Ralph Joseph Sheldon was born 17 Oct 1901 in Chicago, Illinois to Charles A. Sheldon and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Shea, his maternal grandparents were from Ireland while his father’s family had lived in New Jersey for several generations and are likely a branch of the Richard Sheldon line descended from progenitor Godfrey Sheldon of Maine.
He is first mention in Chicago newspapers in Aug 1918 at the age of 17 when he was implicated in a string of robberies as an accomplice to Joseph Young and John Ryan. Ryan gave turned states evidence against his friends Joseph and Ralph and was given a light sentence at a reformatory while Young was also sent to the reformatory for an undetermined period of time of between a year and life in prison. Ralph, however, was acquitted by the jury. The judge on the case referred to this as a miscarriage of justice and added
“These boys armed themselves with revolvers and went out in an automobile to rob citizens. They would shoot a man if he resisted as quickly as they would shoot a rat. These young scoundrels should be taught a lesson.”
He seems to have stayed out of the newspapers until 1923, although not out of trouble. When criminal defense attorney Lewis A. Hauschild, who had “many times” defended Ralph in court, was shot and called out on his deathbed after a brief coma, “Where is Sheldon? What became of him?”. According to the his widow later, her husband confirmed that the mysterious “Sheldon” had been there when he was shot, despite previously telling police and doctors that the shot had been accidental and that only his friend Donald Langerstrom was with him. In the process of searching for Ralph for questioning it was revealed that Ralph was of the “immune class”, and that police had been secretly investigating him since “the beer war”.
A few months later, in Feb 1924, Ralph war arrested for the murders of George Meegan and “Spot” Butcher in the beer running war.
- 13 Aug 1918 – Chicago Tribune – arrested for burglary.
- 17 Dec 1918 – Chicago Tribune – acquitted, judge unhappy with jury.
- 17 Nov 1923 – Chicago Tribune – under suspicion for the death of attorney Hauschild
- 18 Nov 1923 Chicago Tribune – search for Ralph escalates.
- 15 Dec 1923 – Chicago Tribune – listed among a gang of beer runners.
- 16 Feb 1924 – Chicago Tribune – arrested for two murders in beer running war.
- 26 Feb 1925 – Chicago Tribune – Ralph arrested for kidnapping, brother shot
- 2 Mar 1925 – Chicago Tribune – brother dies from injuries
- 8 Aug 1926 – Chicago Tribune – held in relation to Foley murder.
- 21 Apr 1931 – Chicago Tribune – District Attorney investigating acquittal
- 4 Dec 1943 – Sacramento Bee – Transferred from Folson to San Quentin
- 5 Jul 1944 – Long Beach Sun – Death of Gangster Ralph Sheldon