Linda McClain has always believed that Charles Raby killed her mother. But when she finds out about the evidence concealed at trial, it raises new questions. And she has insight into the death penalty that most people don’t: Charles isn’t the only person she’s known on Texas’s death row.
A quick listener note: This podcast contains adult language and descriptions of violence.
Linda McClain: Well, I don’t talk to reporters as a — I mean, I’ve never had anyone approach me or to talk to me about it. After all these years, people don’t know where people are, and they’re not interested. Why are they interested in this case? I mean, he’s clearly guilty. So nobody’s looking for me to interview me. I haven’t given any interviews to anybody about anything ever.
Liliana Segura: It was just before Christmas 2019 when I got an unexpected tweet from Edna Franklin’s daughter, Linda McClain. This was just a few days after we’d been to death row to meet Charles Raby. And she’d been notified that he had a media visit. Before long, I found myself on the phone with Linda, making plans to meet up the next time Jordan and I were in Houston.
Jordan Smith: This isn’t how things usually go. Reaching out to victims’ families is a critical part of reporting stories like these, but it’s not necessarily the first thing we do. These are delicate matters.
Sometimes the victim’s family wants to talk, but a lot of times, they don’t — and that’s understandable. You’re asking people to revisit some of the most painful and tragic experiences they’ve had. Just bringing it up can be enough to re-traumatize them. This is especially tricky when we’re questioning a conviction.
So it’s not like we weren’t going to contact Linda. What we didn’t expect was that she’d be the one to reach out to us, and that she’d be so willing to talk — and keep talking. We’ve been talking with her on and off for more than two years now, and not just about Charles’s case. We’ve learned a lot about her.
Liliana Segura: But we started with her Twitter feed. In her profile picture, she’s smiling, with the sun on her face. She has long hair and bangs. She’s wearing sunglasses in the shape of shamrocks, along with green Mardi Gras beads. It’s clearly St. Patrick’s Day, and she’s at some kind of outdoor event at a strip mall.
Most of Linda’s tweets were directed at other accounts, expressing her strong opinions about a range of topics. She hates car commercials. She loves Arby’s chicken salad sandwiches. A fan of Kroger; a foe of Walmart.
Jordan Smith: And then there’s true crime. She watches a lot of it. Her last tweets before she contacted us praised the show “Homicide Hunter,” whose latest season was coming to an end. But she also had a lot of complaints. Her biggest beef was that the shows on Investigation Discovery recycled the same stories over and over. She knew these murder cases inside and out. And she wondered why none of these shows looked for new stories to tell — like her mom’s.
Liliana Segura: From The Intercept, I’m Liliana Segura.
Jordan Smith: And I’m Jordan Smith. Welcome back to Murderville, Texas. Episode 6, “Linda.”
Jordan Smith: As much as Linda was open to talking, she often reminded us that she was skeptical about what we were doing. She wanted to make sure that we didn’t misrepresent her. And from the start, she was clear that she didn’t exactly align with The Intercept’s progressive values — at least as she perceived them.
Liliana Segura: In our second phone call, I asked if she thought her son, Lee Rose, might also be willing to meet with us. Lee had lived with his grandmother and found her body the night she was murdered.
Liliana Segura: Have you talked to your son at all about the possibility of talking?
Linda McClain: Yeah, I talked to the one son, who said he wouldn’t mind giving an interview. Then I talked to another son who said to be leery of interviews because of the way people misconstrue things.
And I do know that you’re a Democratic magazine, and I am not a Democratic — they’re completely insane. Those people need to be just erased off the planet of the earth. But anyway, it’s neither here nor there.
I don’t know what your goal is. I think that your goal is against the death penalty. That’s what your magazine is about. Not innocence or guilt. Am I right or wrong?
Liliana Segura: She asked us this a lot. Almost every time we talked.
Liliana Segura: We talked about this last time too. You’re right that Jordan and I are both against the death penalty; we’re pretty clear on that. But we also write stories and look into individual cases where there’s a claim about the possibility of a wrongful conviction, where people claim to be innocent.
I completely understand why your son would be concerned, and why you would feel some trepidation, but that’s something we work through with everyone we talk to for all our stories. We’re not interested in manipulating anyone or misrepresenting the facts. That’s just not how we roll, that’s not what we’re about.
Liliana Segura: In February 2020, we met Linda for the first time at Lee’s apartment in Conroe, Texas, just north of Houston.
Jordan Smith: Hi. Are you Linda?
Linda McClain: Yes.
Liliana Segura: Hi, sorry — Liliana. Sorry to show up with all this stuff.
Jordan Smith: I’m Jordan, nice to meet you.
Linda McClain: Nice to meet you.
Lee Rose: Hello, how you doing?
Liliana Segura: Lee?
Jordan Smith: Jordan.
Lee Rose: Jordan? That’s my granddaughter’s name.
Jordan Smith: All right, there you go. Good choices.
Liliana Segura: Lee lives with his wife, Cindy, and they seem to have built a happy and cozy home. The living room was decorated in soft pastels, with family photos and a bunch of those wooden wall signs that have inspiring words or Bible quotes in loopy cursive. “Grateful, Thankful, Blessed,” one of them read.
Jordan Smith: Lee is tall. He wore glasses and a pink checkered shirt. He sat on the couch next to his mom, who was wearing a bright yellow shirt. Her toenails were painted pink. They were both friendly but, understandably, also a bit guarded. We told them that we wanted to know more about Franklin.
Liliana Segura: We don’t know much about her as a person before all this happened, and we just really want to learn a little bit more about who she was —
Lee Rose: Oh, OK. Right.
Liliana Segura: — before all of this. We definitely want to talk about the case —
Linda McClain: Well, we know who she was after it.
Liliana Segura: Well, we want to — yeah.
Linda McClain: She was nobody. She was dead.
Liliana Segura: Well, we —
Linda McClain: She was somebody that nobody ever even asks about.
Jordan Smith: Well, we want to talk about her.
Linda McClain: After it happened, she’s nobody.
Jordan Smith: Was she from Houston? Is your family from Houston originally?
Linda McClain: Yeah, she was born in Houston. She lived in the Heights when she was a little girl.
Lee Rose: I mean, she’d do anything for anybody.
Linda McClain: She would because she used to always bail my boyfriends out of jail if they’d get drunk. She was always bailing them out of jail.
Lee Rose: You know, she treated all our friends like her own grandsons.
Linda McClain: Well, she treated all my friends like her own sons.
Lee Rose: Yeah.
Jordan Smith: Franklin worked at First City Bank for 25 years. She’d been retired two years when she was murdered.
Linda McClain: She had the same job ever since I was 8 years old. Seven maybe, 6 or 7, 7, 8? I don’t remember how old we were when she went to work for the bank.
She was a proof operator. It’s the person that runs the checks. And they add it all up with a calculator, with the machine; quite sure they don’t do that now.
She told me once, “Don’t ever give to the United Way. You should see the check that they write for themselves to give their parties at the end of their campaigns.” She said, “You should see this check. It’s ridiculous.” I said, “Yeah. You’re probably right.” I never gave to the United Way again.
People shouldn’t be doing that. You’re just making somebody — giving some CEO a Cadillac or a big house, just like what’s his name, Joel Osteen. Oh God, don’t get me started on him. I can’t talk about Joel Osteen, or I’ll go bananas. We’re not gonna get started on him. We’re trying to talk about Buster and how he deserves to be on death row.
Jordan Smith: This was classic Linda — conversations swinging wildly in different directions.
Liliana Segura: She told us that her parents were married for more than a decade before they had kids.
Linda McClain: She wasn’t like your average mother. She was always older. And she was feisty. I mean, she wouldn’t take crap off anybody. And so that’s one thing about her. She could be both ways.
Lee Rose: Yeah.
Linda McClain: She could let you in, or she could kick you out. Just depended on what you were doing.
Liliana Segura: Linda said her father was an alcoholic, and her mother put up with a lot. But also, by her own telling, Linda, and her sister, were a bit wild. Linda was impressed by how her mother dealt with it all.
Linda McClain: So then my sister and I started acting out. My mother — I don’t know what she was thinking or how she could not have thought, “I’m going to go crazy between these two girls.” She put up with a lot of stuff. She put up with all of our boyfriends and crazy shenanigans, sneaking out of the house, all kinds of stuff.
She never lost it, as far as I know. She never did. I’d have strangled my daughter if she’d have been acting like me. I have a daughter that’s 25 — acts nothing like me. I’m like, “Wow. This is what I’m supposed to have acted like.” Like a quiet person, but no.
She put up with a lot of stuff from my sister and from me. We would get in arguments, like normal teenagers, mothers, and stuff do, and it was no big deal. She bailed the guys out of jail if they got in jail or went to the hospital if they got stabbed. I mean, it was pretty rough back then. [laughs]
Liliana Segura: Hearing this helped put into context why Lee spent so much time at Franklin’s house.
Liliana Segura: So when did you start staying —
Lee Rose: At my grandma’s? Oh, I stayed there all the time.
Linda McClain: You stayed there all forever. Yeah, I was out partying.
Liliana Segura: But Linda didn’t live far from Franklin, just a few blocks away. When she was growing up, the neighborhood felt pretty safe. But she and Lee agreed that things changed in the ’80s. Now, that wasn’t just their neighborhood; in that era, Houston was dealing with a staggering number of homicides.
Liliana Segura: What do you remember about the last time you saw your grandmother?
Lee Rose: Well, the last time I saw my grandmother she was — I left the house to go with a friend of mine, and I left the door unlocked because I did not have a key to the door, and I told her I’d be back in a little while, and that was the last time. Told her I loved her and left. And then came home about 10 o’clock and that’s when me and my cousin discovered her, and she was dead.
I was in shock — I don’t know how to describe it. It was just hard to take in. I just walked in and the lights were off and she was in the living room, and my cousin was already there and it was crazy. Probably the worst thing that night, I had to call my mom and tell her.
Jordan Smith: Linda had spoken to her mother just a few hours earlier. They were both at home, watching different TV shows. Linda was watching “A Current Affair,” the half-hour news magazine first hosted by Maury Povich.
[“A Current Affair” show intro]
Linda McClain: Maury Povich was coming on, about the lady who had the asthma attack, after she got out of the prison in Mexico and she died. And my mother was going to watch “Wheel of Fortune.”
I don’t remember if I asked her if she wanted me to come over there, or I think she said that Lee was going to come back and make something to eat. I don’t remember that part. But I told her I would call her back after the Maury Povich show was over, and I didn’t call her back.
I stayed at my house and painted my toenails, and I didn’t call her back, and I didn’t go over there. And the next thing I knew it was 10 o’clock, and they were calling me, telling me that she’d been hurt. That was the last I talked to her. I hadn’t seen her for two weeks before then. It had been two weeks since I’d been over there. I don’t know why. I just didn’t go over there.
Linda doesn’t remember much of what happened before the funeral. The funeral was on October 19, 1992: the same day Charles Raby was arrested.
Linda McClain: There was no eulogies or anything like that at her funeral, just a graveside service. I don’t remember a whole lot of the in-between parts, except for: I picked out a gown for her to wear, and it was blue. She hated that.
And all these years later, I think, every once in a while, “Why’d I bury her in a blue gown? I mean, I should have got a purple gown or a lavender gown. Why’d I do that?” Because I know she’s like, “Why is she putting me in this blue gown?” Anyway, I don’t know why I did that. I have no idea. I don’t even know what I was doing. But we did get that done, which was good.
I remember the funeral and people going that I hadn’t seen for years came, which I thought was miraculous. I’m like, “Holy cow.”
Jordan Smith: Throughout our time with Linda and Lee, the conversation frequently turned back to Charles, or “Buster,” as everyone called him — and why they thought he was guilty. It was mostly because they remember him as violent and an asshole, who’d been run off by Franklin a few weeks before her death. That’s why Lee and his cousin gave Charles’s name to the police.
Lee Rose: The only person I could think of was Buster.
Jordan Smith: Why did he come to mind so readily?
Lee Rose: Because he’s the one that she cussed out a week, two weeks before. And I hadn’t seen him in that two-week period. He’s the only one that’s got a mind to do something like that.
Jordan Smith: The other person that Eric mentioned, that maybe you mentioned, was the guy who had been painting the house?
Lee Rose: Oh, Edward? Yeah, Edward was nothing like that. Edward was totally opposite from what Buster is, totally opposite. Edward doesn’t have a mean spot in his body. Back then he didn’t; I don’t know how he is now, I haven’t seen him in 20-something years. But back then he was — I never seen him get mean with nobody. I don’t know. I seen Buster plenty of times get, pull a knife out, quick to pull a knife out; he always had a knife on him. But I’d never seen — I mean, my grandmother liked Edward. She didn’t care too much for Buster.
Jordan Smith: This generally positive impression of Edward Bangs wasn’t enough for Lee and Eric to completely dismiss him as a suspect. After all, they’d given his name to the Houston Police Department too because he’d been around Franklin’s house, painting the outside.
Liliana Segura: It was during this visit that we told Linda and Lee about the blood evidence found back in 1992: that it didn’t match Charles and that the crime lab analyst had lied about it, saying it was inconclusive. There was also the unknown male DNA, developed from blood taken from under Franklin’s fingernails, which also didn’t match Charles. They wanted to know why no one had tested to see if the evidence matched Bangs.
Linda McClain: So they’ve never DNA tested anyone else? They didn’t DNA test Edward?
Jordan Smith: Well, no.
Linda McClain: They didn’t DNA test Edward?
Jordan Smith: Who?
Linda McClain: Edward.
Jordan Smith: Bangs?
Linda McClain: Yes. They didn’t DNA test him? Why wouldn’t they have DNA tested him then?
Liliana Segura: I know that this is a lot to take in, but it strikes me that your mind went to Edward. Why did you —
Linda McClain: Because he had been painting the house. He was the only other male person that had been around there.
Lee Rose: Yeah. Like I said, I had never seen him get mean.
Linda McClain: I mean, there’s only so many people you can choose from.
Liliana Segura: Franklin’s murder was deeply traumatic for Linda and her family. Everyone seems to have dealt with it in their own way. One of Linda’s sons became a forensic pathologist. Lee said it was because his brother wanted to better understand death. Before Franklin was killed, Lee and his cousin, Eric Benge, both partied pretty hard. But after the murder, things got serious. Eric’s substance abuse was compounded by the fact that he continued to live in his grandmother’s house on Westford Street.
Liliana Segura: What was the impact? How did it impact your family?
Lee Rose: Well, I turned to drugs and alcohol, and my cousin turned to drugs and alcohol for a numerous of years. I think, if he would’ve left the house, if he wouldn’t have stayed there all these years, if he would’ve moved out and maybe rented it out to somebody, he might be still here. But every year around October, he would drink, and he was addicted to pain pills, and he would take pills and drink and just live in misery from what happened. And he just couldn’t handle it.
Jordan Smith: When Eric’s mom died in 2012, it was another blow.
Lee Rose: He just spiraled out of control. And when she passed away, it was like, man, it just hit him hard. That’s probably what did it.
Jordan Smith: In October of that same year, within days of the anniversary of Franklin’s murder, Eric was killed on Interstate 10. He’d taken a bunch of pills and crashed into an 18-wheeler. The whole thing really shook Lee up.
Lee Rose: That was a wake-up for me. I was eating pills too, and that woke me up on that time. I stopped eating pills, but I was still drinking and stuff. And then I quit drinking. I started going to church. I quit drinking. Been going to church ever since.
Liliana Segura: It was obvious that Lee had worked hard to overcome quite a lot of trauma. He’d really turned his life around. Part of that was his faith. But he also told us that part of it was forgiving Charles.
Lee Rose: I forgave Buster. He says he didn’t do it. I mean, if he didn’t do it, he shouldn’t have confessed to it, that’s all I’m saying, but I forgive him for doing it. I mean, it’s the only way I can move forward, if I forgive him. I don’t forget it, but I forgive him, and I don’t want nothing to do with him.
Liliana Segura: When did you decide that you were ready to forgive Buster?
Lee Rose: When I started going to church. You gotta move forward. That’s probably what I’d write him if I wrote him a letter. Well, that’s part of it, tell him that I forgive him, and then, if you didn’t do it, you should’ve never said you did it. I mean, that is a horrible crime to admit to. I just, I don’t know.
Jordan Smith: As we reflected on our visit, a couple things were clear. Neither Linda nor Lee had found any closure around Franklin’s murder — the closure prosecutors often promise that families will feel after a conviction. And while Lee had found some measure of peace through forgiveness, Linda was just not in the same place.
Linda McClain: I don’t think anything can give people closure. The only way I would think you could get closure is if someone was missing and you found them. Either they were dead, or they were alive. That, to me, you might be able to get closure. But it never gets any better. It doesn’t really change.
Jordan Smith: Every year, Linda pulls out the last birthday card she ever got from her mom. And she thinks about how old her mother would’ve been that same year.
Linda McClain: But I can say that, on November 27, it would’ve been her 100th birthday. So I can finally say that I’m absolutely for certain she would not be here any longer. So I can put that part to rest.
Jordan Smith: We followed up with Linda a few days later. We wanted to see how she was doing. She told us she was surprised by how emotional Lee had gotten during our visit.
Linda McClain: I’ve never seen Lee like that. I was like, oh my God, please don’t start crying, Lee. He’s a very emotional person. He cries about silly things. He’s like a big baby. He’s a big baby. He’s always been the one that cried all the time for nothing.
I felt so bad, but what can you do? If I had grabbed him and hugged him, then I probably would’ve started crying and that wouldn’t have worked. That’s what happens to people if you’re upset. Somebody grabs you and hugs you, it makes it worse. It’s like, don’t say anything. You know what I mean?
If you say something to somebody, it makes it 50 times worse. Don’t say anything. Don’t say “I’m sorry that happened” or anything. Whatever you do, don’t say “I’m sorry to hear that.” That makes me so mad when people say “I’m sorry to hear that.” Do you know what that sounds like? It sounds like they’re sorry to hear it. Well, I’m sorry I told you then.
Jordan Smith: As for talking with us again, Linda was skeptical. She didn’t want to be seen as advocating for Charles.
Linda McClain: I can’t fight for him. I don’t want him out of prison.
Liliana Segura: But she also clearly wanted to talk — and was frankly more accommodating than most people are.
Linda McClain: Hello?
Liliana Segura: Hi, Linda. Can you hear me?
Linda McClain: I can hear you, yes, but can you hear me?
Liliana Segura: I think so. It sounds OK.
Linda McClain: I have like a fraction of a bar.
Liliana Segura: Linda told me she was staying at her beach house and got terrible service everywhere except her bathroom. So we set up a time to talk when she would be waiting for the call in her bathroom.
Linda McClain: I’m in the bathroom, and it’s fine because it’s kind of a big bathroom.
Liliana Segura: I reassured her that we weren’t going to present her as advocating for Charles.
Liliana Segura: Like I say, we’re not trying to convince you to do any one thing or think any one thing, but we certainly think you’ve got a story to tell that we think is really important.
Linda McClain: You better hurry, because I’m 66 now and I may be dead any minute.
Liliana Segura: Linda has had a cinematic life, full of wild spontaneity but also tragic losses. She’s lost her mother, her sister, her nephew, and her husband in unexpected or violent ways. She asked if I’d ever seen the movie “Steel Magnolias.”
Linda McClain: You don’t remember that line in “Steel Magnolias”? Truvy says it. Truvy is telling Annelle:
Dolly Parton as Truvy Jones: I have to tell you when it comes to suffering, she’s right up there with Elizabeth Taylor.
Jordan Smith: There’s another piece of her story that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated — one that has forced her to grapple more directly with the death penalty than most people do. It comes into play every time we talk about her mother’s murder and Charles’s conviction.
Charles isn’t the only person she’s known on Texas death row. In the early 2000s, Linda moved from Houston to the Fort Worth suburbs. She’d been living up there about a year when she got a call from a friend back home.
Linda McClain: My friend called me, and she’s like, “You’ll never guess who they arrested for being a serial killer.” And I’m like, “Who? Who is it?”
KPRC Houston: Some breaking news. A 90-day reprieve for one of Houston’s most notorious criminals, the so-called Tourniquet Killer. Anthony Allen Shore confessed to the murders of at least three girls and one woman between 1986 and 1995.
Jordan Smith: Anthony Shore was an infamous Houston serial killer who murdered four people over the course of a decade. He confessed to raping two of them. His youngest victim was 9. He was known as the tourniquet killer because of the homemade garrots he used to strangle his victims.
Liliana Segura: He managed to go undetected for years for a couple reasons. For starters, he was something of a charmer. Linda met him because they both worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. Shore hung phone lines. He had the nickname Telephone Tony.
Linda McClain: We hung around together a lot. We went to lunch all the time. We went out on boats. And he was always, well, everybody else said they thought he was strange. But I never really saw it except he’d make strange little remarks about the way I looked or something. But that didn’t bother me. I didn’t care.
Liliana Segura: But behind closed doors, he was a tyrant. He terrorized his two daughters in truly sadistic ways and ultimately pleaded guilty to molesting them. In return, he had to pay a fine and was sentenced to eight years’ probation. As part of that deal, he also had to provide the cops with a DNA sample. And yet, because of the dysfunction in the Houston Police crime lab, the cops still didn’t connect him to the string of unsolved murders.
Police had found DNA on his second victim, who Shore raped and murdered in 1992. But the lab never tested the sample. In an in-depth story about Shore published in 2004, the Houston Press repeatedly asked why the evidence had never been tested, but police wouldn’t say.
Jordan Smith: That the lab never tested the evidence wasn’t exactly surprising. According to the Bromwich reports, which revealed the findings of the independent investigation into the HPD crime lab, this was a common problem. The lab would get evidence sufficient for DNA testing and then just never do it.
After the HPD lab’s DNA section was shuttered, evidence from that 1992 case was finally tested by a different lab. It matched Shore. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004.
Like many others, Linda was shocked to hear the truth about Shore. Years later, when he was facing an execution date, she wrote him a letter, asking if he’d ever considered killing her. No, he wrote in return.
Before he was executed in 2018, Linda went to Huntsville to visit him. She told us about this when we went up to her home outside Fort Worth, just days before the country went into pandemic lockdown.
Liliana Segura: Hi! Oh, I like your sign.
Jordan Smith: Hi.
Linda McClain: Hi.
Liliana Segura: “There’s always room for one more dog.”
Jordan Smith: Oh, yeah.
Liliana Segura: How are you?
Linda McClain: There will never be another dog.
Jordan Smith: Linda’s chihuahua sat with us on the couch in her living room. There was a collection of snow globes and seashells, a cabinet full of dolls, and family photos everywhere. There was a picture of her daughter on the table in a frame decorated with ducklings and a girl in a raincoat that said “You’re my shelter from the storm.”
Linda McClain: There wasn’t any fanfare when Tony got executed. There was hardly anything, nothing. But you know what? I guess most of the populace knew what he had done. I don’t know.
Jordan Smith: We asked Linda how it felt to visit Shore right before his scheduled execution.
Linda McClain: I was conflicted because it was stupid — because I know what he did, and I shouldn’t have went to see him. If I hadn’t have gone to see him, it probably would have been OK. I could still envision the monster Tony. But when I went to see him, he was joking and laughing, carrying on. He’s like six hours from being executed, and he’s laughing and joking at me. He’s so weird. He was like, “Well, look, if I don’t get executed this time, will you come back and marry me?” I’m like, “Sure. Why not, Tony? What the hell? I’ve always wanted some notoriety. My kids’ll have a fit.”
Liliana Segura: Did you really say yes?
Linda McClain: I said, “Sure, I’ll come back and marry you.”
Liliana Segura: At that point, did you think he was going to be executed?
Linda McClain: Yes.
Liliana Segura: Linda talks about Shore a lot. She’s pretty matter-of-fact about it, even though the whole situation was extremely traumatic for her. The thing that seems to bother her the most is that she never saw him as a monster. She’s never been able to reconcile the friend she knew with the horrifying things he’d done.
Linda McClain: Who did I see? I saw Tony. I didn’t see Anthony Allen Shore, the monster, and it made me so mad. I’m like, “Why can’t you just act like a monster?” He didn’t act like a monster. I could still hear him talking. He’s laughing and joking and kidding around.
I can still hear him joking and laughing on the day of his execution, just like nothing’s going to happen. It’s like any other day. Like, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” It was just absolutely the strangest thing.
Liliana Segura: On the one hand, he did these horrible things. On the other hand, you knew him as a human being. How do you feel about his execution in terms of — do you think that that’s justice?
Linda McClain: You know, it’s hard to say. The reason is, of course, because of Buster. I’m assuming that possibly, you know, it’s conflicting, but there’s — it’s like Tony was two different people, but Buster’s only one mean person. So there you go. OK. Does this two-different-people person deserve to live? If he did live, he should not have ever been able to get out of prison and live. Never! Because Tony was a dangerous person. I mean, he was a total maniac.
Liliana Segura: This is something she puzzles over a lot. She doesn’t know how to make sense of both Shore and Charles in the context of her life. She wonders what she would see if she went to visit Charles. She thinks he’d just be mean. But if he wasn’t? She’s not sure she’d like that either.
Linda McClain: You know, I kind of felt like going to see him with the rule that we don’t talk about her. And I just want to see what he’s like when I talk to him. What is he like now? What is he gonna do? Is he gonna start having a fit? Is he gonna start screaming and hollering? Is he gonna be sitting there nice and just talking to me about the weather? I just want to see how he acts. Will he act like a normal person? Because, I mean, that’s why he got the death penalty. Because he can’t be around people.
But that’s probably what I would talk about, like, how is it in there, and maybe I’d think of something. Maybe just tell him how Lee’s doing or ask him how he’s doing. See if he can go without saying anything or just how he acts — like with my interaction with Tony. It wasn’t like the murdering Anthony Allen Shore. I’m like, “Where’s the monster? Come on.” I never saw that guy, but I did see the monster in Buster, so there you go. Many people saw the monster in Buster, so which is better? To have the monster all the time so you can be afraid, or the one like Tony?
Jordan Smith: What do you think?
Linda McClain: I don’t know. I think the all-the-time monster is where you can be afraid.
Jordan Smith: A few months later, Linda brought up the idea of talking to Charles again.
Linda McClain: I’d like to hear what he has to say. I’d like to hear the manner of tone he uses, because he’s not a nice person. I don’t care what he says to you guys. He is not a nice person. He is not a nice person.
He can fool you, just like Tony Shore. Tony Shore could fool the damn pants off of somebody, and if he didn’t fool the pants off of you, he would rip them off of you and kill you.
I don’t know what kind of charmer he’s turned into, because he’s never been a charmer to me, not like Tony Shore was. But I don’t know what he got on you two, or why you think he’s so sweet or whatever you think he is. He’s a monster. He’s not sweet. There’s nothing sweet about him.
Jordan Smith: This is another of her concerns. That somehow Charles has done to us what Shore did to her. That we don’t see Charles for who she believes he is.
There’s also something else that’s been bothering her: what we told her about the serology work from 1992 that the state hid. That, combined with the more recent DNA results, troubles her. She understands the significance of this kind of evidence. She’s watched enough true crime, including shows about wrongful convictions. But she really doesn’t know what to do with this information.
Liliana Segura: This is another way in which wrongful convictions are so harmful to the people who believed that their loved one’s murder had been solved. The crime and trial are traumatic enough. But when years or decades later people are confronted with evidence suggesting the state got it wrong, that’s a whole other nightmare.
Linda McClain: I don’t know, I think it’s just more confusing. It’s so confusing. I hate being confused about things. And I don’t understand it. I think they made a mistake. Even though they say they didn’t make a mistake. Well, why are they going to say they did make a mistake? But I don’t understand the whole thing. I don’t understand why, where it came from. It does drive me crazy. Don’t think it doesn’t drive me crazy, because it does. But don’t think I think he’s innocent, because I don’t. He is not innocent.
If it wasn’t for his confession, he might not have gotten convicted. If it wasn’t for him telling what he did that day and what he did that night and what he did the next day, he might not have been convicted. He should’ve never said anything. He should’ve just kept his mouth shut, and we would still be wondering who killed my mother. So why did he do that?
Liliana Segura: We continued to talk to Linda as the pandemic rolled on. She’d taken to painting, recreating Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or images of Tom and Jerry, her beach house, and a pelican.
She’d also taken to Twitter to criticize Domino’s Pizza for not taking sufficient pandemic precautions. Her daughter worked there and she worried.
Jordan Smith: After watching “The Innocence Files” on Netflix, she told us, she’d become skeptical of the death penalty. Not that she ever expressed real support for it. From day one, she told us over and over that she really didn’t care if Charles was ever executed.
Linda McClain: I just don’t feel like they’re ever going to execute him because of that DNA. But sometimes, I don’t think they care. I’m sure that there have been innocent people executed, and that is really horrible, but I don’t think Buster’s going to be one of them if they ever do decide to execute him. I don’t think he’ll be one of them. So I’m not too worried about that.
Jordan Smith: Linda said she knows innocent people have probably been executed. She doesn’t think Charles will be one of them. In part, it comes back to the confession.
Linda McClain: Why would you confess after four hours, because they have a girl that you barely know and her baby in the other room?
Jordan Smith: She’s talking about Merry Alice Gomez, Charles’s girlfriend.
Lee Rose: I would’ve been like, “All right, do what you got to do. I didn’t do it.”
Jordan Smith: One of the reasons Linda and Lee don’t believe that Charles was coerced into confessing is that, as they understand it, Charles had only known Merry Alice for a brief period of time before the murder. And they knew Charles’s ex-girlfriend, Karianne Wright, who he’d treated like shit. Why would he be different with anyone else? And why would he lie for a woman he barely knew?
Liliana Segura: As it turns out, this premise was incorrect. It’s not their fault they thought that. Anyone watching Charles’s trial would’ve come away with that impression too. But, as with so many aspects of this case, there’s a lot more to the story.
Jordan Smith: Next time on Murderville, Texas: “Merry Alice.”
Merry Alice Gomez: Wendel helped me to get my stuff and went and got in his car, and I said, “When is Charles coming home?” And he said, “Ma’am, he signed a confession.” And I said, “What?”
Liliana Segura: Murderville, Texas is a production of The Intercept and First Look Media.
Andrea Jones is our story editor. Julia Scott is senior producer. Truc Nguyen is our podcast fellow. Laura Flynn is supervising producer. Fact-checking by Meerie Jesuthasan. Special thanks to Jack D’Isidoro and Holly DeMuth for additional production assistance.
Our show was mixed by Rick Kwan, with original music by Zach Young. Legal review by David Bralow.
Executive producers are Roger Hodge and Christy Gressman. For The Intercept, Betsy Reed is the editor-in-chief.
I’m Liliana Segura.
Jordan Smith: And I’m Jordan Smith.
You can read show transcripts and see photos at theintercept.com/murderville. You can also follow us on Twitter: @lilianasegura and @chronic_jordan.
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