Fort Carson soldier Richard Sheltra's guilty plea for having sex with a thirteen year old would be shocking in and of itself. But other elements of the story make it even more disturbing.
For instance, Sheltra, seen here and in additional photos below, is the second Fort Carson soldier to be sentenced for sex with the girl, and a third is being investigated. Moreover, Sheltra says he got to know the teen, referred to in a photo file on his computer as "lil slut," after she was raped at age twelve.
In addition to the 2010 photo above, showing him in uniform, his Facebook page, which lists the now-23 year old as having attended Blue Ridge High School in Greer, South Carolina and previously serving at Fort Knox, contains a number of other portraits from that period, including this one....
...and this one: Additional images on the page focus on Iraq, where it appears Sheltra was deployed. The Colorado Springs Gazette notes that he eventually earned the rank of specialist as an M1 armor crewman with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team. His actions back home were far less laudable. According to the Gazette, which covered the court-martial proceeding at which Sheltra pleaded guilty this week, he met the girl when she was twelve -- the same year she was reportedly raped by a civilian.
He claimed to have initially started spending time with her "to lift her spirits," later discovering a shared taste in music and interest in planning for the "zombie apocalypse." But after attending her thirteenth birthday party, their pairing took a sexual turn. He insists their relationship was consensual and even credits her with initiating some trysts. In a statement offered to the panel at the hearing, he wrote, "We cared about each other very much. I'd even say I was in love with her."
As such, he reportedly ignored a no-contact order related to the girl from his supervising officer and texted her photos of his penis. She reciprocated with nude pics that he kept in the aforementioned "lil slut" folder. Presumably, its name was a term of endearment.
In the end, Sheltra was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to ten years behind bars -- a harsher punishment than that received by Pfc. David Burke for his own relationship with the girl.
Burke's case received far less publicity than did Sheltra's, with the only previous reference to it we could find appearing in an August edition of the Fort Carson Mountaineer. Buried in a court martial roundup is the following blurb:
Pfc. David Burke, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion, was convicted, by a military judge alone, consistent with his pleas, of one specification of aggravated sexual assault of a child, in violation of Article 120, UCMJ; one specification of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, in violation of Article 120, UCMJ; one specification of wrongful distribution of marijuana, in violation of Article 112a, UCMJ; one violation of general disorder (providing alcohol to a minor), in violation of Article 134, UCMJ; and three specifications of AWOL, in violation of Article 86, UCMJ; during a June 21 general court-martial. He was sentenced to reduction to private, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, seven years confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
The story doesn't end with Sheltra's punishment. Fort Carson officials confirmed to the Gazette that "an additional soldier is being investigated on allegations of similar misconduct against the victim...."
...who has been abused and exploited in ways that are even more repulsive due to her tender years.
More from our Follow That Story archive circa March 2012: "Air Force sex assault cases: Kyle Cressy cleared, Stephan Claxton recommended for court martial."