Catch Me if You Can

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

"I heard a loud blast," she says. "He fell. I ran."

Marisa looked back and saw the shotgun-toting man step over the slumped body of her husband. He was a "stocky man," and he had a mask over his face. It was black, and she could see his eyes. He started walking toward her. Then she heard another voice, a female voice. It was Catherine's voice. She said, "Shoot her, shoot her."

"I knew who it was," Marisa says. "I recognized the voice."

The jury's verdict left no doubt: Clint Shelton murdered Michael Hierro and wounded his wife, Marisa, in a shotgun attack last December. But was Clint's wife, Dallas attorney Catherine Shelton, with him?
The jury's verdict left no doubt: Clint Shelton murdered Michael Hierro and wounded his wife, Marisa, in a shotgun attack last December. But was Clint's wife, Dallas attorney Catherine Shelton, with him?

Then she looked back again.

"I saw Catherine Shelton. She had a mask on. I saw her blond hair. Now they're both coming at me."

The gun blasted a second time.

"I saw the fire leaving his gun. I put my hand up--this hand," Marisa says, wiggling her sling. "It threw me. I landed face down. I could taste blood."

Marisa says she played dead and listened as the couple stood above her arguing. The female voice said, "Shoot her again." The male responded, "I did. She's dead."

Shook asks Marisa if she is certain about who the man was.

"Yes. It was Clint Shelton. He called the office. I knew his voice," she says. "He didn't want to shoot again."

After a moment, Marisa says, she heard a loud clap, followed by the sound of retreating footsteps. When silence told her they were gone, she walked over to the house next door and told her neighbor what happened.

"I wanted him to know that Catherine Shelton had been there to shoot us," she says.

Shook approaches the stand.

"I don't want to embarrass you, but can we see?" he says, pointing to her arm. Marisa nods. She starts to loosen her sling, but stops.

"He doesn't have to see this," she says, casting a sideways glance at Clint.

Shook stands in front of Marisa, blocking Clint's view of his witness, as Marisa shows the jurors her arm. The jurors at once lean forward in their chairs. Their faces reveal little, but their eyes are wide open.

After helping Marisa reinsert her arm into the sling, Shook walks calmly back to his table and retrieves his showstopper. It's the autopsy photo.

He hates to do this, he tells Marisa, but the law requires that he ask her to verify that the man in the photo is her husband. With that, he sticks the graphic image under her nose. The effect is perfect: Marisa bursts into tears; Judge Nelms calls for a 10-minute break.

All this has put Young in a very tight spot.

Although he should have been prepared for Marisa at the start of the trial, her appearance today is a surprise. Since Marisa is the only one who can identify Clint as her attacker, Young needs to destroy her credibility as a witness. But how can he do that to a victim who's sitting there with her arm in a sling, crying, without looking like a monster in the eyes of the jury?

During the break, Young asks the judge to call off testimony for the day so Marisa can "compose" her emotions. It's presented as a sweet gesture, but Nelms doesn't buy it. Young has no choice but to attack Marisa's immigration business.

Since the attack Catherine has maintained that Marisa came up with the idea of starting an immigration practice and that, though it brought money into the firm, Marisa ran the business. Indeed, several clients told the Dallas Observer that they paid Marisa thousands of dollars but that she failed to perform any legal work on their behalf--both when she worked with Catherine and after she had created her own business in the West End.

Additionally, some 200 disgruntled clients contacted the Spanish-language news station Univision last year. Although some complained about Catherine, most talked about Marisa, says Gustavo Monsante, a veteran reporter at the station who later testified outside the presence of the jury at Young's request.

After introducing himself to Marisa, Young cuts to the chase, asking her to admit that she is the one who controlled the immigration business.

"I wasn't responsible for it," Marisa says, her eyes suddenly dry.

Didn't you place advertisements?


Didn't you design the ads?


In fact, didn't you charge clients for legal services you couldn't supply?

"I never represented myself as a lawyer, no," Marisa says.

But isn't it true that the State Bar ordered you to cease your business?

Eventually she concedes, "It was confusing, I guess, if we answered any question that could be a legal question."

And there were a ton of folks who thought you owed them money, weren't there?

"I had to close the business," Marisa says. "I got shot."

If Young succeeded in convincing the jury that Marisa Hierro wasn't a credible witness, the victory was short-lived. From the "get-go," Young says, Clint wanted to testify; despite Young's advice, Clint rose to take the stand at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, November 14.

As he sat in his chair, scribbling page after page of tiny notes on a yellow legal pad throughout the trial, Clint slouched and drew in his shoulders. The posture gave him the appearance of a small man. Now, as he rises, Clint reveals his 6-foot frame, which is considerably thinner than that depicted in photos taken before the attack.

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