Skip to main content
Press Release

Martinsburg couple convicted of fabricating death to desert from U.S. Coast Guard

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Larry C. Shelby, 34, and his wife Karen Shelby, 34, of Martinsburg, was convicted today of misleading the U.S. Coast Guard, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced.

Larry Shelby, a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, conspired with his wife, Karen Shelby to fabricate his own death in an effort to desert from the Coast Guard. Larry Shelby abandoned his vehicle, wrote suicide notes, concealed his identity and isolated himself in a remote West Virginia cabin in an effort to falsify his own death.

Karen Shelby represented to authorities that Larry Shelby was missing and that she was unaware his location or whether he was alive. These misrepresentations caused the U.S. Coast Guard to expend in excess of $100,000.00 in a search for Larry Shelby.  In February 2014, Larry Shelby returned from the remote cabin to reside in his Martinsburg residence in secret until June.

Larry Shelby pled guilty today to one count of “Hoax Causing U.S. Coast Guard to Render Unnecessary Aid” and “Conspiracy to Violate Laws.”  He faces up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Karen Shelby pled guilty today to one count of “Making a False Statement.” She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Camilletti prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.

The matter was investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. The Coast Guard’s search for Larry Shelby was supported by the Maryland State Police, the National Park Service, the Berkeley County, West Virginia Sheriff’s Office, the Harpers Ferry, West Virginia Police Department, the Martinsburg, West Virginia Police Department, Chesapeake Search & Rescue K-9, and Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S, Inc.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.

Updated January 8, 2016

Drug Trafficking