Francis “Frank” Shelden was born in 1926 into a wealthy family with significant business and political ties in Michigan. Shelden’s family history is entwined with the Duffields, Algers, and Buhls, and additionally with Presidents, Governors, and Merchant Princes. Frank Shelden added to his family’s wealth through oil and real estate. He graduated from Yale in 1950 and served with the Michigan Air National Guard during the Korean war. Shelden was well-known and liked in his community and by all reports he was a stand-up guy, always kind and providing for his community, especially the youth.
As an avid pilot with his private airplane, it was not surprising to locals when in 1960, Shelden purchased and located an airstrip at North Fox Island, which was located about 19 miles offshore in Lake Michigan near his hometown. After the purchase, Shelden immediately began the construction of the airstrip as well as several cabins on the island. He also introduced deer into the wild.
He would often have construction crews spend “guy time” on the island and soon offered the idea of creating a boys’ camp for gifted and exceptional boys from the surrounding areas to come to have fun and relax. Named Brother Paul’s Children’s Mission, it was promoted to the local Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, and Catholic schools many of which Shelden was a board member and/or contributor.
St. Joseph’s Catholic school was the local private school and excerpts taken from a short documentary report the experiences of two of the child victims:
In 1977 students of St. Joe’s stated Gerald “Jerry” Richards was new and seemed an odd fit for the gym teacher in appearance and behavior. He changed rules making it mandatory for boys to shower after gym and would be present in the locker room while the boys were showering. He touched the boys a lot on their shoulders and even their buttocks. He entertained the boys with magic tricks. Frank Sheldon was introduced to the boys as Jerry Richard’s uncle “Uncle Frank.” The North Fox Island trip was suggested to several chosen boys’ parents as a reward for having done so well in gym class during the school year.
After wowing the boys with a private plane ride to the island, they were fed extremely well. Then they told them that on this island you go skinny dipping. That’s “just what you do on an island.” Richards took his clothes off and coaxed the boys to skinny dip with him.
The boys recounted that there were cameras all over the beach. Richards always created opportunities to touch the boys and to be touched by them. (Put lotion on the boys for sunburns and have them bury him in the sand, etc.) When the boys became concerned or uncomfortable Richards would do a magic trick to calm them. Sheldon stayed naked and made it clear that the rules for “his island” are that they stay naked and stay with the group.
After two boys were out playing in the woods, they returned to the camp area where everyone usually stayed to find it empty. They said they remember hearing the two other boys screaming and crying from behind a building’s locked door.
A few hours later, everyone appeared again, and the cookouts, fun, and swimming continued as usual, but the two other boys were different. They were quiet and isolated themselves for the remainder of the trip. When the boys returned home, they told their parents what happened, and immediately there was an investigation.
According to the story, Shelden was tipped off just before the authorities raided his house, flew out of the country untouched by American investigators, and was never questioned or brought to justice for his crimes. Reportedly, it was proven that he was running a child pornography ring on the island using many children from Detroit and other surrounding areas with many of his wealthy friends flown to the island for the hands-on experience and the majority income of the business being accomplished by selling films internationally.
While Shelden escaped and continued his despicable business in France until his alleged death in 1996, his business partner, Jerry Richards, was prosecuted for these crimes. Many reports further connected crimes against children in that area during 1976-77 including the yet unsolved murders of four preteens and teenagers called The Oakland County child killer. In 1977 the Chicago Tribune wrote a four-part piece on a child porn ring involving 100,000+ children and connected other child porn operations from the Tennessee Boys Farm, Epstein Island, and many more. These reports are always such disheartening things to read and write about especially as there seems no end to this behavior in sight.
The sad reality is that this international sadistic network is quite well-entrenched and protected, but any small win on behalf of our children makes a significant difference. Awareness is key along with getting the word out when these crimes are discovered. While it may seem futile as their reach seems endless, it is a good fight and needs to continue in every way possible.