The Killer Next Door

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

And even when the Houston police picked him up, seven months after Sanchez's murder, he stayed cool.

There was no sleuthing in the misdemeanor arrest: An undercover cop posing as a prostitute randomly offered Shore sex for a fee, according to the police report, and he accepted. Court records show he got three months' unsupervised probation and a $122 fine.

Around that time, Shore's sister Gina visited once more. Again, she was horrified by her brother's behavior: When Tony went out for the evening, he dead-bolted the door, locking his two young daughters inside. Then he and his friends invited Gina and her companion to do drugs with them.

After his arrest, Shore tried to justify the killings to his 
Daniel Kramer
After his arrest, Shore tried to justify the killings to his captors.
For eight years, Danny Billingsley pursued leads on 
the serial killer.
Daniel Kramer
For eight years, Danny Billingsley pursued leads on the serial killer.

Instead, her friend called CPS to report Tony for child endangerment, Gina says. He even sent a certified letter to follow up. But he never heard anything.

Agency spokeswoman Estella Olguin says CPS has no way to verify, or dispute, Gina's account. She says that if no charges are filed, records of an investigation are destroyed after three years.

But if the agency had spent any time following up on that complaint, Gina says, they should have noticed problems. Tony's house had no electricity, she says, and he'd boarded up the windows.

Rob Shore was living in Clear Lake Shores, not far from his son in Houston, but their relationship had grown chilly. When the two bumped into each other at the Westheimer Art Festival one spring, Tony didn't have much to say. Rob's wife, Rose, thought he was on drugs.

He seemed to drop by his father's house only when he had a new girlfriend to show off. When Tony was 33, that girlfriend was Amy Lynch, an 18-year-old high school student. Friends say he'd worked on her family's telephone line and arranged an introduction after noticing her picture.

The appeal of such a younger woman was evident. Rose Shore remembers Tony visiting them that Easter with his daughters and girlfriend. Amy eagerly blurted out that Tony had told them all what to wear, from their dresses to their socks and shoes.

"He was in control at that point," Rose says. "They had to do what he said. They were dressed well, but it was definitely a red flag."

Two years after Tony and Amy got together, in the spring of 1997, Tony called his mother in California and told her he was getting married. He asked if he could send his daughters for a long visit during the honeymoon. When Deanna demurred, his charm abruptly turned into a threat: "If you don't see them now, you never will."

"It was not a good time for me," Deanna Shore says. "But I said okay."

When they arrived, Deanna knew something was wrong. The girls, now 12 and 13, were silent. They stuck close together -- "like Oscars," Deanna says. And though it was nearly 100 degrees in Sacramento, they insisted on wearing layers of clothing.

Frustrated, Deanna sent the younger girl to visit Gina, Tony's sister, in Washington State. Deanna was convinced they'd been molested. "I said, 'I'm not going to ask, but if we split them up, they may volunteer it.' "

In Washington, the truth came out. Gina had been complaining about a situation at work: "Do you ever feel like something is totally unjustified?"

Shore's daughter turned ashen. "How do you know about that?" she gasped.

The girl explained: One night, when Tony's girlfriend was in the hospital, he'd raped her. "I know he's been doing it to [my sister] for years and years," she told her aunt. "I was supposed to mind my own business."

Gina called her mother. And her mother called police.

According to their case file, the girls told California authorities about the abuse and their father's drug use. Sometimes, they said, he even drugged them. Their medical exams showed evidence of trauma. Tony Shore was charged with aggravated sexual assault.

Ivy Chambers, a supervisor with Children's Protective Services, told Deanna they'd gotten numerous complaints about her son over the years. (Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.) They'd never been able to prove anything.

Deanna called her son.

"He denied it flatly," she says. At first, she says, she "didn't know who to believe." He was angry at her for calling the police. Listening to him, Deanna Shore felt chilled. "He still used the same tone, but I had the feeling I was talking to a stranger."

It took only a few months for defense attorney Bill R. Gifford to hammer out a deal with the district attorney's office. Shore agreed to plead guilty to two counts of indecency with a child. The offense can net five years to life, but Tony got no prison time, just a $500 fine and eight years of probation.

There were conditions: He'd have to register as a sex offender, meet regularly with a probation officer and do community service. But under the deferred adjudication program, he'd have no record of a conviction if he made it through probation without a problem, says Denise Oncken, chief of the D.A.'s child abuse division.

Serious sex offenders like Shore are required to register with authorities in person every 90 days. Initially, he'd also have to meet with his probation officer every 15 days.

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