Catherine Shelton has been dogged by questions surrounding the deaths of various men in her life. She has never been charged with murder. The former defense attorney has been trailed by allegations and headlines for decades. She’s been called a murderer, a stalker, and a crazy lawyer.
“People that really know me know that I’m not that way … who could be and live so long?” Shelton tells “48 Hours” contributor Jenna Jackson. “I’ve never killed anybody.”
The interview is the culmination of a decades-long game of cat and mouse between Jackson and Shelton.
In 2003, Jackson co-produced an edition of “48 Hours” on Catherine Shelton. Jackson and a team of legal experts reinvestigate many of the allegations against Shelton. And there are many. Starting in the 1970s, one of Shelton’s former boyfriends was bludgeoned to death, and another ex-boyfriend’s apartment was allegedly set on fire. A former client who authorities said accidentally hanged himself was found dead and naked in a home Shelton owned. She says she had nothing to do with any of these incidents. She shot another boyfriend in the back. She admits to that but says it was self-defense. And there’s more.
“If I had done a tenth of what has been said about me, I’d be dead, all right?” Shelton says.
“Murder accusations?” Shelton says later. “It’s merely been people throwing mud at the wall and hoping some of it will stick.”
THE CATHERINE SHELTON CONNECTION
After years of playing a game of cat and mouse with Catherine Shelton, I’ve decided to meet up with her again and see if she’s been holding onto any secrets.
But before I do that, I got some help from a couple experts. They’re both “48 Hours” consultants.
Lisa Andrews was a longtime prosecutor. She’s now a defense attorney.
Lisa Andrews: To hold somebody criminally responsible for something, you have to be able to prove it. And thus far no one city, no one agency, no one has been able to even enough almost for an arrest.
And Brian Benken, a trial attorney and private investigator.
Brian Benken: There’s no question, from what we know about her past prior to this, that she’s capable. You know, the question is, you know, what’s the evidence?
Thestarted in the late 70s.
Jenna Jackson: OK, so let’s recap what we know so far … she comes on the scene as a — as a Houston criminal defense attorney. She’s already got a reputation. She’s connected to … her ex-boyfriend, who she had filed a common law marriage suit against.
Brian Benken: The one who did not show up for the court appearance for the lawsuit that she filed. Who was found —
Jenna Jackson: Exactly—
Brian Benken: — beaten to death in his garage.
Jenna Jackson: And that is still unsolved. And we feel like there are so many unanswered questions there.
Jenna Jackson: They all sorta go in a circle here. And then she is charged with shooting another ex-boyfriend, Gary Taylor, a reporter here in Houston.
Brian Benken: Who she actually got convicted for.
Jenna Jackson: And that’s the only thing she’s ever been convicted of, right?
Brian Benken: Right.
Lisa Andrews: … and only got probation.
Brian Benken: Right.
And, of course, there was a second death we talked about. It was Tommy Bell. He was named with Catherine in a wrongful death lawsuit and was later found with a bullet in his head. Investigators say Bell shot himself playing Russian roulette.
Catherine was never implicated in Bell’s death, but it added to her reputation as a woman with a past. And there were other old allegations of harassment, burglaries, and so forth that never got to court.
But now, Let’s move to the next chapter in Catherine’s life.
In 1981 Catherine left Houston and married a small-town Texas boy named Clint Shelton.
His family owned a gun shop and he happened to be an expert marksman. Catherine told us what had attracted her to him when I started covering Catherine in 2003.
CATHERINE SHELTON: He just seemed like a kind of a man of the West-type person.
Clint’s dad Richard didn’t care for Catherine.
RICHARD SHELTON (2003): She’s intelligent. Don’t think she’s not intelligent. And she’s mean to go with it. … She’s a bitch—18 karat.
Catherine and Clint would later move up to Dallas.
She eventually convinced a judge to “set aside” her conviction for shooting Gary Taylor.
After her probation was lifted in 1988, she got her law license back and opened a practice.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003) : What I try to do is get justice for the people who come to me.
Things were relatively quiet for about a decade until a third man’s death had a link to Catherine in June 1999.
Lisa Andrews: So, let’s talk about the next case. … Chris Hansen.
Brian Benken: This— this is where the case kinda goes from bad to weird.
Chris Hansen was doing some contracting work for Catherine in her new home. He was here in the states from Canada.
Brian Benken: It’s our understanding that, you know, she was doing some immigration work for him.
Lisa Andrews: Mr. Hansen was found in a home that she had yet to move into, but it belonged to her. … found … by her husband, Clint Shelton.
Hansen was found hanging in a closet area of the home. He was naked. According to newspaper reports at the time …
Lisa Andrews: It was ruled an accident again. This time, instead of by Russian roulette, it was ruled accident by autoerotic asphyxiation.
Jenna Jackson: In her house?
Lisa Andrews: In her house.
Brian Benken: In her house.
Jenna Jackson: So, have you guys seen those kinda cases before
Brian Benken: Not in—
Lisa Andrews: They’re not—
Brian Benken: — somebody else’s house.
Lisa Andrews: Right. I mean, they happen, but this is pretty unusual.
Hansen’s death may have been unusual, but the next one with a link to Catherine was right out of a movie.
THE HIERRO CASE
Jenna Jackson: So, we’re back in Dallas, she’s working as a defense attorney. … several months after Chris Hansen’s body is found in her house.
Lisa Andrews: And this is a really big one. Sensational, newsworthy. Lots of media coverage, and a big deal in Dallas.
Brian Benken: So, this happened in Rowlett, Texas. And on December the 20th, 1999, there’s a 911 call:
911 OPERATOR: Hello.
CALLER: There’s a lady laying on my front porch that’s been shot twice.
911 OPERATOR: Do you know who shot her?
CALLER: No, ma’am.
CALLER: She’s saying, “Please help me, please help me they’re still chasing me.” She’s saying that somewhere down the way her husband’s been shot .
The 911 caller didn’t know who had shot Marisa Hierro, but Marisa says she knew immediately who was involved: her old boss Catherine Shelton.
Marisa had recently quit working for Catherine and had opened her own immigration consulting business. Catherine, she says, went ballistic. The two women soon began accusing each other of scamming their clients.
MARISA HIERRO: She was threatening me, she was screaming at me.
“48 Hours” spoke with Marisa in 2003.
MARISA HIERRO: She’s screaming, “You won’t live to see Christmas.” I mean, she said it exactly like that.
Catherine denies that she ever threatened Marisa. But Marisa says she was worried — she knew what happened to Chris Hansen, the man that had been found hanging in a home Catherine owned. Marisa says she knew him and claims he had a beef with Catherine.
MARISA HIERRO: He called my office — about 30 days before he had passed. He had told me that … she was taking, like, money from him. … I told him to go to the police. He told me he was afraid to go to the police, because, you know, he wasn’t a citizen. He had Canadian citizenship or something.
Marisa says Hansen had wound up dead not long after. His death ruled an accident. Then, that December evening, all hell broke loose for Marisa and her husband Michael outside their home.
MARISA HIERRO: We pulled around to the back …
MARISA HIERRO: Mike’s about to get out. … all of a sudden, he just snapped over. And he grabbed my arm. And he just said “Oh no.” … So, I look to see what he’s looking at. And he’s telling me, “Just run,” … don’t worry what you hear. Just — just go. Run.”
MARISA HIERRO: And — I could just see from, like, the neck down. I couldn’t see any face. … And I could see someone just cocking, holding something like this. And I know now when I’m looking, it’s — it’s confirming in my head that this is someone holding a gun.
MARISA HIERRO: It was the loudest sound I’d ever heard, because it was so close.
MARISA HIERRO: I mean, you think about it now and you think he should’ve ran him over, he should’ve — he should’ve done somethin’ different. He shoulda pulled forward and slammed into the garage. He should’ve lifted up the garage. He should’ve done something other than get out.
Marisa says she could see two masked figures: one person with a gun, a man; the other a woman, petite with blonde hair.
MARISA HIERRO: I’m running … I’m not even thinking that I can even get fast enough away. So, I stood and I just — I never forget, because I saw — it’s like a fire leaving a gun. … And the only thing I could think of to do, I guess, was lift up my hand.
MARISA HIERRO: I know when I was shot and I landed forward, I landed face down.
Marisa says as the two masked figures stood over her, the woman was giving the shooter orders. She says she recognized Catherine by her voice.
MARISA HIERRO: She said, “Don’t be a [expletive],” to him. She said, “I said do it.” … And he told her, “I — I did. I shot her.” And now she said, “Do it again.”
MARISA HIERRO: When he argued and said, “I did it,” I just heard them, like, leave.
Marisa had been hit — buckshot from the blast tore into her arm and she was seriously wounded. Her husband Michael lay dead in the driveway.
MARISA HIERRO: When the police get on the scene the first things I say … I say, “Catherine. Catherine Shelton.”
In spite of Marisa’s witness account, Catherine was never arrested. She had an alibi. Her lawyer says phone records show that Catherine was talking on her cell phone and then her home phone with a friend and her mother at the time of the shooting.
But her husband Clint was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
Police had found two latex gloves and a mask made out of pantyhose in a Porta Potty on a construction site near the murder scene. Clint’s DNA was on the mask.
Brian Benken: So many people have said, you know, Catherine has this ability to pull people in and to help her. So, Clint’s been married to her for several years, you know, he’s just sucked into this. And, “Sure — sure, baby. I’ll go along with you and shoot your paralegal and her husband. Why not?” I mean —
Lisa Andrews: That’s just incredible to me.
Brian Benken: That’s kinda the way it looks though.
And that’s the way it looked to the prosecutors as well.
Jenna Jackson: I sat through it 20 years ago. Sat through that entire murder trial. The prosecutor’s case was, “Clint did this, and whether Catherine was at the scene or not, she orchestrated it.” He said that. That was his case.
Brian Benken: It had to be his case ’cause Clint had no motive on his own to do this —
Lisa Andrews: Right, Catherine had the —
Jenna Jackson: I agree —
Brian Benken: Catherine had the motive.
In 2000, Clint Shelton was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for gunning down the Hierros. We spoke to him a few years into his sentence.
CLINT SHELTON: I did not murder or attempt to murder anyone. And I was not there that night.
Catherine insisted neither of them had anything to do with it.
CATHERINE SHELTON : I don’t know anything about it.
Marisa would later sue Catherine for wrongful death. The case was eventually dropped.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): This started out to be a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Marisa against me for killing her husband. It has turned into something else.
That’s because Catherine would then countersue, saying Marisa had falsely blamed her and her husband Clint for the crime and that all of her claims were untrue.
The trial was unusual. Marisa and her lawyer didn’t show up. So, Catherine won by default.
The ruling? Marisa libeled Catherine by accusing her of murder. But Catherine was still ready to fight for damages.
CATHERINE SHELTON [testifying in court]: And the worse thing she says in here, this thing says, I’m a coward. … My father wasn’t a coward. My mother wasn’t a coward.
The judge seemed impressed.
JUDGE: I think it was a very well-tried case. Very well explained. Your arguments are well supported.
Guess what? The judge awarded Catherine millions of dollars in damages.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): She needs to find a job. And we hope she’ll stay at it for at least 30 or 40 years because that’s how long it’s going to take to pay for all this.
Catherine was angry at Marisa. And as I’m about to tell you, she would also become furious with me. I got a bodyguard.
CATHERINE STANDS BY HER MAN
In November 2003 I was a little concerned. Catherine Shelton was angry with me — very angry. Catherine’s saga hit national airwaves with our “48 Hours” report:
RICHARD SCHLESINGER | “48 Hours” correspondent: Do you hurt other people?
CATHERINE SHELTON: Well, I don’t intend to.
Jenna Jackson: I thought … she said all this on camera, she had to know what the show was going to look like. There’s all these bodies … At the time, my boss at CBS was really nervous that Catherine would try to kill me.
So, my boss hired a bodyguard to follow me around.
Jenna Jackson: Three months after the show airs, Catherine calls my cell phone, says, “Hey this is Catherine.” I’m like, “Hey Catherine …” I get little butterflies in my stomach at that point. And she’s like, “I just wanted to let you know I seriously considered killing you, but I decided not to. … And I was like, “OK, thank you …” Click!
Around 2012, I left the business, but as it turns out, it hadn’t left me. Catherine Shelton was always there in the back of my mind. I found out she had been disbarred since the last time I saw her, but what else had she been up to? I wanted to talk to her again. So, in 2016 I called her.
Not only did she take my call, but she agreed to meet with me again.
CATHERINE SHELTON: What time is it? It’s 11 o’clock. Too early for mimosas.
It was the start of a years-long, complicated relationship.
CATHERINE SHELTON: … who am I to judge someone’s soul?
I have mixed feelings about her.
I find her smart, wily and at times…even funny.
But she gets very serious when one particular subject comes up.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): There’s a man in prison who doesn’t deserve to be there. His name is Clint Shelton.
All these years later, Catherine is still standing by her man, even as Clint Shelton was serving out his life sentence for the murder of Michael Hierro.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): And everybody who knows him … knows that it’s not him ’cause it’s impossible.
Catherine was determined to exonerate Clint. My curiosity was piqued. I was able to get my hands on hundreds of pages of police reports that we didn’t have access to when we originally covered this story. Over the next few years, I went through them whenever I had the chance to see if there was something that had been missed. The team also took a look.
Lisa Andrews: I think everyone would agree he did not have a motive.
In the end, it seemed that the best chance Clint Shelton had to help himself was Catherine.
Jenna Jackson: Tell me from your experience … if you’re defending him, what’s our best case to say, “Clint didn’t do this, it makes no sense?”
Lisa Andrews: You make this case about Catherine Shelton…
Lisa says the easiest way to get Clint off the hook would be for him to blame Catherine.
Lisa Andrews: You talk about all the crazy deaths … before he ever met her. … And then you paint her as this psycho who gets mad and lashes out in anger.
But that hasn’t happened. Clint has never even suggested Catherine had anything to do with the shooting.
Catherine Shelton (2016): He’s been in the penitentiary … without anything … because he wouldn’t do what they wanted him to do, the prosecutor and the — and the state.
Jenna Jackson: Which was?
Catherine Shelton (2016): Which was, uh, give me up.
And Catherine still swears she wasn’t responsible for the shooting either. But for the first time she shared that she had doubts.
Catherine Shelton (2016): At one point I thought, well, maybe I did do it. Maybe I blacked out and did it … And I talked to the psychologist who worked with my clients, and I said, “Look … 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.”
So, who does Catherine believe was behind the ambush plot? Marisa Hierro.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): She was directly responsible. Even if she did not herself pull the trigger. … she made it happen.
It’s an accusation she’s made before. Catherine says Marisa had been running an immigration scam – basically taking money from immigrants who wanted green cards. Attorneys who represented some of Marisa’s former clients told us she did little or nothing for the money they paid her. Catherine says Marisa’s husband was about to rat her out.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): I know Michael was inconvenient to her … maybe she thought if she got rid of him, that she was really just going places and he knew too much.
We couldn’t find Marisa today, but at the time when we asked her about these allegations she denied them. And she also denied Catherine’s accusation that she was the one who set up her husband’s murder.
MARISA HIERRO (2003): Have I always done the best thing in life, said the right thing, made the best choices? No. But have I ever hurt anyone? No. Would I ever hurt Michael? Never. [cries] Never.
But Catherine says she’s got one more reason Clint couldn’t have been the shooter: the gun.
Jenna Jackson: That is a pretty powerful weapon.
Tony Leal: It is. It’s a scary weapon. It’s not a safe weapon.
Tony Leal: The weapon that was used at the crime scene on that night was a sawed-off shotgun, 12-gauge. They use buckshot.
Tony Leal is a former chief of the Texas Rangers. He knows guns.
Tony Leal: A shotgun is made to spread several projectiles so that when it shoots, it goes out the front of that barrel and steadily increases its width.
Tony Leal: So, when you’re not experienced in weapons, a shotgun is a very good weapon … You don’t have to know how to really shoot a gun.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): He had probably, at one point, 200 guns. … and he was just a very, very good shot.
Catherine says her husband was a marksman and a gun expert. He would never use a crude weapon like that.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): The weapon … was nothing like what Mr. Shelton would have used if he was going to shoot anything.
But Leal says Catherine’s argument cuts both ways.
Tony Leal: But if I was planning a murder that I wanted to get away with … we need to make this look like we didn’t do it. … to throw off investigators. It’s not a bad plan.
We spoke to the former prosecutor on the case, Toby Shook, who is now a defense attorney. He says Clint Shelton is exactly where he belongs, and that Catherine is still considered a person of interest in the shootings. He also says he doesn’t believe Marisa Hierro had anything to do with her husband’s murder.
Catherine’s efforts to free Clint seem like a long shot but since she is talking to me again, I wonder, will she talk about other cases?
Jenna Jackson (reading to Catherine): We’ve got arson accusations, murder accusations, beating, shooting, theft. And who knows what else?
What about Gary Taylor? The ex-boyfriend she shot in the back.
Catherine Shelton: He said, “You know, you and I would both be better off dead.” And I thought, “well maybe you,” you know, “but not me.”
HE SAID, SHE SAID
Jenna Jackson [driving]: Here we go. On our way to pick up Catherine for an interview. … We will see how it goes. You never can tell. It’s always an adventure.
After our reunion in 2016, I met up with Catherine a few more times and she told me bits and pieces about the allegations against her, but I felt like she was holding back.
CATHERINE SHELTON: You know, I mean how could I know that?
But now, in 2022, she told me she has more to say.
Cameraman: What do you think she’s ready to talk about?
Jenna Jackson: I think she wants to set the record straight … And correct some things that’ve been said about her for, god, 30 plus years now.
And after reexamining this case so carefully, I think I’m ready to face her again too. I thought I’d start by asking her about a man she’s never wanted to talk much about — a man she once cuttingly described as an “oyster.”
Jenna Jackson: I know you remember this ’cause you had to hear about it for years and years.
Catherine Shelton: Yes.
Jenna Jackson: Remember the night that everything went down with Gary Taylor? I wanna walk you through what he says happened, and I want you to tell me what happened. OK?
Catherine Shelton: All right.
Gary Taylor is that newspaper reporter who told us about his torrid relationship with Catherine that ended in an ugly breakup. Amongst other things, Taylor accused Catherine of burglarizing his apartment. Catherine did not admit responsibility for the burglary but according to Taylor she did offer to help get his belongings back. When Taylor went to her home what he got instead was a bullet in his back.
In 2003, Taylor walked us through what he says happened that night with Catherine.
GARY TAYLOR: She insisted that I come over to her place and that she would have the stolen goods delivered over there.
After he got there, he says Catherine told him there was something for him in her bedroom closet.
GARY TAYLOR: I looked in the closet and it was empty. I went in to make sure.
GARY TAYLOR: As soon as I got in the closet, the lights went out. … And I heard a gun click.
GARY TAYLOR: I knew she was out there.
Taylor says he looked through the crack where the door hinges were, and there was Catherine.
GARY TAYLOR: And she stepped into the bedroom, and she backed up against a wall and she took a policeman’s position, like this (demonstrates), with the pistol, pointed at the closet. Now I had the door between us.
GARY TAYLOR: Now she looked different than I’d ever seen her. … this was a new Catherine. … and she started— talkin’ to me …
GARY TAYLOR: She said … “Don’t worry about the next life because there isn’t one.”
GARY TAYLOR: And she looked down at the gun … and that’s when I … made my move. And I kicked open the door, I grabbed the chair. I went straight at her with the chair like a lion tamer or somethin’.
GARY TAYLOR: She fired off a round … the bullet came through the chair, and … nicked me right above the ear, right here. And I threw the chair at her.
GARY TAYLOR: I ran down the hallway …
Catherine Shelton: OK, well his version of what happened is bull—-.
Catherine denies even dating Taylor and claims he was only around because he was writing a story about her hoping to revive his career.
Catherine Shelton: I had news for that boy. I did have some passionate thoughts about someone, but it sure wasn’t him.
What Catherine told me was that after a night out drinking, Taylor went to her home for a nightcap. She says Taylor made himself a drink in the kitchen and then came back into the living room holding one of her guns.
Catherine Shelton: I said, “that’s not loaded.” And he says, “it is now.”
Catherine says she tried to divert Taylor toward her bedroom closet.
Catherine Shelton: I said, “those things that you want … they’re in the closet up on the top shelf.” … I thought I could kind of go around him, but no. He has me go in front of him back to the room.
Catherine Shelton And he reaches for this wooden chair to pull it over to get up, you know, it was nine feet. … and I thought, “Now is your only chance.”
Catherine Shelton: And I knew I had another gun under the bed … I just started saying, “Oh please Gary, don’t kill me.” And I went down on my knees, you know, like this [bends her knees]. It was happening contemporaneous with him moving the chair. I reached under, pulled it out, stood up, turned and shot him. Like this. With one hand because that’s how I shoot. With one hand (laughs). Not like this, but turn your body to the side and shoot. As close as you can.
Jenna Jackson: What happened then?
Catherine Shelton: He lifted the chair at the same time … The chair is then rocketed out across the room … because I shot through the chair. And the bullet bounced off his head … And he yelled, turned and ran … And I kept shooting … I shot him out the door!
Jenna Jackson: You chased him out the door?
Catherine Shelton: Yeah. … And the second shot hit him in the back.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): She blew me out through the door and— I was layin’ face-down on the grass outside of her place. … And I was so pissed off.
Jenna Jackson: He says that came two centimeters close to his heart. He nearly died –
Catherine Shelton: It didn’t even penetrate the body cavity all right? … It was in the soft tissue of his back. The fat muscle. … He was treated and released quickly from Ben Taub Hospital that night.
Catherine insists that she shot him in self-defense. By the way, her claim that Gary pointed a gun at her was one she had made before at trial.
We spoke to Taylor recently and he denies that he held a gun on Catherine and says he’s sure Catherine meant to kill him that night.
So, Catherine has told us her side of what happened with Gary Taylor that night, but what about all the other rumors and accusations in her life?
Jenna Jackson: I’ve known a lot of criminal defense attorneys and not all of them have this trail … of in their wake that they’ve been accused of, right?
And she’ll also have to explain the most recent death she has a link to … a fifth one.
Catherine Shelton: Why would I have killed him?
ADDRESSING THE ALLEGATIONS
It’s so hard to pull Catherine into focus. Is she tired of the accusations that have swirled around her for decades?
Catherine Shelton: People who really know me know me, they know I’m not that way. I mean, who could be and — and live so long?
Or is part of her amused by all the attention?
Jenna Jackson (hearing sirens outside): Yup, I hear ’em. The sirens in the background.
Catherine Shelton: They’re here for me.
Jenna Jackson: (laughs) They found you.
Catherine Shelton: They finally located me. It’s taken them 40 years.
Jenna Jackson: So, for 40 years, there have been some pretty crazy accusations thrown at you. Some—
Catherine Shelton: Yes — a few.
Jenna Jackson: — cases linked to you. Murder—
Catherine Shelton: You mean that I knew the people? Yes.
Jenna Jackson: Arson, murder, fraud.
Catherine Shelton: Burning, robbery, general mayhem.
Jenna Jackson: So why? Why are all these things being said about you every which way you go? I mean, have you done all these things?
Catherine Shelton: If I had done a tenth of what I — has been said about me, I’d be dead, all right?
Jenna Jackson: Have you ever murdered anyone?
Catherine Shelton: I — murder accusations? … It’s merely been people throwing mud at the wall and hoping some of it will stick.
Remember, Catherine was never charged with murder but she has links to two men who met a violent end. The first man was that ex-boyfriend, Dr. George Tedesco, found bludgeoned to death in his garage on the day he was supposed to go to court in a dispute with Catherine.
The other man was Michael Hierro, shot to death in his driveway. His wife, who was also shot and survived, had been in a dispute with Catherine as well.
Catherine Shelton: Myself, I have never killed any human being … 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.
As for those other mysterious deaths, there was Tommy Bell, the man who was named with her in a wrongful death suit.
Catherine Shelton: He had killed himself— or shot himself while playing Russian roulette, watching a Clint Eastwood movie.
She still denies that she had anything to do with it, but she did seem skeptical about the Russian roulette story.
Catherine Shelton: Be kinda hard to envision somebody … harming themself, that took care of their body, you know, and their nutrition.
And she also told us she doesn’t know anything about Chris Hansen’s death. He was the contractor who turned up dead and naked in a house she owned.
But why do these rumors follow her around? Catherine thinks the reason may be because she was always known for being a force to be reckoned with.
Catherine Shelton: I had somewhat of a track record of “If you hit me once, I’ll hit you twice.” You know. I was taught to take up for myself. And I did.
But that reputation, she says, took on a life of its own after the Tedesco murder. Catherine says she used it to build her legend.
Catherine Shelton: I played off a lot of that. And — after the first incidence — of the outrage of, like — George Tedesco — people would, you know, sometimes look at me. And I thought, “Well, I’ll just use this to my advantage,” you know? And so, if I’d, like, you know, look at them or something like that or — you know, I’d see that they’d go crazy, you know, or something.
Jenna Jackson: So, you played it up?
Catherine Shelton: Yeah, I did.
Although Catherine insists she never murdered anyone, she does admit to some violence when she needed to defend herself.
Jenna Jackson: But you have done some — some violent things.
Catherine Shelton: Oh yes. And I — I would — if someone put their hands on me.
Catherine, however, says that she’s softened with age … at least a little.
Catherine Shelton: It used to be you’ll only do that once. (sighs) Now — I’m trying to be — you know, follow Jesus and everything a little better. I’m a Catholic. And so now the rule is, all right, you have to do it twice, but then I’ll beat the crap out of you.
Catherine says she wants to put her past behind her. But there is now a new death with a link to her.
The latest case was that of a 70-year-old man named Sam Shelton—no relation to Catherine.
He was ill, she says, and in 2017 he was living in her house.
Catherine Shelton: … he was in pretty bad shape. He was on oxygen, you know? You know, I mean— a lot of oxygen. A lot of oxygen. He couldn’t even move without a tank, a big tank with him.
Catherine says she took him because he was a veteran and had no family around. He didn’t last long.
Catherine Shelton: He lived for — let’s see. After I met him in — in March or April, let’s see. I have to count on my fingers today. May, June, July, August, September— August. He died in August. He only lived five months. And he might’ve lived a little longer, except the storm.
That storm was Hurricane Harvey. It came blasting through Houston that August. Catherine says Sam died of natural causes during the storm. There was nowhere to take him.
Catherine Shelton: And I tried to wrap him up in blankets. … And I thought at least here it’s cold, you know? And – and — he may have to stay here with me in the house, you know, till they can come and get him. So, I didn’t know what else to do.
But it’s what Catherine did next that got her in trouble. She signed his name on a lease application after he was dead to try and rent a house. She got caught.
Catherine Shelton: The DA’s Office didn’t wanna take it at first. And then they said, “Well, it’s only a misdemeanor.”
Catherine Shelton: And um —
Jenna Jackson: (reading) Fraudulent use of identifying information. Felony.
FRAUD DOC SCREENGRAB – credit needed
Bottom line: Catherine is currently charged with a felony and she’s facing trial. She could even go prison for up to 10 years.
Catherine Shelton: I’m not going to prison. I haven’t done anything wrong.
Jenna Jackson: But how are you so sure? You’re facing this case right now. It’s pending —
Catherine Shelton: Well, I can’t —
Jenna Jackson: — as we sit here —
Catherine Shelton: — give away my — my defense. … I mean, it’s not a good case for a prosecutor. It’s — it’s pretty—it — it’s not a thin case. It’s a case that can’t be proven.
Catherine says she has a reason for signing the dead man’s name on that document. She says she was just trying to get a new home for the elderly man’s nurse and her family. According to Catherine, they’d lost their home in the storm.
It’s so hard to sort this all out. And after all this, I still can’t make up my mind about her.
Jenna Jackson: How would you … describe your life?
Catherine Shelton: Well, I certainly never expected it to be how it was. … actually, I would like to have been a librarian. That — that was what I really wanted to do.
Jenna Jackson: Has your life turned out like you thought it would.
Catherine Shelton: Well, no. I haven’t been a librarian. So, it didn’t work out.
Catherine Shelton: I’m who I am, period. … And that’s just how the cards are dealt. … you’ve got to … play the hand you’re dealt. And with a few moans and groans and, you know, m — missed moves, I’ve played the hand I was dealt.
Jenna Jackson: Do you have anything to confess? Have you told us the truth about everything?
Catherine Shelton: Anything that I’ve had to confess, I’ve confessed in the past. It’s done. The confession is done.
Jenna Jackson: But no murder?
Catherine Shelton: I haven’t — not yet, I haven’t (laughs). So anyway, you never know.
Catherine’s fraud trial is currently scheduled for this summer.
Produced by Chuck Stevenson and Gabriella Demirdjian. Emma Steele is the associate producer. Mead Stone is the producer-editor. Ken Blum, George Baluzy, Gary Winter and Diana Modica are the editors. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard and Jenna Jackson are the executive producers.