A judge has halted the scheduled execution Wednesday of Houston's "Tourniquet Killer," Anthony Allen Shore, after he told officials about a scheme in which a fellow inmate asked him to confess to his crime.
The judge issued the stay in response to a request from prosecutors who wanted to further investigate Shore's claim that convicted killer Larry Swearingen asked him to take the blame for the December 1998 abduction and killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.
Swearingen, who was convicted of Trotter's slaying, is set to die Nov. 16. Shore's execution has been rescheduled for Jan. 18, 2018 so that prosecutors can investigate the claim.
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Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said investigators from his office spoke with Shore on Tuesday and he told them he decided to expose the scheme and not cooperate with Swearingen. The prosecutor said Swearingen tried a similar scheme before his trial for Trotter's killing.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal from Swearingen last October. His attorneys have long wanted additional DNA testing of evidence they said could show he didn't kill Trotter.
Shore, who sexually assaulted and killed five women between 1986 and 1995, and was known as the "Tourniquet Killer," is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening.
Shore confessed to the slayings after a tiny particle collected from under the fingernail of a 21-year-old murder victim was matched to his DNA.
His lethal injection Wednesday evening would be the seventh this year in Texas and the 21st nationally. That's one more than the total number carried out in the U.S. in 2016.
The 1992 slaying of Maria del Carmen Estrada, whose body was dumped in the drive-thru lane of a Houston Dairy Queen, went unsolved for more than a decade.
"I didn't set out to kill her," Shore 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 the former tow truck driver and phone company repairman 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.
On Shore's biography on The Texas Department of Criminal Justice web site, the TDCJ said he also entered the home a 14-year-old girl in October 1993 and bound and sexually assaulted her before strangling her to death.
Sanchez was reported missing and her body was found after a caller to a Houston TV station provided directions to a field in north Harris County. Police believe Shore was the caller.
All of Shore's victims, except for Tremblay, were sexually assaulted, according to the TDCJ.
"His crimes were predatory, and his victims the most vulnerable in society -- women and children," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said, describing Shore as "a true serial killer" who terrorized Hispanic females in Houston for years.
"For his brutal acts, the death penalty is appropriate," she said.
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.
The six-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday unanimously rejected a petition that sought clemency for Shore.
"If he had his preference, I think he would prefer to live out his life on death row rather than be executed," Knox Nunnally, one of Shore's attorneys, said.