The Killer Next Door

He left clues all over, but it still took investigators years to unmask the serial murderer in their midst

The murder puzzled investigators, says Houston Police Sergeant John Swaim. Tremblay hadn't been robbed or sexually assaulted. While she had only enough money for a one-way bus fare, he says, "the people who caught that bus had never heard anything about her catching a ride, ever." The police got tips, but none mentioned a telephone installer named Tony Shore.

Some of Shore's relatives, however, began to suspect that he had taken a wrong turn in life. "He was halfway slurry to me," says Ogoretta Worley, his mother-in-law. "I thought he was messing with dope. He always looked at me suspicious, like I was looking through him."

His sister Gina came to visit soon after earning her bachelor's degree in psychology, a few years after Tremblay's murder. She became convinced her brother was molesting his older daughter, who was then about five years old. He insisted on bathing her himself, kissing her on the lips, ignoring typical father-daughter boundaries, Gina says.

As "Texas T. Shore," Tony started a wrecker service.
As "Texas T. Shore," Tony started a wrecker service.

When Gina complained to her mother, Deanna Shore was unconvinced. She told her to call Children's Protective Services if she was concerned.

Gina says she did call, but she never heard back.

Deanna visited soon after and didn't notice signs of abuse. But one thing seemed odd: There was no food anywhere in the house. She also noticed that Tony and his wife's bedroom was off-limits to their kids. "It felt very strange to me. But every woman has the right to run her own house. I wouldn't interfere."

(Tony's then-wife Gina, who has since remarried, declined comment.)

Police say that Tony killed his next victim in 1992. She was 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada, a slightly built Mexican immigrant with long dark hair. As with his first victim, she left home at 6:30 a.m., planning to walk to work. Four hours later, they found her body in a Dairy Queen drive-through, less than a mile from her residence. Nude from the waist down, she, too, had been strangled.

Police never connected the two killings, Swaim says. Despite the similar time of day and method, almost six years had passed. Unlike Tremblay, Estrada was sexually assaulted and her purse taken.

And when an intruder raped a 14-year-old girl in her home a year later, police didn't connect that either.

One year after that, in August 1994, nine-year-old Diana Rebollar left her house around noon to buy sugar for her mother. Police found her body behind a vacant building 12 hours later. She'd been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled.

Rebollar was the same age as Shore's younger daughter.

Despite the murders, Shore appeared to be a successful, friendly guy. He enjoyed chatting up strangers on the job and mixed easily with both musicians and the blue-collar guys at the bar.

After installing telephones at Ernie's on Banks, he initiated Tuesday-night blues jams at that bar. Regulars called him Telephone Tony. When bartender Ramiro Gonzalez needed a phone line in his new apartment, Shore did the job himself. "That was kind of the guy he was," Gonzalez says. "He'd help you out."

Even Shore's wife didn't seem to realize what she was dealing with. In April 1993, the same year he allegedly raped the 14-year-old, he and Gina separated. Gina agreed to pay him $75 a week in child support, and he got custody of their daughters, according to records.

Deanna says that Tony's ex-wife began making late-night calls to her, telling her in slurred words that Deanna really knew nothing about her son.

"You don't even know that he killed someone," she quotes the ex as saying.

Deanna reasoned she was just bitter. "Honey," she remembers telling her, "you're drunk." For Tony Shore's mother, the truth still hadn't registered.

One hot July night 11 months after Rebollar's death, 16-year-old Dana Sanchez phoned her boyfriend to say she was hitchhiking to his house. Then she disappeared.

Shore had never bothered to hide his victims' bodies, but the field where he dumped Sanchez was apparently just too remote. Police didn't find her body until a week had passed, and only then because a mysterious caller warned the television station of a serial killer and gave directions to her remains.

Police and sheriff's investigators assembled a task force almost immediately, says Lieutenant Billingsley. Still, they kept it quiet.

"We joked about it, because the understanding given to us by the people above us was that we don't want to call this a task force, or a serial murderer. We don't want to panic people," Billingsley says. "It was a non-task-force task force."

In official statements, the department played down links among the murders. But the detectives on the case were convinced they had a serial killer. "We worked and worked and worked," Sergeant Swaim says. "We looked at everybody: sex offenders and parolees and boyfriends. We looked at their schools."

Despite his increasingly odd behavior, investigators never had any real reason to look at Shore. His sister Gina says she'd previously reported him to Children's Protective Services, but there is no indication CPS acted on her complaint. Naturally, he never showed up on a list of sex offenders in the area.

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