Chicago: Texas delayed a confessed serial killer’s execution Wednesday to investigate last-minute revelations that potentially connect him to another murder for which someone else is awaiting execution.
Anthony Shore was to be put to death for raping, torturing and murdering three girls and a young woman in Houston between 1986 and 1995.
But prosecutors feared he was going to posthumously via a note — and falsely — confess to another murder, for which a fellow Texas death row inmate is to be executed next month.
In a July search of Shore’s prison cell, authorities discovered materials relating to the 1998 murder of 19-year-old college student Melissa Trotter, including copies of court exhibits and crime scene photographs.
Larry Swearingen was convicted of Trotter’s murder and is to be executed on November 18.
“Shore’s possession of these documents generated the remote possibility that Shore had some kind of involvement in Trotter’s death,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement.
Prosecutors believe Shore planned to confess to the murder, in a written note to be revealed after his death, thus casting doubt on Swearingen’s guilt and potentially stopping his execution.
“We remain absolutely certain of Swearingen’s guilt,” prosecutor Brett Ligon wrote in a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“But permitting Shore to claim responsibility for that crime after his execution would leave a cloud over the judicial proceedings in Swearingen’s case.”
Hours before he was to die by lethal injection, a judge halted Shore’s execution.
Now 55 years old, Shore was known as the “Tourniquet Killer” for strangling to death his four victims — the oldest was 20 and the youngest was nine — with an improvised compression device consisting of rope and a tightening tool.
Shore also admitted to a fifth victim, a 14-year-old who escaped after a disguised Shore raped her in her own home and then began choking her.
The killer’s family told the Houston Chronicle newspaper that they expected last-minute revelations of other victims in order to win an execution delay.
“I know in my heart without a doubt that there are more,” Shore’s sister Gina told the Chronicle. “There had to have been other girls.”
Shore was caught in 2003 after police matched DNA found on the body of one of his victims, 20-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada, to a sample he had submitted after being convicted of molesting his own two daughters.
He confessed to all four murders and the rape, and during his trial asked for the death penalty.
In appeals, Shore’s lawyers argued he should be spared execution, because he was brain damaged by a car accident in the early 1980s. Judges have rejected that argument.
Swearingen was convicted in 2000 of raping and strangling Trotter, and dumping her body in a forest.
His attorneys have repeatedly attempted to get DNA tests of crime scene evidence. But prosecutors have refused, saying there is too much circumstantial evidence supporting Swearingen’s guilt.