By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Did Clint ever walk back to the house? "No."
After stopping at a gas station in nearby Flower Mound, Hardman continues, the Sheltons drove to a downtown Dallas parking lot, where Clint Shelton got out, wished the attendant a "merry Christmas," climbed into a Ford Explorer, and drove off.
"So," Shook concludes, "this business about waiting and going to Dallas in the Ford Explorer didn't happen."
"No," Hardman says.
It was on this day that Clint began to change his story.
Outside of his mother-in-law's presence, Hardman says, Clint told him he wanted to clear a few things up. One was that he did, after all, go to the parking lot in downtown Dallas the morning after the murder and recover his Ford Explorer.
The night before, Clint told Hardman, he parked the car in the lot before going up to Catherine's law office to search for evidence that she was having an affair with Bill Parker, a private investigator who lived near the Sheltons in Copper Canyon. When he came out around 9 p.m., the Explorer wouldn't start. So, Clint said, he walked to the nearby Greyhound bus station and found a cab to take him home.
By the way, Clint added, he had bought a bag of ammunition. An avid hunter, he said he needed to replace his supply because a friend had recently used it up. (In the trash recovered from the Shelton home, cops found an itemized receipt that listed a box of ammunition matching that used to kill Hierro.) At this time, Hardman tells the jury, Clint declined to say who that friend was or whether he ever found any evidence of an affair in Catherine's office.
That version of events didn't last long.
Four weeks later, on February 11, Clint changed his story again, this time during a meeting with cops and prosecutors that he voluntarily attended, accompanied by an attorney who was then representing him. In that meeting, Clint revealed that he had been to the Hierro home several times before the murder. In fact, he said, he had been there on December 19--the night before the murder. At the time, he was wearing gloves and a mask "commando style" while he staked out the home, hoping to catch a glimpse of Marisa so that she could later be served with a subpoena to testify on his behalf in the divorce case.
After waiting about five hours without seeing Marisa, Clint said, he relieved himself inside the port-a-potty then left his gloves and mask in the bowl before driving home.
The story didn't impress the police. They left the meeting and promptly drove to the Hierro home, where they impounded the port-a-potty, which was still covered with fingerprint powder left there by crime scene investigators. On the door were several dates marking the times when the toilet, owned by a company called BFI, had been cleaned. The most relevant date was December 20, 1999, the day of the murder.
First thing Thursday morning, Shook calls Charles Lakes, the man who cleaned the port-a-potty, to the stand. Lakes explains how the vacuum is strong enough to suck up things like rocks and cans. (Shook even produced a video--"I was key grip," he says--that showed the vacuum at work to the jury.) If there was anything in that bowl before he cleaned it that day, Lakes says, it was gone by the time he left.
When the court breaks for lunch, Young puts on a smile and tells a local news crew that Clint is "upbeat" and "encouraged" by what he's seen in the courtroom. "We're about where we expected to be at this point," he tells the camera.
Later, though, Young sits alone in the courtroom and spits Copenhagen tobacco into a Styrofoam cup. The onslaught of evidence, he says, is smothering him. "I'm not sure any of it's related to Clint," he says, "but there's just a ton of it."
For months, rumors have floated in courthouse circles that Catherine, a criminal defense attorney who regularly visited Clint in jail, drove off his court-appointed attorney because she wanted to control the direction of Clint's defense. Indeed, in August 2000, Clint's attorney filed a motion to withdraw as his counsel, citing a "conflict regarding trial strategy."
Young, a former prosecutor who didn't take the case until September 20, won't go into any specifics, but he says he accepted the Shelton family's request to represent Clint on one condition. "I took this case with the explicit agreement that I don't lawyer by committee," Young says.
At the moment, Young's challenge is keeping up with Shook's witnesses. Shortly after the jurors return from lunch, Shook delivers Young a surprise blow: He calls to the stand Marisa Hierro and, with her testimony, shifts the focus of the trial back to Catherine.