Love Hurts

Six of her ex-lovers or associates are wounded or dead. Authorities wonder if old ways die hard for former Houston attorney Catherine Mehaffey Shelton.

Although Shelton would eventually claim that they were common-law husband and wife, Tedesco's friends said there was never any marriage or pretense of marriage.

Shelton described Tedesco, who stood five foot seven, as a domineering brute. He limited her phone calls to one minute and seemed obsessed about her whereabouts. She opened a small law office in the Montrose area, but Shelton blamed Tedesco for ruining her fledgling law practice. "He would be there. He threw scenes. He acted like a fool. He almost single-handedly wrecked my practice in my first months of practice," Shelton said in a deposition. She told of trying twice to commit suicide, once by crawling under a car while its engine was running.

By early 1978 she regularly accused him of beating her. On January 23 of that year Shelton filed for divorce in what she said was a common-law marriage. Afterward, friends of Tedesco's said he was hounded by calls from Shelton, who demanded money for hospital bills and other debts. He returned home one day to find his pre-Columbian art collection missing, along with guns and other items.

Shelton arrives with attorneys Randy Taylor (left) and Jerry Cobb for a hearing on the stalking charge.
Kess Gilhome
Shelton arrives with attorneys Randy Taylor (left) and Jerry Cobb for a hearing on the stalking charge.

Tedesco began recording the calls from Shelton. When she talked to him about possibly getting some of the stolen items back to him, Tedesco and his attorney went to police in an unsuccessful attempt to get her charged with burglary.

In a deposition, Shelton said she simply used the key she had gotten from Tedesco and went in and gathered up the artwork as her way of taking what she felt was her portion of the community property.

She later called Tedesco and arranged to meet him in a shopping center parking lot and talk about money. Tedesco told others she wanted him to make the exchange of the property. She said they moved their cars to a nearby field and she had to spray him with a Mace-like substance. He grabbed it and sprayed her, and they wrestled in the mud until two bystanders came up, she said. She accused Tedesco of getting a gun and threatening all of them before leaving.

"You usually think you are going to be real brave when somebody does that to you, but you don't," Shelton said in her deposition. "You beg for mercy. You beg for your life."

George Tedesco would face those same prospects, and soon.

On Monday, January 15, 1979, Tedesco was supposed to be in family court for a hearing on the common-law marriage and divorce case filed by Shelton. He didn't show up, just as he had failed to appear to assist in a scheduled surgery the previous Friday.

The following Monday police checked his home and found blood seeping from under the garage door. Tedesco had been savagely beaten, his face partially crushed. Blood was spattered high on one wall of the garage.

Nothing was missing from the town house. His wallet, in a leather pouch, still contained $49, and there was a shattered tape recorder on the ground. Nearby was a large iron bloodstained bar partially wrapped in a towel.

That ended the family court battle between Shelton and Tedesco; it moved to the arena of probate court. Shelton filed a suit seeking Tedesco's $200,000 estate, a claim challenged by his family from Argentina.

Homicide detectives questioned her about the killing but came up with no leads. "I couldn't tell them much," Shelton said in a deposition. "I was stunned."

Strangely, on the evening of the day Tedesco's body was discovered, a neighbor saw Shelton and her attorney Lloyd Oliver at the house, which still had the pools of blood from the killing. Shelton had called a locksmith to open the house. She said she took various financial records and letters involving his business and other personal matters.

The two returned three days later, this time with a locksmith who could open Tedesco's secret safe in a bathroom closet. This time the door locks were sealed with glue, and a sign on the door said, "Sealed by Order of the Court."

"We did not know what court, the kangaroo court," Shelton testified in a deposition. "We didn't know, so we went around to the back." She claimed each time that someone in the homicide division had told her it was all right to enter the premises.

They opened the safe and used $140 in cash they found to pay the locksmith. Inside the safe, there was a purse with tape recordings, which Shelton said were later lost. Also hauled out to their waiting van was a television and stereo, lamp, antique sword, pieces of the pre-Columbian pottery, checks, tapes, and various bills and receipts.

Shelton quickly sold most of the items. She took the sword to a friend, Steve Melinder, a deputy sheriff she knew from her work in the courts. He said he sold it for her at a gun show for $175.

After that, he said in a deposition, she came by again, this time wanting $300 for an abortion. She told Melinder he was the father of her unborn child and showed her a medical memo saying she was pregnant.

"Did she make any statement to you as to what might happen if you did not give her $300?" an attorney at the deposition inquired.

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