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By Emma Steele
/ CBS News
Ask anyone who’s been around the Houston, Texas, courthouse for a while about , and they’ll know the name. She was “a nice-lookin’ young lawyer,” said attorney Lloyd Oliver, who knew her when she came on the legal scene. “She had beautiful blonde hair. She was shapely. And she attracted men.”
Men did seem to be attracted to Shelton, but not all of them have such nice things to say. “I think if I’d stayed in Houston, I’d be dead right now,” said Shelton’s ex-boyfriend Ferris Bond in 2003. “I think she would have killed me.”
Accusations like Bond’s have since her early days as a criminal defense attorney in the 1970s. A headstrong young lawyer, she was quick to make herself known in what was then a man’s world. In an interview with “48 Hours” in 2003, she told us one male lawyer said there were two routes for women in the courthouse in the ’70s: to “keep their head down” and “go with the flow,” or speak up and be “eaten alive.”
Shelton didn’t keep her head down. “But strangely enough,” she told us, “I was not eaten alive. I guess I was just too big of a mouthful.”
Several of the might agree that in getting involved with her, they bit off more than they could chew. “It was a little bit like playing with fire,” said Gary Taylor, a former Houston Post reporter, referring to a relationship he says he had with Shelton in 1980. Shelton will not even admit that they were dating. Ferris Bond said that breaking up with Shelton “was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.” He claims she stalked him and burned down his apartment. Shelton denies those claims.
But there are other stories of men in Shelton’s life, men that “48 Hours” can’t interview. George Tedesco, for example, was another ex-boyfriend. He was found bludgeoned to death in his garage in 1979 on the day he was supposed to show up in court in a dispute with Shelton. Shelton says she had nothing to do with it. And another man named with Shelton in a lawsuit was found with a bullet in his head in 1980 from a game of Russian roulette he was playing by himself. Shelton says she didn’t have anything to do with that mysterious death, either.
“I have never killed any human being,” Shelton told “48 Hours” this year. “I have never paid anyone to kill any human being, promised anyone that I would pay them to kill another human being, offered anyone anything of value.”
One woman disagrees. Marisa Hierro is a former employee of Shelton’s, and when “48 Hours” talked to her in 2003, she said she believed Shelton was responsible for the death of her husband, Michael Hierro. He was ambushed and killed with a shotgun in his driveway in 1999. Marisa was there that night and suffered a gunshot wound herself. She said she saw two masked figures — a man with a gun, and a petite woman with blonde hair.
“And I knew it was her,” Marisa Hierro said. “I know it was her. I’ve worked with her. I’ve been in her home. I’ve had dinner with her. I’ve had a personal relationship… I know it was her. Catherine Shelton.”
The two women had a contentious relationship. Marisa Hierro had recently quit working for Shelton and had opened up her own immigration consulting business. Shelton wasn’t happy about it, Marisa says, and soon the two women were accusing each other of scamming their clients.
But Shelton had an alibi for the night of the shooting. Records show that she was on the phone at the time of the murder. She said she was talking to her mother, as well as a psychologist who worked with her clients.
“At one point I thought, well, maybe I did do it,” Shelton said. “Maybe I blacked out and did it or something … and I talked to the psychologist, and I said, ‘Look, maybe I did do it, you know? I keep feeling like so many people can’t be wrong,’ and he said, ‘It’s impossible. I was talking to you, like, when it was happening, on the phone.'”
However, one person didn’t have a solid alibi — Catherine Shelton’s husband, Clint. His DNA was found on a mask in a nearby Porta Potty. He went on trial and was convicted and is still serving a life sentence for gunning down the Hierros.
Marisa Hierro would later sue Shelton for wrongful death. The case was eventually dropped but Shelton would later counter-sue saying that Marisa had falsely blamed her and her husband Clint for the crime and that all of her claims were untrue. Hierro and her lawyer didn’t show up for the trial and Catherine won by default. The ruling? Marisa libeled Shelton by accusing her of murder.
Shelton says her husband is innocent, and the real culprit is Marisa Hierro herself. She says Marisa had been running an immigration scam, taking money from immigrants who wanted green cards and doing little or nothing to help them. Shelton claims Michael Hierro found out about the scam and he was going to expose his wife.
“I know Michael was inconvenient to her,” Shelton said. “She was directly responsible. Even if she did not herself pull the trigger… she made it happen.”
Marisa Hierro denied that she would ever hurt her husband and pointed to Shelton’s history as an indicator of her guilt. “If you look at Catherine now and you see what I know now of her past and all the people that she’s hurt,” she said, “how many people does she do this to, and she points the finger back?”
And there are two additional men who died that have links to her, bringing the total to five. In 1999, a man named Chris Hansen turned up dead and naked, hanging in the closet area of a house that she owned but had not yet moved into. He’d been doing some contracting work at the house. According to newspaper reports at time his death was ruled an accident by autoerotic asphyxiation. And more recently, in 2017, an elderly veteran named Sam Shelton (no relation) died in her home. She said she was taking care of him, and he died of natural causes.
Shelton has never been charged with murder. So, are all the deaths around her a coincidence, or just bad luck? “I wouldn’t say it’s a coincidence,” Shelton told “48 Hours.” She said the deaths make more sense when you consider her career as a criminal defense attorney. “Consider the world that I moved in … I know police officers who know many, many times more people than I did who died, whom they knew. Does that mean bad luck is following them around? Is that coincidence? No, it’s their line of work.”
Shelton says if she could do it all again, she might choose a different career. “I would like to have been a librarian,” she said. “That was what I really wanted to do.”
To hear more about the cases linked to Shelton and her side of the story, watch “ airing Saturday, May 7 at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount+. to watch part 1.
First published on May 6, 2022 / 10:34 AM
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