Michael Hogue

Reasonable doubt?

Catherine Shelton puts down her glass of Beaujolais and walks quickly out of her bedroom, searching through her pitch-dark house for a gun. "Where is that damn gun?" she says, walking back into the room and rifling through two sets of dresser drawers. She's looking for a handgun loaded with armor-piercing bullets. Her husband, Clint Shelton, could tell her where the gun is. It's his, one he keeps in the house with myriad other firearms: three 12-gauge shotguns, two shotguns used to shoot clay targets, a Glock, an AK-47, revolvers, and others. Clint Shelton can't help his wife, though, because he's in Dallas County jail, kept there by a $1 million bail, placed there because police suspect he killed 30-year-old Michael Hierro and wounded his wife, Marisa Hierro, in their Rowlett driveway in December.

"I can't find it," Catherine Shelton says, sitting back down in the wingback chair next to her bed, shaking her head. She wants to show the type of gun and ammo Clint would use if he wanted to kill someone. She can't figure out how anyone would believe that her husband, an avid hunter and expert marksman, would kill someone with a shotgun, something so cumbersome, so common. "He could have killed half the neighborhood if he wanted to," she says. "If Clint were going to kill someone, he would have used hollow-point, armor-piercing explosive ammunition that would have...that there's no way to recover from. He would have destroyed the person's body with it, where he couldn't be reconstructed. You don't take a knife to a gunfight. He would have taken a back-up gun. He has an armory in here."

"Here" is Catherine Shelton's home in Copper Canyon, in rural Denton County. She moved there in August 1999 from her small, elegant home in University Park, hoping to leave behind many unpleasant things: the cramped lots and letterbox bathrooms, the pompous insularity, the gossip. Especially the gossip. More than a decade of whispers and glances, hushed talk of shootings and deaths of boyfriends in Houston. She would leave her unhappy marriage, reacquaint herself with old flames and friends. She envisioned a fresh start, a way to hide from old ghosts.


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One crazy lawyer

But her troubles did not disappear; they intensified. A construction worker at her house accidentally hanged himself in an autoerotic incident last June. Ex-clients made claims of professional misconduct against her. The IRS began investigating her and put a lien on her property. Her purported paramour brought stalking and trespassing charges against her. Finally, Marisa Hierro, a former Shelton employee, identified Catherine and Clint Shelton as her attackers.

With her husband's arrest and with much of the Dallas legal community still buzzing about the possibility of her incarceration, Catherine Shelton agreed to talk to the Dallas Observer because she says she is tired of running.

"I was not there that night, the night of the murder," she says, talking calmly -- a rare calm for Shelton, who is usually hyperactive even when happy. "[But] I think the deck is stacked pretty hard against me, and I think I stand a good chance of going to prison. I could run away." In fact, this is the first weekend she has spent in her house in weeks. She had been staying in hotels throughout East Texas, against the advice of her lawyers, in an effort to avoid being arrested should a warrant be issued. "I don't have a lot of money, but I have enough that I could go disappear. But I won't do that to him [Clint], because he doesn't belong there in jail...Don't let him know I said this, because I can't stand to be around him most of the time, but I do care for the big jackass."

Catherine Shelton's love-hate relationship with her husband, who filed for divorce one month before the December 20 murder of Michael Hierro, is just one of the contradictions that Shelton, her attorneys, and her friends say make this case more complex than has been presented by the media so far. (Including, they're quick to say, the Observer's first article on the case, "One crazy lawyer," which appeared January 13.) They say their investigation has revealed a "web of weirdness."

Yet even as Catherine Shelton, her lawyers, and investigators lay out her side of the story -- an alibi through phone records, Marisa Hierro's alleged vendetta against Shelton, Shelton's alleged affair with the man many suspect with first pointing the finger at her after the murder -- her colleagues, family, and friends must wonder whether they know a killer.

I wonder, because I have known Catherine Shelton for nearly eight years. She has purchased gifts for me and my family, taken us to dinner, had us over for Christmas parties and dinner parties. She would say we are close friends; we are friends, but we saw each other only a few times a year. She is someone who trusted and befriended me after I wrote a 1992 D Magazine story about a client of hers who was falsely accused of killing a baby. For this reason -- and, naturally, a motive of self-interest -- Shelton agreed to talk.

Shelton says she had nothing to do with the death of Michael Hierro, just as she had no part in the deaths of others close to her who died under unusual or violent circumstances. In this case, as in her previous mixes with the law, she claims she is the target of an intricate setup. She argues that because of her habit of angering and defaming former associates, they have as much reason to conspire against her as she does them. To bolster this argument, Shelton and her defenders point out that the two people they believe are most responsible for the suspicion she is under -- Denton County polygraph examiner Bill Parker (who has pressed stalking charges against Shelton) and Marisa Hierro -- appear to have complex, troubled relationships with Shelton. If Shelton is charged with the Hierro murder, an exploration of those relationships will be a key part of her defense.

"I will tell you everything I know," Shelton says. She's sitting in front of dark gray drapes put over her windows for fear a photographer will snap pictures, even at this late hour on a Sunday. "During the telling, I won't be telling you that I murdered anybody, because I haven't done that. I'm going to tell you about some professional infractions...But so what? What the hell?...What [else] can I do? They're all after me. I've pissed off the world."

Ticking off people is seemingly something Catherine Shelton has been doing for a long time. Her list of turbulent relationships begins with her first husband, Navy officer Matt Quinlan, whom she met at the University of Texas. She was accused by one of his relatives of shooting at him in 1969. She says the gun went off accidentally.

After divorcing in 1970, she returned to her hometown, Houston. In 1976, while at the University of Houston law school, she began seeing George Tedesco, an anesthesiologist. By 1978, their relationship had soured. Friends of Tedesco later claimed Shelton hounded him. Tedesco was murdered in January 1979, and the case was never solved.

Later that year, she began a romance with Houston Post reporter Gary Taylor. He says that after a short time, he tried to break off the relationship. During an argument in January 1980, Shelton shot Taylor twice with a .32-caliber pistol, an attack for which she would eventually serve five years' probation.

A few months later, a friend and former client of Shelton's was found shot to death with a .357-caliber handgun. It was ruled a suicide. The victim's sister testified that Shelton owed the man $10,000 and that he had been asking her for his money.

In 1981, she married Clint Shelton, who would later become a peace officer and work in a Dallas County constable's office. They moved to Dallas in the late 1980s, and she began working court-appointed cases for state District Judge Tom Price. She made friends and enemies quickly, one often turning to the other. Price and Shelton, for example, do not get along. One district judge, John Creuzot, banned her from his courtroom after he said she was trying to have him investigated by the federal government. Several business associates and office workers would leave her firm after getting crossways with Shelton.

Marisa Hierro was among them. She began working for Shelton in August 1998 after Shelton represented her husband in a theft case. Shelton's firm then began handling immigration cases drummed up by Hierro, which became a source of contention between the two after immigrants began filing grievances against Shelton with the State Bar, saying their cases were being improperly handled or ignored. (How much oversight Shelton had on these cases is disputed; Hierro certainly helped work the cases for Shelton's firm.)

In March 1999, Marisa Hierro left Shelton's firm and set up her own immigration-services firm. Soon afterward, anonymous mailings that detailed Shelton's past began circulating -- mailed by Hierro, Shelton believes.

During this time and before, Shelton claims, she was having an affair with Bill Parker, though Parker denies it and in fact Shelton was charged with stalking Parker in February 1998. He later obtained a restraining order that prohibited her from coming within 500 feet of him. In December 1999, she was arrested for trespassing on his property, just six days before the Hierros were shot in their driveway.

The murder of Michael Hierro took place on December 20, a Monday night. According to a Rowlett police affidavit, Marisa Hierro says she and her husband returned home after shopping for office supplies at approximately 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. A neighbor puts the time of the gunshot at 8:20 p.m. As soon as her husband exited the driver's side, he was shot and killed by a masked man with a sawed-off 12-gauge single-shot shotgun. Marisa Hierro fled, fell down, and was shot in the arm. She says she heard the voice of Catherine Shelton tell the gunman, "Don't be a pussy" and "finish it, finish it." No other shots were fired, though, and police later recovered the gun, unused and used shells, a pantyhose mask, and latex gloves from near the crime scene.

Later than night, Rowlett police received a tip from an informant whom they won't identify who said Catherine Shelton was probably involved. He gave Shelton's Copper Canyon address to police, who then surveyed and took evidence from outside the home, including a receipt for 12-gauge shotgun shells and what they call a mask made out of dark underwear that would match the mask Marisa Hierro says Catherine Shelton was wearing. Police searched the Shelton house on December 29. Clint Shelton was arrested February 25 and charged with one count of murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Today, even her close friends acknowledge that Catherine Shelton is many bad things -- crass, impolite, an adulterer, and an unfairly demanding boss. But, they say, she is not a murderer.

Law enforcement would beg to differ. They believe Clint Shelton killed Michael Hierro and Catherine orchestrated it, despite the divorce filed one month before. Although prosecutors won't talk on the record, courthouse gossip says the District Attorney's Office has "a mountain of physical evidence," according to one lawyer. He says they have more than the DNA, hair, and saliva samples found in the pantyhose mask to tie Clint Shelton to the crime. "As far as Clint Shelton goes," the lawyer says, "this is a slam-dunk case."

It doesn't appear the case is as airtight against Catherine Shelton. (The grand jury investigating the case was expected to issue a report this week, after the Observer went to press.) Her lawyers believe all the district attorney has linking her to the crime scene is the word of Marisa Hierro, whose credibility has already been called into question because of complaints about her immigration-services business. ("Victims in the shadows," February 24). That is why, they believe, Clint Shelton was arrested first -- to pressure him to implicate Catherine in return for a lighter sentence.

One source who has strong opinions about the Sheltons and worked closely with them for several years doesn't want his name used. Like many of those who say they fell out of her favor, he doesn't want to get in her crosshairs. He says he believes she is guilty, based on what he knows of her character.

"I have often heard her shout at Clint, 'Don't be a pussy.' Same words used at the murder site," he says. "She has the motive, temperament, and history for just such a scenario. I have watched [Clint and Catherine] interact for years. It is a damn shame about Clint. Everyone I knew liked him and felt sorry for the way he was treated by his wife. Clint is totally under her control. Oh, he will growl now and again, but it's like the dog snarling at his master while being beaten. The snarl has no bite behind it."

Yet her defense team argues that, when taken apart, the prosecution's scenario doesn't hold up. "All I know," says an investigator for the defense, "is that Catherine Shelton doesn't strike me as a dumb woman. So why would she try to kill someone knowing the finger would be pointed at her, given their [Marisa Hierro's and Catherine's] history of antagonism? And then kill the wrong person, not even finish the job? It doesn't make sense."

Regardless, says Catherine Shelton, there is no way she could have been there that night. For more than an hour, she lays out an intricate recounting of her whereabouts and phone calls, which she says proves she could not have been at the murder scene.

The police search warrant affidavit says Shelton and one of her employees were in Quinlan to visit a former employee. The affidavit says she left about 5 p.m. Quinlan is 45 miles east of downtown Dallas. Shelton says she left the employee's East Texas home well before 5 p.m. to avoid traffic. She says she went by her office in Dallas, checked messages, then left downtown about 6:30 p.m. and headed north on Interstate 35. From her car, she tried to call her divorce attorney, who was unavailable. At 6:52, she says, she called a friend, a Dallas psychologist, and talked for 28 minutes, according to her phone records. (The psychologist confirmed the conversation. The Observer was given copies of the phone records for Shelton's mobile calls for that billing period. The phone records do not indicate Shelton's location when the calls were made or received.)

"So we're at 7:20 now," Shelton says. "And I continue to drive, and I don't call anyone else. At least I don't remember calling anyone else, because I don't talk to anyone else. But I had forgotten another call I had made, which I saw when the cellular bill came in. At 7:41 p.m., not more than a quarter of a mile from this house, I call Clint's cellular number...I would call him [and] ask him to open the garage bay so I could get in fast and he'd close it behind me. I don't talk to him, because he doesn't answer the phone, because he's not here." She says Clint was checking a live trap he had set out on a nearby farm to catch their lost cat, Felix.

Shelton says she went into the house, took out an El Charrito TV dinner, made herself a drink, and hung up her clothes. The phone rings. It's her mother from Houston. "I thought it was about 8:15, but it's actually 8:21 when she calls me," she says. "One minute after the murder. I pick up the phone, and we talk for 52 minutes. I can't get off the phone with the woman...You know how an old lady is. I finally get off the phone. By that time, I've had two or three drinks, the El Charrito is dried up."

Phone records confirm that her mother called Shelton's home at 8:21 p.m., but they don't indicate whether Shelton was the one who picked up the call, or whether the call was forwarded to another number -- Shelton's mobile phone, for instance. Shelton's mother, Margaret Mehaffey, confirmed that she called her daughter. "We just talked about the Christmas holidays," she says.

Shelton was in the bedroom now, where she says she stayed to avoid her husband, who was divorcing her but living with her. (Months before, she had told me at a dinner party at my home that she wanted to divorce Clint, but that she couldn't kick him out. "He doesn't have anywhere to go," she said.) "I heard the dog come into the house sometime when I was talking to my mother," she says. "Now, the dog doesn't know how to open the doors. I heard her big muscular tail whacking against things. I heard her excited scratching on the kitchen. It's all tile in there. I heard no voice. Nothing. The lawyers want me to say that I heard Clint and saw him walking around. I didn't. But I did hear the sounds of metal and wood and doors closing."

Shortly after saying goodbye to her mother, Shelton says, she was in her bedroom, on the phone with her divorce lawyer. She hung up the phone and got ready for bed. She made sure her cellular phone was nearby, because she was expecting a call that night from a man she was then having an affair with, whom she won't name. She rolled over to sleep, not knowing then that, according to what Clint Shelton later told her, he left the house to rummage through her downtown office that night, looking for proof of an extramarital affair. "He was," she says, "on a mission from God."

"My lawyer says this is a no-brainer case, that I'll be found not guilty if we go to trial," Clint Shelton says in a telephone interview from jail, where he is being held on two $500,000 bonds. He manages a chuckle. "But if it's such a no-brainer, why have I been in jail a month?" He laughs. He says his lawyer suggests that unless there is evidence they don't know about, Shelton's case won't go to trial.

Shelton denies murdering Michael Hierro or having any knowledge of who did. His explanations of his actions the night of the murder and his description of his relationship with his wife neatly match those of Catherine Shelton. He says, for example, that he was living with his wife despite his desire to divorce her because he needed a place to stay and, since she had use of her Park Cities home (which she did not sell), it was not as though they were together. "She needed me to help her take care of the place during construction, and I was willing to do that," he says. "But we were not doing well as a couple."

Few who know the two dispute this, although there are those who say that no matter how bad it got, Catherine still wanted Clint around to help, and Clint was always ready to oblige.

Two months before the murder, I got an unpleasant taste of how much their relationship had deteriorated. They had never seemed close, but when I saw them at parties or over dinner through the years, they were at least able to tolerate each other. But sometime in early fall 1999 my family ate dinner at the Sheltons' Copper Canyon home, where we endured an ugly series of arguments, put-downs, and hateful accusations between the couple. They seemed oblivious to our discomfort. We wondered aloud on the way home how long it would be before they divorced.

Although Catherine Shelton had long ago admitted to me -- and, to my surprise, to two guests at my house sometime in 1998 -- that she had an affair and wanted out of the marriage, I had no idea whether Clint knew this or suspected it. According to the Sheltons, he did know. They say he knew about her indiscretions after she was charged with stalking Bill Parker in February 1998. (Reached at home, Parker said only, "Don't call me at home," before hanging up.)

Clint and Catherine say that any chance for reconciliation disappeared after that arrest, and that they had been living together only out of convenience. "Ever since he bailed me out of jail...I think Clint just despised me, to tell you the truth...He despised me for wasting his time," Catherine Shelton says.

In a 28-page, hand-written narrative that Catherine Shelton wrote last week for the Observer, she details her marital woes. "My marriage was not a source of comfort or enjoyment to me," she writes. "I had tried counseling, mutual church attendance, etc. [B]ut my spouse seemed unmotivated. He had been a great source of support to me and a help in our first years, and I wanted for things to be right, to work. But we seemed to have no common interests. This was not his fault. I'm not the easiest person to live with...Clint showed no ambition to move up and on, and he refused to talk to me about his plans for the future. So, finally we just stopped talking -- at all."

Clint Shelton filed for divorce on November 17. In the suit's requests for admissions, Shelton's lawyer asks Catherine Shelton to "admit or deny" seven items; four of those concern what is described as "an extramarital sexual relationship with William Melvin Parker a.k.a. Bill Parker." According to Clint, it was important to prove the affair's existence so he could get more money in the divorce settlement. Is it possible the divorce was a ruse to make the Sheltons appear less likely to conspire to commit murder together?

"Bullshit," says Clint.

If it were a ruse, it was an elaborate one, developed over years and involving many people.

Catherine Shelton claims she began an on-again, off-again affair with Parker in September 1997. Parker, who has denied the affair, had done polygraph work on several of Shelton's clients, and she says they had gone out to dinner and drinks a few times after the work was complete.

She pursued Parker throughout 1998, talking about him often with friends -- she always mentioned him when talking to me, however infrequently we talked. "The focus of her energy was always on Bill Parker," says one of her closest friends, a Dallas psychologist who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

After the alleged relationship ended for good, she nevertheless continued to obsess. She acknowledges that one reason she purchased her Copper Canyon home in March 1999 was to get revenge on him. She says she imagined that she would begin life anew and have wonderful relationships, and that Parker, who lived just a few miles away, would be forced to hear every detail.

It's this fantasy-driven mindset that would make Shelton's story much easier for prosecutors to discredit.

But according to the Dallas psychologist, just because Parker wanted her to cease the pursuit doesn't mean the affair didn't occur. "At one point, he called me and asked me to intervene with her," he says. "He wanted me to be the messenger, to tell her that he wanted her to back off or he would 'hit the bull between the horns.'

"He never acknowledged the affair as such to me, but he never denied it...He threatened that he would destroy her career if she didn't back off...And now, it seems that he may have gotten the ball rolling, in terms of the investigation of her."

Catherine Shelton's supporters say that the reason the Hierro murder investigation immediately focused on her was not just because of the testimony of Marisa Hierro. It was because of a phone call received by Rowlett police at approximately 11 p.m. on December 20, shortly after the murder. In a search-warrant affidavit, Rowlett detective Jimmy Patterson says, "I received a call from a person who identified himself to me, but who wishes to remain unnamed because of safety concerns. I know that this person has no criminal record and is gainfully employed. This person told me he believed Catherine Shelton was involved in this murder and gave me her address as [Shelton's Copper Canyon address]." Less than six hours later, police began more than a week of surveillance on Clint and Catherine Shelton. Because of Parker's animosity toward Shelton, the fact that the caller knew her address, and based on his past professional relationship with the Rowlett Police Department, Shelton and her defense team are convinced Parker identified her as the lead suspect.

"He [Parker] has got a way to screw me and screw Clint too," Catherine Shelton says. For his divorce proceedings, Clint Shelton had been trying to depose Parker. "So the attention was focused at 11 o'clock that night on me, to the exclusion of everyone else in [Dallas]."

None of which means Catherine and Clint Shelton didn't murder Michael Hierro. There is physical evidence linking Clint Shelton to the crime scene that cannot be ignored. And his explanation, which he reiterated to the Observer -- that he had worn the mask and gloves earlier in the week as he skulked about Marisa Hierro's house, trying to find her so his divorce attorney could subpoena her to testify that Catherine Shelton and Bill Parker had an affair -- will surely be extremely hard for a jury to swallow.

But if Marisa Hierro's testimony identifying Catherine Shelton is made an integral part of the case, the credibility of Shelton's accusers will be made an issue. "If something goes to trial, you can bet that we will place Bill Parker on the stand," says Shelton attorney Randy Taylor. (Last week, Parker and his wife were served subpoenas to turn over evidence that Catherine Shelton's lawyers hope will prove the affair was mutual. A sheriff's department officer was called when Parker ran off the man serving the subpoena with a shotgun.) But the person whose credibility on which the case against either Shelton rests is, they hope, Marisa Hierro.

Marisa Hierro was giddy. It was May 4, and she had heard that a woman had jumped off the One Main Place roof in Dallas and fell 33 stories to her death. According to an affidavit of then-Hierro employee Maria Guerrero, "Marisa Hierro joked, laughed, and was happy thinking it was Catherine Shelton. Marisa Hierro even called the security at the building to find out if indeed it had been Catherine Shelton."

Hierro was obsessed with Shelton, according to three former Shelton employees and a Hierro business acquaintance. In affidavits gathered as part of Shelton's defense in the civil grievances filed against her, each of them describes Marisa Hierro's desire to harm Shelton professionally. They allege that during her time there, Hierro worked almost completely independently of Shelton. They say that after she left in March 1999, she asked Shelton employees to sabotage computer files and leave the door unlocked so she could get in at night. They say she continued to use Shelton law-office stationery for legal correspondence and sent letters to immigrants who had had their INS cases improperly handled by Hierro, soliciting the immigrants to file grievances against Shelton. Hierro allegedly offered to pay one former Shelton employee $75 per grievance she would fill out against Shelton.

"I asked her why" she was working on grievances against Shelton, Maria Guerrero says in the affidavit. "She responded that she needed to do it because she needed to close down the business of Catherine Shelton. Personally, I believe she did it because she hated Catherine Shelton so much."

"It's like a bad Jamie Lee Curtis movie," Catherine Shelton says. "Why was she [Marisa Hierro] so obsessed with me?"

But even if, as alleged, Hierro tried to ruin Shelton's practice, it would simply be more motive for Catherine Shelton to want her killed, say those who believe she had something to do with the murder. (Hierro could not be reached for comment. John Key III, who had acted as a spokesman for Hierro, says he no longer is acting as such and hasn't talked to Hierro "in weeks.")

Shelton doesn't deny that she was furious at Hierro. She says her animosity was at least partly based on how foolish she felt after having trusted Hierro to such an extent as to have made her, in effect, a partner in her law firm.

Hierro went to work for Catherine Shelton in early fall 1998 and quickly made her mark; Shelton says Hierro collected $40,000 in overdue criminal fees. "That turned my head," Shelton says. "Right like that. The money. And that wasn't the immigrant shit. She was a hell of a bill collector."

Shelton says Hierro became more than just an office manager and partner; she also became her confidant. She says Hierro would drive her around at night, while Shelton would drink and cry about her failing marriage. "She was a combination maid/personal secretary," Shelton says.

Hierro then began representing immigrants, telling them she would file papers for them that would help them remain in the United State. Shelton says she gave Hierro carte blanche to work full time on the immigration cases because they brought in money. She says her personal life caused her to turn a blind eye to what Hierro was doing.

"I'm guilty of negligence," she says, "but a really good lawyer, a sharp lawyer, they would have known. I bankrolled her. In other words, I fed the bad dog. That's how bad I was. I got her up and running. I put her in a petri dish in an orchid hothouse that she had never been in before, in One Main Place. I gave her status. Because I was so fucked up in my own personal life, and so miserable, and so depraved, really."

The Sheltons say Hierro knew about Catherine's alleged affair with Bill Parker. For that reason, Clint Shelton says, he was trying to subpoena her to testify in his divorce case. It's why Clint's defenders say he had nothing to gain by killing her or Michael Hierro.

"Why would Clint Shelton want to kill Marisa if he was divorcing Catherine? He needed her testimony," says Saadi Ferris, an Austin-based former State Bar of Texas chief investigator and now an investigator for Catherine Shelton's defense team. Ferris says he has no idea who killed Michael Hierro -- "I deal in facts," he says -- but believes that if the prosecution plans to rely on the credibility of Marisa Hierro, they will have problems.

Unless Catherine Shelton is tried for this case, however, Hierro's credibility will not be in question. What will be unanswered regardless of the outcome is, Just who is Catherine Shelton? Is she what many people believe: a cold-hearted, masterful manipulator who has managed to kill or orchestrate the killing of her enemies for two decades? Or is she, once again, an almost-too-impossible-to-be-true victim of circumstance?

"I'm a thorn in everyone's side, don't you know that?" she asks sarcastically. "Didn't you read this?" She reaches under a chair in her bedroom and pulls out a Houston Press issue from January 13 that carried the "One crazy lawyer" story. (The Press is the Observer's sister paper.) She reads aloud from the cover. "'Six of her ex-lovers or associates are wounded or dead.' How about the truth? How about 30, or 35? One ex-lover is dead. I've known 35 or 40, maybe 50, that are dead. People who were shot, or killed, or killed each other. What do you think I do for a living? I'm not a nurse."

She's a criminal defense lawyer, and she knows that despite her claims of innocence, there's little hope for immediate relief. She believes she'll be arrested any day now because what she calls "Prosecution Plan A" -- to pressure Clint to testify against her -- won't work. Clint, she says, won't implicate her to lighten his sentence because he believes he'll be found innocent if the case goes to trial. (Clint Shelton says the prosecution has not approached him with any such deal.) So she'll be arrested to see whether she confesses once behind bars.

In any event, there are many questions to be answered by one or both of the Sheltons:

··· The physical evidence against Clint Shelton. Why would someone who once served court papers for a living stupidly wear a mask and gloves to do so? Especially since, because it's his lawsuit, state law forbids him from serving papers himself. Clint Shelton responds that he was simply trying to find Hierro so that she could be served, not to serve her himself.

··· Why is one of Catherine Shelton's best friends, Judith Mercer, representing Clint Shelton in his divorce proceedings? Clint Shelton says he doesn't know that they were "best friends."

"I do know that she is a top-notch, highly ethical lawyer who is also a ball-buster," he says. "We talked about it before she took the case. She asked me, 'How nasty do you want me to be?' I said, 'I want to play it by ear.'" (Reached on her cell phone, Mercer said she would call back for an interview, but never did so.)

··· Why did they have a mask made out of underwear in their trash? They say it wasn't a mask at all. "They've made a big issue out of my worn-out underwear," Clint Shelton says. "Why, I don't know." The question for a jury will be, was it underwear that had holes in it from being worn and from Catherine Shelton using it as a housecleaning rag, as she now says? Or was it a mask with no mouth-hole -- which would mean it matches the mask Marisa Hierro independently described to police as worn by the female who was with her attacker?

"Look," Catherine Shelton says. "If I'd been with him [Clint] that night, as she says I was, do you think I'd let him stop at a Port-a-Can and throw away his mask [the pantyhose mask found at the scene, with DNA linking it to Clint Shelton] before we ran away? And mine [the alleged underwear mask] wouldn't have been there too? It's confabulated."

Shelton talks until there is no more tape left to record her. Then she walks me through her dark house, reiterating points of her story. She is, naturally, concerned that she may harm her civil cases or any possible criminal case by speaking out, but she says, as does her husband, that the suspicion they are under is largely the result of media and political pressure. She finds a picture of herself, unretouched, and hands it over. "That's the real me," she says. "Not pretty, but not guilty."


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