Catch Me if You Can

Two people took part in the shotgun murder of Michael Hierro. Prosecutors got one.

A Rowlett cop for two and half years, Rutherford says he arrived as backup to the crime scene. There in the driveway, he saw Michael Hierro's body slouched against the driver's side of Marisa's black 1998 Lexus. The driver's-side door was ajar, its headlights were on, and the radio was still playing.

Along the side of the house, thick drops of blood stained the sidewalk like spilled paint. The trail led to a shotgun that had been sawed off at the stock and barrel. Rutherford went next door to a neighbor's house and interviewed Marisa Hierro, who was sitting on the front porch, her blood forming a pool beside her.

Hierro tells Rutherford who murdered her husband: "Catherine Shelton and a man."

There is one reason why Catherine Shelton is at large: The cops have no evidence that puts her at the scene of the crime.
There is one reason why Catherine Shelton is at large: The cops have no evidence that puts her at the scene of the crime.
Had Michael Hierro survived the attack, the shotgun blast would have left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Had Michael Hierro survived the attack, the shotgun blast would have left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Soon more officers arrived, including the crime scene investigators, who sealed off the area and began collecting evidence. They found the gun, as well as several spent and live shotgun shells, and began dusting for fingerprints. It was about then that a blue port-a-potty caught Rutherford's eye.

Shook presents Rutherford with a photo, and the young officer confirms that it depicts what he saw when he opened the door: A pair of latex gloves and a nylon mask containing what would later prove to be Clint Shelton's hair.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Young asks Rutherford why he visited the port-a-potty. The answer was simple, though it had little to do with police work.

"I needed to use the restroom," Rutherford says.

Detecting Young's attempt to suggest that the crime scene was haphazardly investigated, Shook fires off a final question.

"You didn't sit on that information?"

"No sir," Rutherford says.

As the second day of testimony begins, the Shelton family, which consumes two benches directly behind the jury, chatters excitedly about the presidential cliff-hanger unfolding in the news. The family, Bush voters it appears, has come prepared for a marathon.

"You notice we brought seat cushions?" says one of Clint's uncles.

In the second row, "Jerry" bites into a Butterfinger candy bar, which he fished out of a Ziploc bag stuffed with Rolos and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. The woman to his right extracts needles and knitting yarn from a Mervyn's shopping bag. "It's for a baby's afghan," she whispers.

On the other side of the wall, Shook introduces a piece of evidence that ranks second only to the nylon mask in terms of importance. It is a four-page document that Clint wrote days after the attack; in it he details his whereabouts at the time of the murder and on the following day. Police officers discovered the letter on December 29, 1999, when they executed a search warrant at the Sheltons' Copper Canyon home.

Clint wrote that at 8:15, around the time of the murder, he had returned home and noticed that Catherine was in another room, talking on the telephone.

"I did not think she knew I was there as she did not start griping," Clint wrote, adding that he was "irritated" with her and her attorneys because they had scheduled a meeting to discuss their pending divorce the next day. Clint, who was still living in the house despite the failing marriage, retired to his own room and went to sleep. He woke up at 6:30 the next morning and immediately clashed with Catherine.

"She started nagging me about not having caught Felix," their lost cat, he wrote. The arguing continued as Clint and Catherine drove out to check the trap. "I was angry with her," Clint continued, explaining that Catherine drove off and he walked back to the house alone.

After waiting around the house until about 10 a.m., Clint drove into downtown Dallas alone in his Ford Explorer and ran errands. At 2:45 p.m., he turned up at the law offices of Randy Taylor, Catherine's criminal defense attorney, for the meeting about the divorce. His divorce lawyer, Judith Mercer, was there along with Catherine.

During the meeting, Clint wrote, he and Mercer talked about how they needed to verify Marisa Hierro's current address so she could be served with a subpoena. They needed Marisa to testify on Clint's behalf. At the time, nobody there knew that Michael Hierro was dead or that Marisa had been shot.

This is a story the Sheltons have told before ("A Reasonable Doubt?" March 30). The problem is, Clint wrote down the story not knowing that undercover police officer Mark Hardman had staked out his house hours before he and Catherine woke up that morning.

On the witness stand, Hardman recounts what happened when he arrived at the Shelton home at 4:20 a.m. on December 21, 1999. The first thing he did was recover five bags of garbage from inside a city-issued garbage bin that had been rolled to the front of the Sheltons' house for pickup. Then he waited.

Lights came on inside the house at 6:45 a.m. An hour later, a black Cadillac pulled out of the driveway. There was a man in the passenger seat and "a blond woman in a black fur coat" driving. They were, he says, Catherine and Clint Shelton.

Did they drive out to the trap? Shook asks Hardman. "No."

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