soul sapping corruption. Pinsky writes with great sensitivity to mountain mores, and filigrees his page-turning story with a veteran reporter's eye for both the intricacies of rural politics and the insidious vitality of human deceit."―Fergus M. Bordewich. The author, Mark Pinsky, has worked for the Associated Press, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Los Angeles Times.
Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, a 2022 paperback and hardback edition – with a new “Postscript 2022” – of a 2013 hardback release by John F. Blair, publishers. 211 pages with an Index and Note on Sources and Methods. Trade paperback or hardback with a pictorial cover.