MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Why would anyone fake their own death? That's the big question in the case surrounding U.S. Coast Guardsmen Larry Shelby, who was reported dead nearly seven months ago."I think that he committed suicide by jumping over the bridge out in Harpers Ferry," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Ulrich. "They did an extensive look for his body in the river, never recovered his body."
The U.S. Coast Guard said they can't comment on Shelby's disappearance or why he would fake his suicide. Shelby was an information systems technician and was stationed in St. Louis from July 2011 to November 2013 when he disappeared. In January 2014 they received the word he might still be alive and in Martinsburg.
"Since he was local to the Martinsburg area, we contacted the Martinsburg City Police Department," Ulrich said. "They provided us with an address that Shelby last used."
Police arrived at the house off of North High Street and waited for Shelby to leave. As he drove away they followed him for awhile and stopped him in the Sheetz parking lot off of Edwin Miller Boulevard. He was arrested without incident and charged with desertion.
"Originally, Mr. Shelby gave us a fake name, a fake ID," Ulrich added. "He eventually admitted to his true identity."
In an original picture sent to the U.S. Marshal Service from the Coast Guard, Shelby looks completely different. His head was shaved and he had no beard. Officers were still able to identify who he was an make an arrest.
"(He) acquired a lot more tattoos, and had changed his appearance," Ulrich said.
The case is still under investigation but both the Coast Guard and Marshal Service said this is something that doesn't typically happen. Shelby is currently being held in pretrial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Bridge in Chesapeake, Virginia.
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