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“48 Hours” has been covering the controversy surrounding a former Texas defense attorney for two decades. Say the name Catherine Shelton and you are guaranteed to get plenty of stories and opinions from many people in Houston and in Dallas. That’s because strange things have happened to the men in Shelton’s life. Some have suffered bizarre mishaps and misfortune and five men have died. She says she’s never killed anyone, but questions remain. “48 Hours” contributor Jenna Jackson went looking for the truth.
IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS
I’ve heard a lot of outrageous crime stories in my life. But nothing comes close to what’s in these boxes: assaults, arrests, trials, disbarments — records and documents from years of Catherine Mehaffey Shelton’s wild and mysterious life.
But this is also really the story of my obsession with Catherine.
It all started more than 20 years ago. I first met Catherine for a show I was producing for “48 Hours” on the controversy that had surrounded the defense attorney for decades.
In the years since, I’ve met her a few more times and it’s always been the same — she’s coy, even playful. But often, I leave feeling confused. I wonder if she’s not the cat and I’m the mouse she’s just batting around.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2016): I have done a few things. Yes. I do admit that I’ve — well, I’ve never stabbed anyone. All right? … And I’ve never shot anyone with a shotgun.
Is she guilty of anything? Some things? Or is this all a coincidence? I’ve decided I’m going to look into it all again and see if I can dig up any new information. The goal? To meet with her one last time and see if I can get some answers.
From the start, I knew I was going to need help sorting through the allegations.
Jenna Jackson: We have—fraud … elder abuse, assaults, theft, tax evasion, fraud again, criminal mischief, shootings …
Brian Benken: It’s not black and white. But as you can tell from all these pictures and different cases on your table, that’s a lot of coincidences.
That’s Brian Benken, a private investigator and now a defense attorney.
Brian Benken: We’re gonna keep an open mind. You know, no tunnel vision here.
And Lisa Andrews, a former prosecutor. They used to call her “the ice queen.”
Lisa Andrews: But let’s be real here. … there are a lot of coincidences.
Both Brian and Lisa are consultants for “48 Hours.” Like almost everyone in Houston, they’ve heard a lot about Catherine Shelton.
Brian Benken: She’s a legend around Harris County … ‘Cause I almost go back 40 years down at the courthouse. And if you talk to any of the old prosecutors and defense attorneys from back in the day, they know all about Catherine.
Jenna Jackson: They all know her name.
Brian Benken: And they can tell you plenty of stories.
Catherine Mehaffey Shelton began practicing law in the 1970s.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): She was— intelligent. She was very witty.
That’s Gary Taylor. He was a newspaper reporter in Houston covering the courthouse. He got to know her pretty well.
GARY TAYLOR: She was well known around the courthouse because of the reputation she had.… she thought she was smarter than everyone else in the rest of the world.
GARY TAYLOR: I knew that — she was a tough— tough gal.
GARY TAYLOR: She decorated her home with — with stills from old Humphrey Bogart gangster movies.
He’s gonna be a much bigger part of this story later on. But listen to some other memories of Catherine.
LLOYD OLIVER (2003): I dare say probably the prettiest criminal defense lawyer in the Harris County courts. … She just had a vivacious personality, just charmed everyone.
Lloyd Oliver is a longtime attorney and a well-known figure around the Harris County Courthouse. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but we caught up with him recently and he still had some crystal-clear memories.
Lloyd Oliver: She had beautiful blonde hair. She was shapely. And — she attracted men.
Lloyd and Catherine were friends.
Lisa Andrews: How did you not fall prey to her charms?
Lloyd Oliver: We weren’t involved— romantically or physically. … where you can tell that is I’m still here. I’m still around. (Laughs) We’re having this conversation right now.
Lloyd Oliver: Some of her relationships turned — pretty ugly. And … when they said it was over, sh — I remember her saying once, “It ain’t over till I say it’s over.” So, if you were her boyfriend, you had to wait till she got ready to step away apparently.
Lloyd Oliver: Sometimes she would just come un— unglued.
And as I was about to hear, some say you didn’t necessarily have to be romantically involved with Catherine to see that side of her.
Robert Pelton (phone call): Hello?
Jenna Jackson: Hi, is this Robert Pelton?
Robert Pelton: Yeah. Yes, ma’am.
Jenna Jackson: I’m here with Lisa Andrews and Brian Benken.
Robert Pelton: I know ’em both very well. (laughs) They’re both fine, fine lawyers.
Jenna Jackson: They are. Well, they are helping me on a project—about Catherine Mehaffey Shelton.
Robert Pelton: Oh, my God. Oh.
Jenna Jackson: You remember her?
Robert Pelton: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I’m afraid I do. She — she tried to kill me when she was on trial, in trial.
Jenna Jackson: Wait.
Brian Benken: Which trial was she in?
Jenna Jackson: Wait. What?
I knew I had to meet with him in person, so I tracked him down.
Robert Pelton: I remember Catherine Mehaffey well.
Robert Pelton is a defense attorney. He says he was in the courthouse back in 1980 when Catherine apparently had a very bad day. A fellow attorney took Pelton aside.
Robert Pelton: He said, “Catherine said she’s just taken sleeping pills or Valium. She’s gonna commit suicide. Will you take her in the hallway?” I said, “OK.”
Robert Pelton: The hallway was — I mean, the door was right there. There was a very small courtroom. … And all of a sudden, Catherine grabs my tie, and pulls me in, and opens the door— opens the door, and the judge has got a pistol laying on his desk. … And the window’s open on the fourth story of the courthouse building. She says, “You’re gonna die with me.” And she grabbed me, and I think, “OK” — In my mind, I think, “I’m either gonna get shot or fall dead from the fourth story of the courthouse building.”
Jenna Jackson: Oh, my gosh.
Robert Pelton: And of course, I was hollering. And she was hollering. The bailiffs got the door open. I don’t remember how, and got her, and of course I was scared to death, and strapped Catherine down as I remember it, took her to the hospital … on a stretcher, and — come to find that she had not taken sleeping pills.
Jenna Jackson: Do you think she was serious that day? Was she trying to kill you?
Robert Pelton: I don’t — I would hate to think so. … I think she was — had temporarily lost sight of her faculties. … I think she was just scared and acting out. I — I’d hate to think she was trying to really do something bad to me. But I don’t know. I mean, thank God nothing — I didn’t — I never had to find out.
Catherine admits she went to the hospital that day and had her stomach pumped but denies the rest of Pelton’s account and says she never tried to hurt him. But that story was just one of the many swirling around her. And there were darker stories. Perhaps one of the darkest would involve an ex-boyfriend of Catherine’s.
He had been found murdered in his garage.
THE MURDER OF GEORGE TEDESCO
Brian Benken (with Jenna Jackson at crime scene): This one was a pretty brutal one… Right up here by this gate. This is what we believe to be the first case … linked to Catherine.
Jenna Jackson: Oh wow.
Brian Benken: They find him beaten to death in that garage right there.
Jenna Jackson: In that garage …
Brian Benken: I mean severely beaten to death.
The victim was a doctor; an anesthesiologist named George Tedesco. He and Catherine had once dated.
Jenna Jackson (at crime scene): It’s a crazy, crazy murder … and it’s still unsolved.
Brian Benken: Correct … and there’s no statute of limitations.
Brian Benken: His Corvette was missing … but … It didn’t look like a regular robbery. … the homicide detectives thought it looked like something pretty personal.
Jenna Jackson: Personal?
Brian Benken: There was actually — a tire iron there, similar to this (holds up tire iron), that they believe was probably the weapon that was used. … he suffered major — several skull fractures and hematoma. You know, he bled out from the — the beating that he took.
Brian Benken (pointing to photos on wall): These are some of the crime scene photos from that location.
Looking at the crime scene photos I understand why it looked personal, but why couldn’t it be just a robbery that may have turned violent? After all his car was missing.
Brian Benken: He still had jewelry on him. His wallet was still on him. You know, things of that nature that a person who’s robbing you would probably take.
And the other thing interesting about his scene, when people typically— oftentimes, when they’re found dead in their garage, it’s because it’s somebody that knows that they’re gonna be there at a particular time.
The timing of Tedesco’s murder was also curious.
Lisa Andrews: Wasn’t he supposed to show up in court for the lawsuit that —
Brian Benken: Yes —
Lisa Andrews: — Catherine filed against him claiming —
Brian Benken: — exactly.
Lisa Andrews: — they were married? And then he was a no-show on the day of trial?
Brian Benken: Yeah.
Tedesco was discovered murdered the day he was supposed to go to court in a dispute with Catherine. Detectives discovered that Catherine and Dr. Tedesco had been fighting for months. Catherine sued him for half his assets, claiming they were “common law” married. She said they had been together for a little over a year, but an investigator for Tedesco’s family says they had only dated three or four months. The whole thing turned very ugly, with Tedesco alleging that Catherine made threatening phone calls, stalked him and even committed burglary.
Lisa Andrews: There seems to be a lotta rage in this crime. And, so, you might wonder, OK. Was she strong enough to do this? Was she still angry enough at him to do this?
Good questions, and we’ll come back to this case in a second.
But first it’s worth talking about the kind of trouble Catherine had with another boyfriend once they broke up.
FERRIS BOND (2003): It was god-awful. It was god-awful. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through.
This is a lawyer named Ferris Bond. We talked with him when I was first reporting this story.
FERRIS BOND: I wouldn’t wish that on the worst enemy. I wouldn’t even wish it on her.
They dated in the 70s and he says things started out fine.
FERRIS BOND: She was a very pretty, petite little blonde girl … and she was available. … we actually dated probably a period of months.
But Bond says after he saw her get into a fight with her roommate, he decided to get out.
FERRIS BOND: It became clear to me that she had some violent tendencies and— I should try and get away from her.
But he said with Catherine, breaking up was hard to do.
FERRIS BOND: Probably the worst thing was burning my apartment and all of my possessions. … stole my automobile, shot at me with a shotgun.
No charges were ever filed against Catherine. When we spoke to her back then, she denied those allegations and didn’t really want to talk about Ferris Bond. But she did admit she may be too much for some men to handle.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): There are some sorts of men who are really, really offended by me. … I think it’s my propensity to probably say exactly what I think to them at a certain point when — when I just can’t hold it in any longer.
To get away from her, Ferris Bond told us he joined the Marines.
FERRIS BOND (2003): Frankly, I didn’t think that there was any way she’d follow me into the Marine Corps.
With that story in mind, we took a closer look at that Tedesco murder case and started digging a little deeper. We found out that after Dr. Tedesco was murdered, things got stranger fast. For starters, Catherine broke into the crime scene claiming that she was retrieving some property that belonged to her.
Brian Benken: … after they found Tedesco’s body, Catherine and an attorney that was representing her at the time … they actually get a locksmith. They go into his townhouse.
Lisa Andrews: An attorney went with her to do to that?
Brian Benken: An attorney went with her.
That attorney was Lloyd Oliver.
Lloyd Oliver: — she has an uncanny way of … getting other folks — talking other folks into doing her bidding for her. And I’m no exception to the rule. … she talked, “OK, let’s go do it.” So, we went over there, and I walked — you couldn’t get in. So called the locksmith. He lets us in.
Brian Benken: I mean, what— that didn’t raise any flags to you?
Lloyd Oliver: I don’t know —
In a deposition later, Catherine admitted she took, amongst other things, a TV, pottery, $140 in cash, her driver’s license and an antique sword.
Brian Benken: And what would ever make her think that that was a smart thing to do —
Jenna Jackson: Right.
Brian Benken: — to go in there and remove property when a lotta people were gonna think that fin — it’s a financial motive to begin with. She’s already … trying to claim that she’s the common law wife when everybody apparently in his family … said no, they’re not even close.
Jenna Jackson: He was just beaten to death—
Brian Benken: Yeah, he’s just beaten to death—
Lisa Andrews: She just—
Jenna Jackson: —”it was my stuff. I’m taking it.”
Lisa Andrews: She just does what she wants to do, right—
Jenna Jackson: (Laughs) She doesn’t care—
Lisa Andrews: She does what she wants to do. And doesn’t — damn the consequences.
In that same deposition, Catherine claimed that Tedesco was involved in some illegal activity and was allegedly violent with her. But when “48 Hours” asked her about Tedesco back then, she didn’t want to talk about him.
Brian Benken: All right. So … I have to question, if — if she’s upset about him being killed …
Lloyd Oliver: She wasn’t in blubbering tears. I mean, she wasn’t that upset.
Brian Benken: OK.
Lloyd Oliver: She still had her wits about her.
Brian Benken: All right.
Lloyd Oliver: And Catherine’s wits are — she’s pretty — pretty sharp.
There were many lingering questions about the case and for some, red flags. The DA’s Office apparently thought there were red flags, too. So, they decided to secretly record some of Catherine’s phone calls. Her anger at yet another ex-boyfriend was captured on tape:
MAN: Just calm down.
CATHERINE SHELTON (screaming): He’s got to beg for my mercy. He’s hurting me. I’ve done nothing. I’m just trying to get away.
MAN: Well, leave him alone.
CATHERINE SHELTON: Beg me for mercy.
“BREAKING UP WAS HARD TO DO”
So, I promised we’d get back to Gary Taylor. Remember him? He was the Houston newspaper reporter who covered the courthouse and Catherine. He first met her in 1979 after her ex-boyfriend Dr. Tedesco was murdered.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): She was a hot item at the courthouse. She was intriguing because of the mystery of her past and the danger—the danger that seemed to be lurking underneath.
Taylor says he was intrigued, and that intrigue turned into something else.
Jenna Jackson: His relationship with her started because he was covering the Tedesco case, trying to get a story. … So, like many of the men in her life back at that time, they started dating and having an affair, and, you know, lines were blurred, I think, a little bit.
Jenna Jackson: It does seem like it was, like, party all the time back then. I mean, not that it’s tame now at the Harris County Courthouse, but in the ’70s, it’s, like, all these wild parties.
Brian Benken: It was a different atmosphere back then.
Jenna Jackson: Yeah —
Lisa Andrews: Totally different.
Taylor was not shy about the details of this torrid affair.
Jenna Jackson (reading from book): He says, “Our roadmap to the bedroom was marked in scarlet letters from the moment (laughs) we met.”
Taylor even wrote a book about that time in his life.
Jenna Jackson (reading from book): “She also had the hard look of a bad girl, and that played to my weakness. A menace? She just looked like fun to me.”
GARY TAYLOR (2003): I was looking for a little excitement in my life. And she certainly delivered in that category …
I talked with Gary Taylor about this years ago.
GARY TAYLOR: We had a sexual relationship that went on for … about four weeks. … And — then I spent about three months trying to disengage from that relationship—
Catherine, by the way, disagrees with all of that. She doesn’t even admit that they dated.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): I don’t consider him a relationship or anything. He’s nothing.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): … for a couple of months, he followed me around … and— went to court, followed me there.
Taylor told me Catherine came with some very sharp edges.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): She’s— very abrasive, very aggressive. And she can— she can walk into a room and have people— arguing with her in a matter of minutes. … She has a — she has a temper that — that comes out. And she can’t — always control it.
GARY TAYLOR: You know, Tedesco’s name was always coming up … I heard her say this to several people: “You better do what I say. You know what happened to George. You know about George.”
But Taylor says he really saw a scary side of her when he told her it was over.
GARY TAYLOR: It was one night we were — after I told her we were gonna have to break up. I saw her — tear up a — a suitcase … And she tore it all to smithereens.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): The association, such as it was — was broken off with some verbal acrimony.
Taylor says she once even put a pistol on her bedside table, he thinks, just to remind him of who was boss.
With trouble now brewing between Taylor and Catherine, Taylor went to his friends in the DA’s Office. They were still investigating Tedesco’s unsolved murder. It was suggested that Gary and his roommate could secretly record Catherine on the telephone.
But when Catherine found out that Taylor was working with the DA, let’s just say she wasn’t pleased. Taylor’s roommate called her and got her reaction on tape.
Jenna Jackson: And — and you guys haven’t heard this?
Lisa Andrews: No, and—
Brian Benken: We have not heard this.
Lisa Andrews: we’ve been dying to hear this —
Brian Benken: Yes.
Jenna Jackson: So, I’ll just play a couple seconds of this for you.
CATHERINE SHELTON AUDIO RECORDING (screaming):
He doesn’t need to make a fool of me.
God’s sake I never killed anybody in my life. I’ve never really wanted to.
But he’s doing so much to me. He better stop! He better stop!
Now! He’s got to beg for my mercy.
Jenna Jackson: That stresses me out.
Jenna Jackson: And my understanding is back then, the friend of — Gary’s who recorded this then played it — or one of them played it in the press room for all the reporters, and she found out. So, her — her anger at Gary was escalating.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): And I didn’t know how much violence would come down on me, but … she had told me that I had entered — she was very dramatic, overly dramatic. … she liked to tell me that I had entered the “arena of death.”
Brian Benken: I think it made her angry, so mad, because in early January of 1980, she actually shows up at the press room where Gary works with other reporters. And my understanding, just went crazy there —
Jenna Jackson: Ballistic. Uh-huh (affirms).
Brian Benken: — and started throwin’ stuff around.
Taylor says Catherine started stalking him: following him on a date with another woman, approaching and scaring off another. Catherine, however, says that’s not true and he was the one pursuing her.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): I don’t think anything about him at all, except, “Why doesn’t he get a life?
But then Taylor says there was a burglary at his home, and that would lead to what he said was attempted murder.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): (standing in doorway) She was holding the gun on me in a police position with both hands. I just threw the door open … I came at her with the chair. She fired one round.
“THAT BITCH SHOT ME”
The next drama connected to Catherine Shelton happened on a leafy street near downtown Houston.
Jenna Jackson: You guys know, we’ve — Gary Taylor is one of the — the men in Catherine’s life over the — you know, over the years.
Brian Benken: So, it’s my understanding — so at some part, you know, Gary and her relationship start going south.
Gary Taylor says after he and Catherine ended things, someone broke into his apartment and stole some of his stuff.
Catherine did not admit responsibility for the burglary, but Taylor says she did offer to help get his belongings back. A few years ago, Taylor told “48 Hours” about that night.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): She insisted that I come over to her place and that she would have the stolen goods delivered over there.
When he got there, he says Catherine told him there was something for him in the bedroom closet. Taylor walked us through what he says happened next.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): She had told me there was something for me in the closet, so I went back (Taylor opens the door) … 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.
GARY TAYLOR: … heard her coming down the hall and I heard a gun cock.
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 both hands), with the pistol, pointed at the closet. It looked like she was gonna use it.
GARY TAYLOR: She took a position across from me where I could use the door as a shield. And I could still peek out through the jamb here and watch her …
GARY TAYLOR: Now she looked different than I’d ever seen her. … This was a new Catherine. She had a— there was like a hazy look in her eye, like she was in a far-off place.
GARY TAYLOR: I had the door between us. … and she started— talkin’ to me,
GARY TAYLOR: And I remember she said and— you know, “Don’t worry about the next life because there isn’t one.”
GARY TAYLOR: Yeah, and then I thought— yeah, she’s for real.
GARY TAYLOR: And I tried to formulate a plan in my mind how to get out of here.
GARY TAYLOR: There was a chair by the door.
GARY TAYLOR: She looked down at the gun or something, and that’s when I— when I made my move. … I just threw the door open. I came at her with the chair like a lion tamer or somethin’.
GARY TAYLOR: She fired one round through the chair.
GARY TAYLOR: I was … vaguely aware of a bullet coming through the chair. And what I found out later is she fired off a round, a bullet came through the chair, and— nicked me right above the ear, right here. And I threw the chair at her. … I ran down the hallway…
GARY TAYLOR: 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. I was layin’ facedown on the grass outside of her place. … “That bitch shot me. She really— she shot me.”
Taylor says he went to a nearby store, and someone there called 911.
GARY TAYLOR: And they loaded me in the ambulance and … I guess they figured I was gettin’ ready to die or somethin’ ’cause they said, “Tell us who shot you. Tell us who shot you.” And I said, “Catherine Mehaffey … Catherine Mehaffey …”
Taylor says he almost died that night. That the bullet came within a centimeter of his heart.
GARY TAYLOR: If she wanted me outta there, I was running— down (laughs) a hallway on my way out. She shoulda said, “Adios.” You know, but instead she shot me in the back. So, I’ve— I’ve got to— I’ve got to believe that one and one equals two.
The cops arrested Catherine. She told police that night that she was just protecting herself —that it was all self-defense.
Lisa Andrews: There were a lot of facts that weren’t favorable to her, like, he was shot in the back.
Lisa Andrews: They have to explain, you know, why this was self-defense, but yet the victim is shot in the back, that gets kind of tricky to explain, and it gets hard to explain very credibly.
Although Catherine wouldn’t share the specifics about what happened that night with “48 Hours” back then, she did seem to put the blame squarely on Gary Taylor.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): I mean, if somebody had shot at me in their own home, which is really a — a violation of hospitality, I’d wonder what kind of a guest I was to merit that kind of behavior.
For the first time, Catherine was facing a serious charge: attempted murder.
And then things in Catherine’s life got more complicated. As if the Gary Taylor shooting wasn’t enough, a few months later, another man linked to Catherine turns up dead. His name was Tommy Bell.
Jenna Jackson: So many connections. That’s crazy —
Lisa Andrews: The Tedesco, Gary Taylor, Tommy Bell, all of those cases are very intertwined. You really have to pull the threads on all of those cases to make them all make sense.
Jenna Jackson: Yeah. For sure.
Tommy Bell. It was a name I’d come across before, but I had no idea I was about discover some new clues about his very strange death.
ANOTHER CURIOUS CONNECTION
In early 1980, back at the courthouse in Houston, Catherine Shelton went on trial.
Jenna Jackson: OK, so she goes to trial pretty quickly on the Gary Taylor shooting, right?
Brian Benken: Yeah … the shooting happens in January, and they go to the first trial in April of that same year, which is pretty quick.
She admitted she shot Gary Taylor but maintained that it was self-defense.
Jenna Jackson: And what happened? How’d that go?
Lisa Andrews: Good for Catherine, ’cause it was a hung jury.
Seven to five. Seven for guilty. Five for not guilty. And I’m told that it was split along gender lines. The men went with Gary Taylor, and the women went with Catherine.
At her second trial, she claimed Taylor had confronted her with a gun. She was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years. But she never served one day. Her conviction was overturned on appeal and rather than go through a third trial, she agreed to plead guilty to aggravated assault and got probation. Catherine was temporarily barred from practicing law. Taylor says it didn’t matter to him that she didn’t go to prison.
GARY TAYLOR (2003): I actually thought she would be in more agony if she couldn’t practice law because she reveled in this.
Catherine didn’t care to elaborate on any of it.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): I just can’t think of anything to add to it that would make it (exhales) anything more than it is, which is— it was an unfortunate incident, certainly. And I’m glad no one was killed, including me. So, I’ll leave it at that.
But she did share another opinion on Gary Taylor.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): I think of an oyster. Just a— gray, formless substance, shiny but not with what— with polish.
When we asked Catherine why she always seemed to a be in the middle of a brewing storm, she had this to say:
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): I’m in the middle of life, and I’m supposed to work through this and work these things out and do the best I can. It’s not for me to reason why.
But I would wonder why when I learned about another death—the second one that had a link to Catherine.
Remember Dr. Tedesco? He’s the ex-boyfriend who turned up beaten to death in his garage.
A year before his murder someone broke into his house. They stole some guns and art. A short time later, a man named Tommy Bell was arrested.
KENT FERGUSON (2003): Tom Bell was arrested in New Jersey…. in possession of a number of these items, including some firearms that had serial numbers.
Kent Ferguson is a former FBI agent turned private investigator.
KENT FERGUSON: And they belonged to George Tedesco.
Then, after Tedesco was found murdered, Tommy Bell came into the picture again. This time, police wanted to talk with him because they thought he might be connected with the crime. Ferguson says Bell actually knew Tedesco. And as it turns out, Bell was once a client of Catherine’s.
KENT FERGUSON: When the police wanted to talk to Tom Bell about the murder of George Tedesco, she said that he couldn’t— she was not gonna allow her client to speak.
Catherine denies that Bell was a client of hers at that time. Tedesco’s family, however, didn’t wait for the criminal investigation to be over. They filed a wrongful death suit against both Catherine and Tommy Bell. They accused both of them of conspiring to kill the doctor.
But the lawsuit never made it to trial, and neither did Tommy Bell.
Jenna Jackson: So fast forward a very short amount of time, Tom Bell is found dead. … the roommate said he was in there in his room by himself playing Russian roulette.
Brian Benken: You don’t—
Jenna Jackson: Shot himself in the head.
Brian Benken: You don’t play Russian roulette by yourself.
Jenna Jackson: That was my first thought.
Brian Benken: No. No.
Jenna Jackson: Exactly.
But while I was looking through the police files on the case, I discovered something new.
Jenna Jackson: So … there are some investigator’s notes that say the roommate, the one witness in the apartment to Bell’s Russian roulette death, his fingerprints were actually on the gun that killed Bell.
Brian Benken: Oh, wow —
Lisa Andrews: Wow.
Jenna Jackson: Right? So, we tracked down this investigator. He confirmed all of this. He remembers it all.
Brian Benken: So, when they found the roommate’s fingerprints on the gun— what— was he questioned I assume?
Jenna Jackson: Yes. And he said, you know, when he heard the shot, he ran into the room, Tom Bell, his roommate, is on the ground. And he moved the gun out of the way so that’s why his fingerprints were on there.
And wait. There was more according to the investigator I spoke to. He claims the roommate had been dating Catherine. He told me how he found out about it.
Jenna Jackson: … he asked the roommate if he knew Catherine. And the guy goes, “It’s the weirdest story.”
Jenna Jackson: “There’s this — you know, one night I’m on my way home f— you know, several months back and there’s this little Mercedes by the side of the road, flat tire. So, I stop to help her. And her name was Catherine. And we started dating. We — you know, hit it off that night and we started dating.” And I’m like, “What?” (laughs) I mean —
Brian Benken: That’s — that’s nuts —
Lisa Andrews: Another coincidence.
Jenna Jackson: That none of us knew until right now. I mean, this investigator knew it. He said unfortunately while they thought that was a pretty clear connection to all this craziness, they had no real evidence to go forward with.
Catherine told me she didn’t even know the roommate.
Neither of them were implicated in Bell’s death.
In the end it was just another curious, unsettling situation.
It’s been a wild ride — a beating death, a shooting, a tape that some say sounds like “The Exorcist,” an odd Russian roulette death. And one woman with links to it all. A woman who seems to enjoy the intrigue surrounding her and baiting me in particular.
She once even offered me a sample of her hair for DNA in case I wanted to compare it to something.
Lisa Andrews: What?
Jenna Jackson (holds up lock of hair in a plastic bag): Catherine Shelton hair.
CATHERINE SHELTON: When you get to know me, you realize I don’t have any interesting — bizarre, glittering life. Nothing. Nothing. Here it is. This is it. Believe you me, if there was anything going on, I’d know about it. (Sighs) I mean, my biggest thing around here is that I’ve got this bad cat.
Jenna Jackson: I mean— and I’m just gonna say — but maybe she didn’t do any of it … But the reason we — we and law enforcement officers in Houston and Dallas over 40 years can’t connect to her is, maybe she didn’t do it …
Brian Benken: Maybe it’s —
Lisa Andrews: It’s possible.
In the years to come, Catherine’s conviction for shooting Gary Taylor would be set aside, but she would be linked to three more deaths: A young man discovered dead and naked in one of her homes, another man shot dead in his driveway. His wife, a witness, claims Catherine was involved.
MARISA HIERRO (2003) (crying): And I knew it was her. I know it was her! … Catherine Shelton.
CATHERINE SHELTON (2003): Not me. I wasn’t there.
And yet another man died while he was staying with her.
Come with me as I meet up with Catherine again after many years. Why am I doing this? Catherine once admitted she considered killing me. Was she joking? Did she mean it?
Jenna Jackson (driving to Shelton’s house): We’ll see how she is today. I’m a little nervous. I may throw up. Don’t get that on camera.
Will she finally put to rest all the questions about her?
To be continued Saturday, May 7 at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.
Produced by Chuck Stevenson and Gabriella Demirdjian. Emma Steele is the associate producer. Mead Stone is the producer-editor. Greg Kaplan, Wini Dini and Grayce Arlotta-Berner 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.