Numerous men have dropped dead around. She’s never spent a day in jail. Is she responsible for any of their deaths? Journalist Jenna Jackson has been trying to find an answer to that question for years.
2002: A journalist’s obsession begins
More than 20 years ago, “48 Hours” producer Jenna Jackson started researching an infamous Texas woman named Catherine Mehaffey Shelton and got hooked.
Catherine Mehaffey Shelton
Strange things have happened to: an ex-boyfriend found beaten to death, a former lover shot in the back, a contractor found dead and naked in one of her homes; these are just a few of the incidents that have added to the mystery surrounding Catherine Shelton.
Help from some experts
Jenna Jackson enlisted help from defense attorney Brian Benken and former prosecutor Lisa Andrews to sort through the many accusations. Benken and Andrews are both “48 Hours” consultants.
Death 1: George Tedesco
The first death of a man linked to Catherine Shelton was that of Houston anesthesiologist George Tedesco. He and Shelton had once dated, but when the relationship ended, Shelton sued him saying they were “common law” married and she had a right to half his assets.
January 15, 1979: Tedesco found dead
On the day George Tedesco was scheduled to appear in court in a dispute with Catherine Shelton, he was found brutally beaten to death in his garage. Investigators found a tire iron on the premises that they believed to be the murder weapon.
After his death, Shelton broke into the crime scene to get back property she said belonged to her. Among the things Shelton admitted to taking: a TV, pottery, $140 in cash, her driver’s license, and an antique sword. Tedesco’s family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Catherine, but it never made it to trial.
Later on in 1979, a Houston reporter named Gary Taylor who covered the courthouse says he began a relationship with Catherine Shelton.
After a matter of weeks, Taylor says, he tried to break up with Shelton and she became furious. Taylor says she even once put a pistol on her bedside table, he thinks, just to remind him who was boss.
Taylor went to his friends in the DA’s office who were still investigating Tedesco’s unsolved murder. It was suggested that he and his roommate could secretly record Shelton on the phone.
But when Shelton found out that Taylor was working with the DA, tensions escalated further. Taylor’s roommate called Shelton and got her reaction on tape.
On the tape, Shelton is heard screaming, “he’s got to beg for my mercy.”
January 17-18, 1980: Gary Taylor goes to Catherine’s house
In early 1980, the situation turned violent. Gary Taylor’s home had been burglarized. Catherine Shelton did not admit responsibility for the burglary, but Taylor says she told him she could help him get his belongings back if he came to her house.
Once in her house, Taylor says Shelton told him there was something for him in her bedroom closet. Taylor says when he stepped into the closet, the lights went out and he heard a gun click.
Gary Taylor says he could see Catherine Shelton standing in the bedroom holding a gun pointed at the closet. He says he grabbed a chair and charged at her. Shelton fired a round that went through the chair and grazed Taylor above the ear. Taylor says he threw the chair at Shelton and ran down the hallway toward the door.
Gary Taylor shot in the back
“When I got to the door I stopped, I clicked the deadbolt, I opened the door. And that’s when I felt the shot in the back,” says Taylor. Catherine Shelton was arrested. She said she shot Taylor in self-defense.
April-June 1980: Catherine Shelton on trial
In April 1980, Catherine Shelton went on trial for shooting Gary Taylor. The trial resulted in a hung jury, split along gender lines. The seven men said guilty. The five women said she was not guilty.
At a second trial, Shelton claimed Taylor held a gun on her and said she was trying to get away from him. She was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years. However, her conviction was overturned on appeal. Rather than go through another trial, Shelton pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and got probation. She was temporarily barred from practicing law. She would later convince a judge to set aside her conviction.
May 5, 1980: Death 2 | Tommy Bell
Tommy Bell was a former client of Catherine Shelton’s who was named with her in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by George Tedesco’s family – which never made it to trial.
Bell was found shot to death in his home. Bell’s roommate told investigators Bell had been playing Russian roulette by himself in his bedroom.
1981: Marriage and a move to Dallas
In 1981, Catherine married a man named Clint Shelton and they moved together to Dallas. In 1988, Catherine Shelton got her law license back and opened a practice. This period of Catherine’s life was relatively quiet, but that would change in 1999.
June 8, 1999: Death 3: | Chris Hansen
Chris Hansen was a client of Catherine Shelton’s. She had reportedly been helping Hansen by doing some immigration work for him. Hansen was in the United States from Canada. In 1999, Hansen was doing some contracting work in Shelton’s new home she had yet to move into.
On June 8, Hansen was found hanging naked in the Shelton house where he had been working. According to newspaper reports at the time, his death was ruled an accident by autoerotic asphyxiation.
The falling out
Marisa Hierro was a former employee at Catherine Shelton’s law practice. When she left the job, Hierro started her own immigration consulting business. Shelton, she says, was not happy about it. The two accused each other of scamming their respective clients. According to Hierro, Shelton also started threatening her.
“She’s screaming, ‘You won’t live to see Christmas.’ I mean, she said it exactly like that,” says Hierro.
Shelton denies ever threatening her. Hierro says she feared for her safety because of what happened to Chris Hansen. Hierro says she knew him and that about 30 days before his death, he had told her about a conflict he was having with Catherine.
December 20, 1999: Death 4 | Michael Hierro
Marisa Hierro and her husband Michael pulled into their driveway one December night and were met with gunfire. Marisa says she saw two masked figures: a larger person— a man— holding a gun and a petite blonde woman giving orders. Michael Hierro was shot dead. Marisa Hierro was shot in the arm and badly injured.
Marisa told police Catherine Shelton was responsible and that she had recognized her voice as the woman giving orders. However, Catherine had an alibi and maintained that she was innocent.
DNA found near the Hierro crime scene
Police found two latex gloves and a mask made out of pantyhose in a Porta Potty on a construction site near the murder scene. Clint Shelton’s DNA was on the mask.
February 25, 2000
Clint Shelton was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for shooting the Hierros. “48 Hours” spoke to him a few years into his sentence.
“I did not murder or attempt to murder anyone,” said Clint Shelton. “And I was not there that night.”
Catherine Shelton has never been charged in connection to the crime.
December 20, 2001: Marisa Hierro sues for wrongful death
Marisa Hierro sued Catherine and Clint Shelton for wrongful death in 2001. That suit never went to trial. Catherine Shelton countersued saying Marisa Hierro had falsely accused her and Clint for the crime and that all of her claims were untrue. Marisa didn’t show up for trial, so Shelton won by default. The judge ruled that Hierro libeled Catherine Shelton by accusing her of murder and awarded her millions of dollars in damages.
August 27, 2017: Death 5 | Sam Shelton
The deaths of men with links to Catherine Shelton did not end there. In 2017, a 70-year-old veteran named Sam Shelton— no relation — was living in Shelton’s home. She says he was unwell and had no family to take care of him.
When Hurricane Harvey blew through Houston, Catherine Shelton says Sam died of natural causes inside her home.
Catherine Shelton ran into trouble when, after he had died, she signed Sam Shelton’s name on a lease application to try to rent a house. Catherine claims her intentions were good; she says she was trying to get a new house for Sam’s nurse and her family who had lost their home in the storm.
2022: Catherine Shelton in her own words
Catherine Shelton sat down with Jenna Jackson again recently to discuss these cases and to set the record straight.
“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,” says Shelton.
Catherine Shelton was charged with a felony for fraudulent use of identifying information. She is currently facing trial scheduled for this summer.