STRASBURG — Every year, Jerrol Shipe reminds his community that his uncle Curt Shipe was killed and his loss continues to weigh heavily.
Sixty years ago today, on Dec. 2, 1959, Curt Shipe died from injuries from a shooting that happened weeks earlier. Despite suspects, persons of interest and at least one claim the shooter was identified, Curt Shipe’s death remains a mystery his family hasn’t lost hope will be solved.
Jerrol Shipe, of Strasburg, was a boy at the time, just 14, but he remembered the day and the series of events that led to his visiting his uncle in a hospital room.
Jerrol Shipe was at the slaughterhouse with his dad, a spot visited frequently by the young man and his uncle after they would go hunting. Jerrol Shipe said he remembered his grandmother calling for his dad and a mad rush to pick Curt Shipe up and get him to the hospital.
“I didn’t know anything about it until the next day,” Jerrol Shipe said.
That evening, Curt Shipe was outside his home in Fort Valley, unloading a storm door from his truck when someone shot him. Suspicions about who that might have been have flown around for years, aided by one claim of a neighbor who said they saw someone running across the road that evening.
Curt Shipe’s killer could have been brought in but the grievously wounded victim refused to offer a name, despite his insistence that he knew who was responsible.
“He said he knew who it was but he would never tell anybody who did it,” Jerrol Shipe said. “He told my dad ‘I knew who it was.’”
As time went on, suspicions continued to grow about a man Curt Shipe’s wife married after his death.
Ten years ago, reporters for a local newspaper reached out to Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter to ask if he had any information about the case. Carter told the newspaper at the time he planned on reaching out to the case’s No. 1 suspect, a Front Royal man. Since then, no new information has been uncovered, said Maj. Scott Proctor of the Shenandoah County Sheriffs Office.
Proctor said the files related to the Curt Shipe case aren’t available, that they likely went home with whoever was the sheriff at the time when he retired. For years, Proctor said, record keeping was done by the man at the top, not a battery of assistants and secretaries.
“The person was the Sheriff’s Office,” Proctor said. “The sharing of information wasn’t like it is today, with the push of a button.”
Proctor said the circumstances of Curt Shipe’s death would be hard to gather now, but he did confirm that Jerrol Shipe has said that Curt Shipe told people he knew who shot him but refused to tell anyone the name.
Sixty years on, police are no closer to solving Curt Shipe’s death than they were the day they heard he knew who shot him. Despite the trail going cold, and possibly staying that way as time wears on, Jerrol Shipe said it has fallen to him to remind everyone of the kind-hearted uncle who took him hunting and offered to give him rides to the store rather than watching him walk.
“He was well known,” Jerrol Shipe said. “He would do anything for anybody.”
“Every year I always put something in the paper,” he said. “Nobody else puts it in but me. It’s a tragedy I’ll tell ya.”
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Correction: This story has been updated with the correct year of Curt Shipe's death.