Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Framing of Larry Swearingen, Part 4

This is the tenth post in the series Framing the Guilty, Framing the Innocent. For ease of navigation among the posts, use the Table of Contents.

For a thorough overview of the case against Larry Swearingen, see The Framing of Larry Swearingen, Part 1. To understand how Larry Swearingen was framed with planted evidence, see The Framing of Larry Swearingen, Part 2. To understand how Larry Swearingen was framed by the prosecution-friendly, medically unsound testimony of the Dr. Joye Carter, see The Framing of Larry Swearingen, Part 3. In this post, I will discuss who might have killed Melissa Trotter.

When Melissa Trotter was murdered, there was a serial ligature killer working the area. The police would not manage to capture him until three years after Larry Swearingen was convicted of the ligature strangulation of Melissa Trotter. Had they caught the serial killer sooner, Melissa Trotter might be alive today.

The serial killer, the one who used ligatures to murder his victims, is Anthony Allen Shore. Shore currently resides not too far from Larry Swearingen. They are both in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. They are both on death row.

The Polunsky Unit is located in West Livingston, Texas, just to the west of the Sam Houston National Forest where the body of Melissa Trotter was discovered on 2 January 1999.  The State and People of Texas believe that Larry Swearingen strangled Trotter with one leg from a pair of pantyhose, then dumped her body in a remote area. So convinced are they that they hope to execute him as soon as possible.

Given the rarity of ligature killings, I suggest it is more far more likely that Anthony Allen Shore strangled Melissa Trotter with one leg from a pair of pantyhose, then dumped her body in a remote area, as he was apt to do. I suggest further that DNA testing might prove that Anthony Allen Shore or some other individual murdered Melissa Trotter. The State of Texas doesn't care for the idea of any DNA testing.

Not a bit.

I became aware of Anthony Allen Shore only after my failed effort to save Preston Hughes from being wrongfully executed. Since the evidence showed that Hughes did not murder 15-year-old Shandra Charles and 3-year-old Marcell Taylor, I wanted to know who might have. I was surprised to learn that a serial killer of young women was working the area at the time of the murders, that the serial killer lived less than two miles from the crime scene, and that the serial killer confessed to killing his first victim nearby, two years to the day before the murders of Charles and Taylor.

That serial killer was Anthony Allen Shore. I researched him and wrote extensively about him in this blog. I suspect that he has not yet confessed to all of his murders. I conclude nonetheless that he was not the person who killed Charles and Taylor. They were stabbed, each in the same precise manner; Shore strangled, usually with a ligature. The murders of Charles and Taylor were cold, deliberate, and professional. Shore murder's were uncontrolled, poorly planned, and clumsy. The murders of Charles and Taylor were probably related to drugs. Shore's murders were related to something more primitive.

As I investigated Shore's murders, it occurred to me that he may have killed Melissa Trotter. I wrote of that possibility in my series "Who Murdered Melissa Trotter?", specifically the final post of that series Who Murdered Melissa Trotter? Anthony Allen Shore. I'll attempt to be brief as I summarize that post here. I'll probably fail, at least with respect to being brief.

If Melissa Trotter was murdered by Anthony Allen Shore, she was the victim of a fatally unfortunate string of coincidences. Such is the case of almost all those who fall prey to predatory serial killers. The victim's physical characteristics match those sought by the serial killer. The victim's behavior, while perfectly innocent, makes her vulnerable. Finally, and most coincidentally, the victim just happens to be in a specific place at a specific time when the serial killer is also there, at that specific time, at that specific place, searching for prey.

Shore preyed on young, thin, small women. By his own admission, he was particularly drawn to young women with long flowing hair, dark eyes, a nice smile, and an athletic build. Consider the image below:

From left to right, top to bottom, Shore's confessed victims plus Melissa Trotter.
 Selma Janske (pseudonym)
 Melissa Trotter (possible victim)

At 19 years old, Melissa Trotter would have been neither the oldest nor the youngest of Shore's victims. At 5 feet 3 inches tall, she would have been neither the tallest nor the shortest of his victims. At 108 pounds, she would have been neither the heaviest nor the lightest. Melissa Trotter, tragically, seems to have been the very sort of person that Anthony Shore preyed on.

Trotter's lifestyle also increased the odds that Shore would be drawn to her. Shore believed, with some justification, that women would be drawn to him. Before killing his victims, he attempted to establish a consensual sexual relationship. When quickly or eventually rejected, he used a ligature to forever silence the young woman (or young girl) who shamed him.

Melissa Trotter was sexually active. Based on police investigations soon after her disappearance, she had sexual relationships with at least 18 men. I find no fault in that. I do note, however, that the behavior made her more susceptible to the superficial charms of Anthony Allen Shore. Regarding Shore's charm, I offer several quotes from Strangler, Corey Mitchell's book about Shore:
From Gina Lynn Worley, Shore's first wife: "I was checking the mail in my mailbox and he ran down the stairs all flustered and introduced himself, saying, 'Hi! I'm Tony Shore! I'm the nicest guy you'll ever meet. I thought he was charming. He is a charming guy. He was really a nice, open genuine person." 
From the waif-like Amy Lynch, Shore's second wife, fourteen years his younger: "It was a small ceremony. I was young and naive, and he was really charming. ... He's creative. He's smart. he's talented. He's brilliant and he's charming." 
From the waif-like Shore Pauline Cody, Shore's third wife, also fourteen years his younger. "He swept me off my feet, ... he was very charming. There was a lot about him that seemed attractive. he was really smart. He was very articulate and musically inclined and just opened up my world to a lot of new things."
Shore had already charmed his way into the life of women even younger than Melissa Trotter. Second wife Amy Lynch moved in with Shore when she was still in high school. A chance encounter between Trotter and Shore could have led to a dating relationship that turned deadly.

Melissa Trotter disappeared from Montgomery College. The school is located in The Woodlands, just off the I-45 interstate running north out of Houston. At the time of Trotter's disappearance, Shore was also living just off the I-45, on the 700 block of East 18th Street north of downtown Houston. The distance between Melissa's school and Shore's house was 31 miles.

Shore picked up his last confessed victim, Dana Sanchez, from a convenience store near his home. He drove her north on I-45, towards. Somewhere along the way he strangled her with a segment of nylon rope and dumped her body in a field half-way between his house and Montgomery College. He then continued to drive north, towards and perhaps past Montgomery College, until he found another field in which to dispose of Sanchez' clothes and personal effects.

Not only did Shore dispose of Sanchez and her effects near where Melissa Trotter disappeared, the two bodies were laid out, possibly posed, in similar fashion. So similar is the body positioning that I have decided to show the two corpses as they were discovered. On one hand, I am reluctant to present them. They are gruesome, and there is no way that they cannot be painful to friends and family. On the other hand, a man's life is at stake.

That is Dana Sanchez' body on the left, Melissa Trotter's body on the right. I previously used this composite image in my post on Dana Sanchez to reinforce the argument that Trotter's body had not long been in the forest. Sanchez' body had been exposed for only 8 days. Trotter's body clearly had not been exposed for 25, despite Joye Carter's ever-wavering opinion to the contrary.

I reuse the image here to make a point that only recently occurred to me. Shore not only confessed to disposing of a body near Melissa Trotter's last known location, the two bodies ended up in nearly identical positions. Each was on her back. Each had her right arm raised above her head. Each had her left arm by her side. Each had a ligature about her neck.

Not only does the composite photo provide powerful evidence of Swearingen's innocence, it might provide evidence of Shore's guilt.

A month before her disappearance, Melissa Trotter was trying to extract herself from a horrifying relationship. Whomever she was seeing had begun to stalk her, frighten her, and threaten her life. The police had been told about the stalker who threatened Melissa's life, but they kept that information from Swearingen's defense team. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared that withholding to be nothing more than a harmless error.

I include below portions of a post-conviction affidavit that I presented elsewhere in its entirety.
My name is Lisa Roberts. I swear to the best of my knowledge, the following is true and correct: 
1. In 1998, I was employed at League Line Marina Resort on Lake Conroe, Conroe, Texas. I was working in the phone room or call center. My job was to try to call possible customers and get them interested in the resort. About ten people worked in the phone room at this time, including Melissa Trotter. Robert Graham was our supervisor. 
2. Around November of 1998, Melissa began receiving phone calls that seemed to upset her. At first, she would hang up real abruptly. I'd ask her during a break what was going on, and she'd say something like, "men." I was pretty sure the problem wasn't customers, but Melissa did not say who was bothering her. 
3. As I recall, it was not too long before the time Melissa disappeared, she got phone calls that really upset her. Cora, who also worked in the call center, would patch the phone calls through to Melissa. Melissa broke down and started crying. She said "he won't quit calling." Cora patched another call through, and I picked up Melissa's phone. 
4 The caller thought Melissa was on the line and started saying completely foul things. He said: "You're a fucking bitch," and swore he was "going to choke the life out of me," meaning Melissa. He went on, saying that he was going to get her back for what she did to him. I remember him saying, "I'll strangle you: I'll choke the life out of you. I'm going to fuck you while you die." I started yelling back and he realized Melissa was not on the phone. That was the first phone call I took.
"I'll strangle you: I'll choke the life out of you. I'm going to fuck you while you die." That is exactly what Anthony Shore (nearly) did to Amy Lynch about the time of Melissa Trotter's disappearance. Amy Lynch left Anthony Shore because he nearly strangled her to death during sex.

Later in Lisa Robert's affidavit:
8. While Melissa was working at League Line, this one guy picked her up three times, as I remember. The first time Melissa seemed O.K. about it. The second time he came to get her, Melissa said "Oh god, oh god." Nickie Mains and I confronted her as the guy was pulling up. I said she did not have to get in the car with anyone she did not want to. I told her I'd get my boyfriend. Melissa said, "You don't know what that will do: that'll cause problems." 
9. The night guard would not let the guy past, so he parked on the side of the road outside the entrance. The first two times he came to get Melissa, he parked in the dark. The third time he came to get Melissa, she was scared to death. We told her not to go, and when she insisted she had to, we made her promise to call us when she got home. She called forty-five minutes later. On this third occasion, this man parked in the light and I was able to see him and his car. He was driving a pick-up, full size, and older model, light blue in color. I did not know who the person was and Melissa did not tell us his name. 
10. I know who Larry Swearingen is. I went to school with him. I had at least five classes in junior high and high school with him, including auto repair and a math class. The man who picked Melissa up was not Larry Swearingen. The voice on the phone was not Larry Swearingen's voice.
The police decided that the scary guy who picked Melissa up from work was Robbie Grove, who is Larry Swearingen's cousin. When, much later, Lisa Roberts was shown a picture of Robbie Grove, she identified him as the scary person who picked up Melissa from work that night. It was dark outside, but she said the scary guy was standing in the light. The police dismissed Robbie Grove as a suspect. The DNA on the blood flakes found under Melissa's fingernail did not match Grove's DNA.

Perhaps it was not Robbie Grove that Lisa Roberts saw picking Melissa up that night. Perhaps it was instead someone who looked quite a bit like Robbie Grove. Someone, for example, like Anthony Shore.

That's Anthony Shore on the left, around the time of his arrest. That would be five years after Lisa Roberts saw the scary guy who waited for Melissa outside her place of work. That's Robbie Grove on the right. The picture is from his MySpace page. You need to mentally remove a decade or so from his image for a temporally-unbiased, head-to-head comparison with Anthony Shore.

It seems to me that Anthony Shore and Robbie Grove could easily be confused in the dark. Lisa Roberts may have seen Anthony Shore. I can understand why, when shown a picture of Robbie Grove years later she thought he could have been the man she saw that night.

One of the mysteries surrounding the murder of Melissa Trotter is her location between the time of her disappearance on 8 December 1999 and the dumping of her body within days of its discovery. Someone had held her captive for two to three weeks. During that time, she had been well fed. Beyond the ligature around her neck, there was no evidence she had been bound. Her body showed no obvious sign of injury other than those associated with the strangulation.

Whoever murdered her possessed her for two to three weeks, and Shore liked to possess his victims. From his confession to the rape of Selma Janske:
Hell, I did this, at this time I, it's a sexual union, had something to do with it. The more I'm thinking in retrospect, that it's having to do with possession of a person. Making them ... do ... things.
Anthony Shore had engaged in several behaviors consistent with possessing someone in the fashion that Melissa was held captive.

He left his daughters alone in the house. To insure they did not leave, he installed deadbolts on the doors, requiring keys both inside and out. He glued the windows shut.

He routinely drugged his daughters by putting Benadryl in their hot chocolate.

He bound Selma Janske, Diana Robellar, and Dana Sanchez with duct tape. Such a binding would not leave ligature marks.

On multiple occasions he drugged his first wife, Gina Worley, with Rohypnol, the date rape drug.

On one occasion, his third wife, Pauline Cody, found a suspicious powdery substance in the refrigerator. Shore told her the drug belonged to a friend and that Shore was going to help that friend use it on "a woman they all knew" so that Shore could "take advantage of her." That was the night Pauline awoke to find Shore choking her as he was raping her. She left him after that.

Given his experience with jailing his daughters, binding his victims, and drugging women, Shore was well experienced and well equipped to keep Melissa Trotter captive for several weeks.

The question naturally arises as to where Shore may have held her captive. Assuming he killed Melissa Trotter, I believe I know where. I believe he kept her in his own house on the 700 block of East 18th Street, slightly north of downtown Houston. I realize that Amy Shore was living there around that time, but I wonder if she was actually there at that specific time. I note this paragraph from Strangler, discussing Shore's dejection after Amy left him because he attacked her.
Tony Shore's downward spiral continued unabated. He spent Christmas alone, he had not heard from either of his daughters, and his divorce from Amy was pending.
So neither Amy or either of Shore's daughters was with him around Christmas of 1998 when Melissa Trotter was missing. Shore's daughters had gone to California earlier and would never return to him. I don't know where Amy was, but she was apparently not at home around Christmas of 1998.

Possibly relevant also is what Pauline Shore found when she moved into the house after Amy Lynch moved out for good. Some of the walls inside the house had been recently repainted, and brown paper was on all the windows. Shore explained that he was repainting the house in exchange for rent and that the brown paper was to keep the paint off the windows.


(To be continued)