Harris Co. judges' adviser admits to lying, keeping evidence secret in murder case

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - An attorney who works for the county and provides legal expertise to Harris County judges hearing misdemeanor cases admitted Wednesday that he lied to investigators and a grand jury, and took evidence from a murder scene years ago and never turned the evidence over to investigators.

Attorney Marshall Shelsy took the stand in the murder trial of William Porter. Shelsy was a defense attorney at the time, representing Porter after he was investigated for the murder of Gerald Oncale Jr. in 1986. Porter was arrested in June of 2014 after the Harris County's Sheriff's Office cold case squad reopened the case.

Shelsy testified that as Porter's attorney he went to Porter's home, found a bullet behind a couch, kept it in a 35mm film canister for more than 20 years before throwing it away and didn't tell anyone the whole time. Attorneys are not allowed to take evidence and withhold it.

When the prosecutor asked Shelsy if he told the truth or lied when investigators and later a grand jury asked him about the situation, Shelsy admitted he wasn't honest.

"I lied to them," Shelsy testified in court. He said he lied to cold case investigators when they first asked him about claims a woman made that she watched Shelsy recover the bullet and later lied to the grand jury for more than an hour before coming clean.

Shelsy testified that he knows removing evidence can be a criminal offense called tampering with evidence. Shelby was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the grand jury in the Porter case.

Shelsy said he took the bullet and didn't tell anyone because he thought he was protecting his client.

"It was my belief that in protecting my client I could keep a piece of evidence. If I was ever asked about it, I would have to release it," Shelsy said. "I thought I was doing the right thing."

The prosecutor then asked him if, today, he thinks he did the right thing.

"No, clearly not," Shelsy said.

The bullet could be key to the case because Porter claims he shot Oncale as Oncale was burglarizing his home. Prosecutors believe the trajectory of the bullet shows Porter shot Oncale as Oncale was seated on the couch. That could call into question whether Oncale was a burglar. Oncale's vehicle was also parked in the home's driveway behind Porter's car, the investigation showed.

Prosecutors called Shelsy to testify in the murder case.

On Sunday, Aug. 3, 1986, at approximately 2 a.m., Oncale was shot and killed inside Porter's home in the 5400 block of Indianola in northeast Harris County.

Porter told investigators that Oncale was a burglar and that he shot him in self-defense. No charges were filed after the initial investigation.

When the case was reopened in 2014, police learned Oncale owed Porter money. Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators say Porter confronted Oncale with a firearm in regard to the debt and shot him, then staged the murder to appear as a burglary.

Have a tip about this case or a story idea for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email him at jlarson@kprc.com or text him at 832-493-3951.

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