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Sam Shelton claimed he had merely made a mistake after he tried to strangle a teenage girl and left her for dead. But a jury didn’t believe him.
A new Lifetime movie, "Left For Dead," depicts the real life case of Ashley Reeves, 17, who was attacked by 26-year-old Shelton in April of 2006. She was found in a densely wooded park more than 30 hours after Shelton broke Reeves' neck with his forearm and tried to strangle her with a belt, CBS News reported at the time. When investigators rescued her, she was paralyzed and covered in insect bites.
Thinking he'd successfully murdered Reeves, Shelton celebrated by hitting the town. Video captured him line dancing at a local country music club that evening, according to CBS News.
Shelton, who had been Reeves' teacher in middle school, groomed the high school junior and manipulated her into a sexually abusive relationship.
Law enforcement zeroed in on Shelton quickly when Reeves failed to return home for her 10PM curfew. Police interrogated him for 12 hours before he confessed. A judge would later release footage of that interrogation.
Shelton claimed that he put Reeves in a chokehold during an argument after she refused to leave his car. She claimed he attacked her after she tried to end the abusive relationship. Shelton told investigators that after he heard Reeves’ neck pop, he panicked and tried to cover up the killing. He then dragged her out to the woods and tried to conceal what he assumed was her dead body.
In the end, he led police to where he left her and where she had, against all odds, managed to survive.
After being freed on bond while he was awaiting trial, Shelton attempted suicide by taking an intentional overdose of antidepressants while at his mother's home, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2009. When medics and sheriff’s deputies arrived to help, Shelton allegedly became violent, spitting on a deputy and kicking hospital staff who tried to help him.
"I was told by emergency room staff that he had some sort of writing on his chest, like a marker, that says 'Don't save me,' or 'Don't resuscitate me,' or something like that," Swansea Police Chief Steven Johnson told Crime Watch Daily in 2017.
In 2007, Shelton pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Ashley Reeves. At the time, his family said they only agreed to the plea deal to end "the continuing demonization of Sam."
"I just want to continue with my life and not worry about it," Reeves told The Oklahoman when Shelton was sentenced and as she struggled with a long recovery process, learning to speak and walk again after her ordeal.
Shelton is still behind bars at Illinois’ Hill Correctional Center serving out his 20 year sentence. He will become eligible for parole in 2024.
He has still not apologized to Reeves for his crimes against her.
The case is depicted in Lifetime’s new movie “Left for Dead.”
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