HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- A judge on Wednesday halted the scheduled execution of a man known as the Houston area's "Tourniquet Killer" hours before it was to be carried out.
Anthony Allen Shore was to be put to death Wednesday evening for the killings of four female victims, but the judge withdrew the execution warrant just hours before Shore was set to die. The judge was responding to a request from prosecutors who want to further investigate an alleged scheme in which Shore says another death row inmate asked him to confess to his crime.
Shore's execution is now set for Jan. 18.
Montgomery County District Attorney Bret Ligon has said that investigators from his office spoke with Shore on Tuesday and he told them inmate Larry Swearingen asked him to take the blame for the 1998 killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.
Swearingen was convicted of her slaying and is scheduled to be executed for it on Nov. 16.
Ligon said Shore told the investigators that 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.
Shore confessed to killing four female victims from 1986 to 1995 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.
The 55-year-old Shore would be the 21st inmate given a lethal injection this year in the U.S., one more than the total number put to death in 2016. He would be the seventh prisoner executed this year in Texas.
The 1992 slaying of Estrada went unsolved for more than a decade. In 1998, Shore received eight years' probation and became a registered sex offender 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 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.
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.
Three of Shore's victims were sexually assaulted. All of them were Hispanic. Shore is white.
"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.