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.

"Among many things, she stated, 'Remember George? Remember what happened to him? Remember your wife and son,' " Melinder replied.

Shelton said she raised a little less than $1,000 in her informal liquidation of what she called her part of the inheritance.

Shelton got nothing more from the Tedesco estate. A jury in October 1979 ruled against her claims that they lived together as man and wife.

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.

One of those who had seen her weeping in the probate courtroom was Houston Post criminal courts reporter Gary Taylor, who had met Shelton at a party and was clearly intrigued by the lawyer.

Taylor struck up a conversation: "So this is the famous Catherine [Shelton]?" Taylor was going through a difficult divorce at the time, fighting for custody of his two young daughters.

Shelton called him a few days later. He invited her to ride to Galveston with him to collect rent from a tenant there, and a romance began. That night they made love on the beach in Galveston on a Spiderman towel. They laughed about having it interrupted by Galveston police shining a spotlight on them.

"I was a little surprised at how quickly it went from a kiss to fairly serious entanglement," he says. "She was real charming. I've said this before: She was a lot of fun whenever she wasn't trying to kill me."

While the passion continued in the weeks ahead, Taylor became perplexed at the fiery side of this woman. In a later deposition to prosecutors, he told of her turning violent. At a sandwich shop near the courthouse, she became enraged and pulled his pens out of his pocket, crushing them on the floor with her feet. He had just told her he had to be with his daughters that evening. Once outside the shop, she smashed her umbrella against the side of the building.

He met her late that night and told her he didn't appreciate the flashes of anger. "She responded by racing around my bedroom with a suitcase and smashing the suitcase against the wall." Then, he says, she lifted his stereo and acted as though she were going to crash it down on his head. Police were summoned that night.

Taylor says he tried repeatedly to break off the relationship, but Shelton would angrily say that would not happen, sometimes going berserk at the suggestion that it was over.

Most uncomfortable for Taylor were the references to Tedesco, he says. The couple had a romantic candlelight dinner one night. In idle conversation, Shelton began with a what-if scenario:

What if she had been there with Tedesco and he'd tried to go for his gun, but she'd grabbed a barstool leg and hit him in the head -- and continued to beat him until he was dead? she asked. Then, Taylor says, she would say she only wanted to hear Taylor's opinion and had made up the scenario.

Coupled with those comments were remarks by Shelton that Taylor perceived as threats, references to what had happened to Tedesco.

By late November 1979, Taylor says, he started fearing for his life. He went to the Harris County District Attorney's Special Crimes Division, where prosecutors had been helping in the Tedesco investigation.

Taylor made a tape recording that detailed Shelton's comments, and prosecutors advised him to record conversations with her. She found out about the meeting and phoned him, alternating between hysterics and vows that he would have to "beg her for mercy."

When some of her conversations were played for others in Houston's criminal courts pressroom, Shelton became more enraged. Taylor's roommate, Metro News Service reporter Jim Strong, also began taping the calls.

Taylor and Strong grew more concerned when they came home one night to find their home burglarized. Some standard electronic gear was gone, but so was a tape that Shelton had demanded earlier in the day. Also missing was Strong's handgun, which he kept hidden under the middle of his mattress, a location that only the roommates and Shelton knew about.

In a later telephone call, Shelton told Taylor and Strong that she just might be able to help them get their possessions back. But she wanted Taylor to apologize to her and retract everything he'd told the district attorney's office.

Taylor says Shelton spoke of him entering "the arena of death," and after more disruptions from her, he said he had reached his own breaking point. On the evening of January 14, he came home to find Shelton and Strong discussing the return of the burglarized property.

Shelton indicated that Taylor could get the possessions back if he went to her house. He testified in a later trial that he knew the last confrontation awaited him there, but he was tired of the constant conflicts.

"I wanted to get this thing over with without my kids being involved," he said.

He testified that she made calls from her house to unknown people, and he finally told her he was going to leave. She told him to check a hallway closet. He went there, then looked up to see her pointing her .32-caliber pistol at him.

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