March 8, 1943
Los Angeles, California
Rosary Shelfo (23, pictured) kills her infant son
Ross Shelfo was born on February 21, 1943 to Joseph (26) and Rosary Shelfo (also spelled Shellfo). Almost immediately, Rosary became insistent something was “wrong” with her baby. Joseph’s sister Mary Sidotl later testified Rosary believed “there was something wrong with the baby.” Supporting this claim was Dr. Roy Hooper, who testified Rosary called several times a day to report she was “afraid there’s something wrong with the baby.”
Rosary’s conviction that her son was somehow wrong continued until March 8 when she took her infant, wrapped him in a blanket, placed him on a cutting board, and used a 9-inch (2.5 cm) butcher knife to decapitate him.
Joseph worked the swingshift and was asleep when Rosary came into their bedroom around 10 a.m. to tell him she had killed Ross. Joseph ran to the kitchen while Rosary explained, “I don’t know why I did it. I just did it.” Later, Detective A. T. Nelson asked Rosary her motives, and she suggested she had wanted a girl rather than a boy, stating, “I was making baby clothes, and I wanted a girl.” While it is impossible to diagnose Rosary today, it is possible she had postpartum psychosis.
Rosary was tried for Ross’s murder but was found innocent by reason of insanity and commuted to the state hospital in Camarillo. After her sentencing, Rosary disappeared from the newspapers and I was unable to find any death certificates to indicate how the rest of her life was spent.
“Ross Shelfo. California Death Index, 1940-1997.” Family Search. Accessed: March 8, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPFQ-8N4
“Ross Shelfo. California Birth Index, 1905-1995.” Family Search. Accessed: March 8, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VL6C-XBG
“Mother Found Guilty In Slaying of Son.” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. May 20, 1943
“Mother Must Face Trial for Killing Baby Boy.” Los Angeles Times. March 11, 1943
“Young Mother Decapitates Infant Son, Tells Police.” San Bernardino Daily Sun. March 10, 1943