Family Ties

A tale of two sisters, and a father who wouldn't quit pursuing a killer

"Greg just latched on to Shelley," Loftin says. "She was young, real impressionable, and he brought her into the whole drug scene."

Soon, Shelley stormed out of the house after a fight with her mother and moved in with Markwardt. "It was almost like Shelley didn't exist anymore," says her friend Rigdon. "He kept her completely isolated."

Kathy and Shelley, once inseparable, grew apart as Shelley sunk into the netherworld of heroin addiction. Shelley lost weight, turning stick-figure-thin. Sometimes Shelley would show up for family gatherings and "she was like a zombie," Rigdon says.

Shelley and Greg Markwardt in happier times.
Shelley and Greg Markwardt in happier times.
Jail and the years have worn on Markwardt.
Jail and the years have worn on Markwardt.

When Shelley and Greg appeared at her parents' home, Frank and Sharlene Martin suspected them of stealing in order to buy drugs. One time, Sharlene's credit cards and ATM card disappeared. Police later produced pictures that appear to show Markwardt using the card, holding his arm across his face to try to hide from the camera. In another picture he seems to be wearing a wig and a fake mustache. But his aunt paid back the money, and Frank Martin didn't file charges.

On April 4, 1983, Markwardt's great-uncle Dominic died, leaving him and his sister $300,000, partial interest in the Brae Acres house and the keys to his El Camino. A few months later Greg and Shelley were married. She was a June bride, but there was no big wedding with cakes and tuxedos -- just a quick ceremony by a justice of the peace. Frank and Sharlene Martin weren't invited.

The honeymoon wouldn't last long. In 1985, a Houston police officer pulled up behind Markwardt's orange pickup truck, parked on the side of the road with both doors open. He spotted Markwardt trying to hide a double-barrel shotgun under the seat. A search of the truck found a syringe, a spoon and two small bottles of cocaine.

Three months later, a maid cleaning a room rented by Shelley at the Holiday Inn off the Southwest Freeway found drugs, syringes and a nine-millimeter pistol. When Greg and Shelley showed up later that day, Greg told the arresting officers he had used Shelley's credit card to rent the room to entertain three prostitutes the previous night.

The couple pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine. But their sentence of eight years' probation turned into two years of hard time after they both flunked drug tests. Before going to jail, both needed methadone treatment to stave off the shakes and chills of withdrawal.

When she was processed into the Gatesville prison unit, Shelley weighed 100 pounds.

In every way, the Dove Meadow development of Spring is a long way from Gatesville. It is a quiet neighborhood of brick houses, two-car garages and basketball hoops. Kathy and Mike Odom and their new baby girl, Tasha, moved into a house on Golden Dove in 1986, when it was a new subdivision, fresh with recently planted trees, open fields and the promise of some semblance of the American dream.

The move to Spring, far from their old Houston haunts, provided a chance for Kathy and Mike to start over. "They were trying to hold on to their marriage," Bonnie Rigdon says. "I thought the move would be good for all of them."

With an investment from Mike's mom, he and longtime friend John Loftin purchased trucks and started their own business, Service Neon Signs.

Kathy settled into a new life as a suburban housewife, developing a close friendship with next-door neighbor Lorna Portelance, who had a young son the same age as Tasha. The Odoms were the portrait of a "young, struggling couple," trying to make a living in the neighborhood of white picket fences, Portelance says now.

To help with the bills, Kathy brought in children to baby-sit during the day. In the summer she would fill a plastic swimming pool with water in the front yard and the kids would rush over to splash around.

"I think life was good for her," Portelance says. "She was home with her kids, and her husband was home every evening." There were arguments, although the couple was determined to hold it together, especially after the birth of son Shawn in December 1986.

But shadows from their past life soon appeared along the quiet lanes of Dove Meadow. Greg and Shelley Markwardt, fresh out of prison, started showing up without warning in the middle of the day.

"Kathy didn't like for them to come around," Portelance says. "When they did come around they were always trying to persuade Mike to go off and do bad things with them."

Shelley seemed to resent her sister's new life. "Kathy was trying to be a mother and a good wife and baby-sitting other people's kids," Portelance remembers. "There wasn't a lot of common ground."

There was another source of friction. Kathy told her friends that Greg was making moves on her. Rigdon says Greg couldn't stop complimenting Kathy about her tummy -- "he seemed obsessed with her stomach." One day Kathy showed up on the Portelances' doorstep, frazzled and out of breath. She explained that Greg had tried to kiss her and pull off her clothes, while Shelley was in the next room giving Tasha a bath.

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