National / U.S. News

Texas man’s execution halted amid alleged confession scheme

FILE- In this Oct. 18, 2004, file photo, Anthony Shore appears in court at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center in Houston. Shore was scheduled to be given a lethal injection Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, but the judge withdrew the execution warrant at prosecutors’ request just hours before Shore was set to die. His death was rescheduled for Jan. 18. The four killings that led to Shore getting the death penalty occurred from 1986 to 1995. (Steve Ueckert/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A judge on Wednesday halted the execution of a man known as the Houston area’s “Tourniquet Killer” so authorities can investigate an alleged scheme in which the inmate says a fellow death row prisoner asked him to confess to another killing.

Anthony Allen Shore was scheduled to be given a lethal injection Wednesday evening, but the judge withdrew the execution warrant at prosecutors’ request just hours before Shore was set to die. His death was rescheduled for Jan. 18.

“If this was my day, God’s will be done. He gave me another 90 days,” the 55-year-old Shore said in reaction to the execution delay, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman.

Another convicted killer, Larry Swearingen, allegedly tried to convince Shore to take responsibility for the 1998 killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon. Swearingen was convicted of her slaying and put on death row for it. His execution is scheduled for Nov. 16.

Ligon said investigators from his office spoke with Shore on Tuesday and he told them he wouldn’t cooperate with Swearingen and instead chose to expose the scheme. Swearingen tried a similar scheme before his trial for Trotter’s killing, the prosecutor said.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal from Swearingen last October. His attorneys have long wanted additional DNA testing of evidence they say could show he didn’t kill Trotter.

Trotter was last seen in December 1998 leaving a college in Montgomery County, just north of Houston. Her body was found about a month later farther north in the Sam Houston National Forest. She had been strangled.

Shore became known as the “Tourniquet Killer” because of the way he strangled his victims. Shore, who is white, admitted to killing four Hispanic female victims from 1986 to 1995. His confessions came after a tiny particle collected from under the fingernail of 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada, whose body was dumped in a Houston Dairy Queen’s drive-thru lane, was matched to his DNA.

Estrada’s 1992 killing went unsolved for more than a decade. Shore received eight years’ probation and became a registered sex offender in 1998 for sexually assaulting two relatives, but it took five years before authorities made the DNA match tying him to Estrada’s death.

“I didn’t set out to kill her,” Shore, a former tow truck driver and phone company repairman, told police in a taped interview played at his 2004 trial for Estrada’s slaying. “That was not my intent. But it got out of hand.”

Estrada was walking to work the morning of April 16, 1992, when Shore offered her a ride that she accepted.

Shore blamed “voices in my head that I was going to have her, regardless, to possess her in some way.”

Besides Estrada, he confessed to the slayings of 15-year-old Laurie Tremblay, who was found beside a trash bin outside a Houston restaurant in 1986; 9-year-old Diana Rebollar, who was abducted while walking to a neighborhood grocery store in 1994; and 16-year-old Dana Sanchez, who disappeared in 1995 while hitchhiking to her boyfriend’s home in Houston.

Shore’s lawyers told the jurors who convicted him of capital murder in 2004 that Shore desired the death penalty and wanted it to be known, which they said went against their advice to him.

During the appeals process, lawyers appointed to represent Shore argued he suffered from brain damage early in life that his trial attorneys didn’t discover and the brain injury affected his decision about wanting the death penalty. A federal appeals court earlier this year rejected the appeal, and two weeks ago the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case.

Then on Wednesday as Shore waited to be executed at the Huntsville prison, he received word that his punishment was being delayed.

Ligon, the district attorney in Montgomery County, reached out to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, saying he wanted Shore’s execution date moved to allow an investigation into the alleged confession scheme to be completed. Ligon asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a one-time, 30-day reprieve to “prevent” Shore and Swearingen “from perpetrating a fraud upon the criminal justice system.”

Ogg then obtained a court order withdrawing the execution warrant for Wednesday and resetting Shore’s punishment for Jan. 18, which she said was the soonest legally available date.

“It is always the first responsibility of prosecutors to see that justice is done,” Ogg said in a statement. “Shore’s execution is inevitable.”