They took one off the board yesterday

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1/19/2018 2:53 AM
Edited Date/Time: 1/19/2018 3:03 AM

and the freaky thing is that I knew the guy slightly during the period he was an active serial killer. Somehow I missed his arrest and trial, and it wasn't till he got a stay last year that I realized he was somebody I knew from blues jams in the Houston area in the 1990s, a keyboard player. I didn't frequent the weekly jams he went to most often, you usually pick one that fits into your week and become a regular there so that you're a known quantity--musically, anyway. Several women I know totally freaked when they heard what this dude had done, because they'd had quite normal conversations with him.

I talked to him very little because I thought he was obnoxious, frankly. Those jams are a good personality litmus test insofar as you can see who tries to make other people sound good, or is only out to garner adulation for himself. Tony Shore fell into the latter category: it was always The Tony Show whenever he took a solo, with lots of hamming for the audience, and he often brought a cheering section along, which admittedly is good for business, but I did not believe the hype. He never struck me as a deep-dish blues keyboardist who had learned backing parts for different styles of the music, which takes a lot of study to master, same as knowing real backing guitar does; he'd play much the same stuff on anything, just biding time till his solo. I do remember when he started bringing his second wife out to do jam sets with her singing: she was 18 and he was 35 or something and I thought it was just creepy. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, it just looked like a control freak in action. I was not at all surprised to learn that he kept her locked up in their house most of the time while he was at work; their sets struck as very orchestrated things that he controlled. They were trying to get gigs but never got traction and he got arrested for abusing his daughters from his first marriage.

You don't really want to read about that, or what his sister said he was like as a kid. Killing people's pets, etc. But he was famous in their neighborhood as a classroom and musical prodigy, so he got away with all the serial killer warning signs. Nonetheless, he didn't strike me as particularly odd, at least by the standards of the jam scene.

He apparently had taken enough formal music education to sound knowledgeable in conversation in that scene, which stood out in that context, but after being an obvious musical prodigy as a child, instead of buckling down to get into Berklee or the equivalent, he'd wound up a wrecker driver. I don't look down on wrecker drivers, but the guy was reportedly very book smart too, and you have to wonder why someone like that didn't become a professional in music or industry or academia, or at least go into a higher-paid craft like plumbing or climate control.

Obviously driving the wrecker helped him find victims. But I've come to think that one predictor of the criminal mind is having some things come too easy, as a result of talent. Being clever, but not wanting to work hard to apply it, settling for a lower plateau instead. They find a viable way to get by and then devote their spare mental energy to crime, thinking it's clever to steal bikes rather than work to buy them, for example.

Anyway, as often as I see people on the forum wanting to end criminals' lives, here at last is the end of one. A very clever guy who might have done great things in life, but didn't want to do the work. Meeting a serial killer wasn't on my bucket list, but I'll cross it off anyway.


1/19/2018 8:07 AM

Interesting. The article made me appreciate Texas even more after reviewing his history. For the life of me, I can't understand how people look past actions like stabbing pets or ramming a screwdriver in a siblings head and not see a red flag.


1/19/2018 11:48 AM

JRT812 wrote:

Interesting. The article made me appreciate Texas even more after reviewing his history. For the life of me, I can't ...more

I don't think it's a Texas thang; I think it's anachronistic to blame the state, given this guy's age. When he was doing that stuff as a child, I don't think the concept of "serial killer" was in wide public use yet, that didn't happen till the 1980s. I believe it was not until the 1990s that criminal theorists and psychologists claimed publicly that there was only one statistical red flag of advance warning for serial killers and psychopaths, saying that if a kid got caught torturing and killing pets or small animals, they needed to be monitored in the future. I distinctly remember the first time I heard that, which I think was in an article largely devoted to debunking the notion that special psychological profiling units had much success in developing a precise description that could be used to zero in on the likeliest suspect for a series of killings. An expert interviewed in the article said there was only one overwhelming common characteristic of the guys they'd convicted, which was that business of hurting animals--that not every kid who did that became a serial killer or psychopath or violent criminal, but almost every one of those types of criminals turned out to have a verified history of hurting animals.

I was thinking the other day how strange it feels to have lived long enough that I've seen concepts like that be introduced and get past controversy to become widely known and accepted. If it were 1970 again, a lot more serial killers would be stopped sooner due to people knowing things to watch for and law enforcement having developed methods to deal with serial killing situations, but the population of the U. S. has gone from roughly 200 million then to more than 300 million now, so it's still possible for those evildoers to slip through the cracks. IIRC Texas was 11 million in 1970 and almost 30 million now. I got the impression from the articles that Shore was such a star student and popular that people weren't willing to believe accusations against him, or would just dismiss them as one-time mistakes any kid might make, like losing his temper or something. A lot of absentee parents and latchkey kids in neighborhoods where they lived, a lot of changing schools and appearing to be a well-adjusted kid because he'd get on well in new schools due to being a strong student and musician. His sister was afraid to say anything then, I guess, occupied with her own psychological survival.

Slipping through the cracks was common around here during that guy's childhood; he was coming up right during the period of white flight here, when the white lower middle class and white lower class were shifting to the suburbs, being replaced by Hispanics or gentrification--either of which meant there wasn't enough continuity in those neighborhoods for activities like Shore's to be tracked well. You can tell from his bio that his family was scuffling, just trying to make it at all, and part of the initial big wave of divorce and single motherhood in the U. S., before there was a culture for dealing with kids in that situation. Do people even say "broken home" anymore? And most big cities don't have a white underclass anymore. The change in those matters is another thing we take for granted, but I was one of the lab rats that children of divorce were back then, test subjects for working out ways to help. Thank God it's better, although the increase in population means that even if you have a lower percentage rate of a problem, there can be a numerically higher number of examples of the problem now and it may not feel like things have gotten better.

Bottom line for me is that serial killers either exist on the fringes of society where I'm not likely to encounter them, or have developed good enough camouflage to fool me completely. The guy probably would have kept killing had he not been caught for abusing his daughters. Yet some quite intelligent, sophisticated, and worldly people I know had the guy over for dinner and everything, considered him a friend from the music scene. Apparently he might say something strange occasionally in a one-on-one conversation, but in a milieu like the music scene, he wasn't going to stand out as a conspicuously weird person, and maybe he had figured that out. Might be the same for the night shift of wrecker drivers, but I've only known one other, way too small a sample.

I'm not convinced the death penalty is a deterrent, as deterrence is something that is difficult to prove statistically, but with this guy's heinous history, I can see how it's good for his victim's families and his own family for him to just be over, kaput, finished. If someone wanted to forgive him while he was alive, that's truly admirable, but to require the relatives of his victims to have to see fundamental human decency continue to be extended to this guy while they're still wrestling with the impact of what he did to them, or to require his own relatives to deal with the impulse to take care of your own blood when his actions so injured them too, that's too much to ask. If he's gone, he's not going to hurt anyone new; forgiving what he did has got to be easier when you know for sure that he's not going to do it anymore.