“Got a dead female at a Townhouse at 2600 Westerland street off Westheimer.”
“It looks like foul play, the woman been shot, Holland advised the sergeants.
“Alright we’re headed out there,” Allen responded.
The evening traffic was pretty heavy as Sgt. Allen navigated the unmarked police car down Memorial Drive until turning onto 610 South passing through the fabulous Galleria area, zigzagging around vehicles until exiting the cruiser onto Westheimer. Arriving at Woodlake Townhouses at approximately 6:40 p.m.– the Sergeants exited the vehicle and headed up to apartment# 1812. TV news media crews were already there to broadcast a “breaking news” story about the woman’s death. HPD (Houston Police Department Officer) James Walker (no relations to author), briefed the Sergeants on the preliminary findings.
“Apartment manager found the victim when she went to the home to discuss with the victim the changing of floor carpet,” Walker informed the homicide investigators.
The victim was officially identified as Shelia Doll, a school teacher from Illinois who’d arrived in Houston on January 29th to live with her husband. Meanwhile Sgt. Bacon canvassed the apartments, knocking on doors in hope of finding someone who may have seen or heard something unusual. CSU officer G.L. Burke retrieved a fired .25 caliber shell and tagged it as evidence. An examination of the woman’s body kneeling on the chair with her face turned sideways showed she’d been shot in the back near her upper-left shoulder.
With no suspect in custody, Allen and Bacon braced themselves for a real whodunit. But when the victim’s husband Paul Doll, an Enron employee, arrived on the scene the investigation focused in on one person. Doll told detectives he’d been married to the victim for four years and that after four months of marriage they separated for 14 months as result of marital conflicts involving his wife’s dalliance with another man. She arrived in Houston from Illinois on January 29th.
Doll said during his separation he met a woman also a school teacher identified as Christine Larson. Doll recalled having a satisfying sexual relationship with Larson but that suddenly she changed, becoming obsessive, and threatened to commit suicide when he broke the news to her that he would reconcile with his wife.
On two occasions, according to Doll, Larson purchased a weapon and threaten to commit suicide by putting a gun to her head if he ended their relationship. Doll relented, and decided he should at least remain as a friend with Larson.
Sgt. Allen took copious notes as Doll revealed more interesting details. “My wife said prior to coming to Houston that a female called her in Illinois and told her that if she moved back to Houston she would be killed.” On January 31st, Doll elaborated, “My in-laws in Illinois said they received a phone call from a female who told them she was a friend of my wife Shelia and wanted to know when she would return to Houston, and when the caller was told Shelia was already in Houston, the female hung up the phone.”
Doll said the last time he spoke with his wife was around 10:45 a.m. when she told him she was waiting for someone to change the locks and carpet at the place where they were staying. When Doll called back at 11:30 a.m., his wife didn’t answer the phone.
Doll admitted he accused Larson of making the calls to his in-laws and that the only way she got the Illinois numbers was when she used the key he previously gave her when they were together, and by having the key this is how she entered his apartment while he was gone. The house key matter explained why Doll had requested apartment manager to change the locks on his residence.
Allen and Bacon received another lead when the apartment’s maintenance worker Carlos Ariaza said shortly before noon that day he saw a woman on the property that he knew by sight as Christine Larson, Paul Doll’s girlfriend. “I thought it was strange that Larson was going to the front of the apartments instead of the rear because most residents entered through the back where parking spaces are.”
Ariaza said the last time he saw Larson was when he was headed to lunch in his car and that he saw Larson turned off on Westheimer onto Jeanetta street. To expedite the investigation, Lieutenant Holland assigned Homicide Sergeant investigators Steve Garza and John Castillo (now deceased) to pay a visit to the home of Christine Larson who lived at 7302 Alabonson street–apartment# 1002. Their routine game plan was to cordially ask the woman to accompany them back to police station where Garza and Castillo would question Miss Larson about the murder of Shelia Doll.
Upon arrival at the suspect’s apartment both officers politely introduced themselves to Christine Larson when she answered the door. Both sergeants explained the urgency to speak with her about what happened to her lover’s wife.
“Shelia Doll was killed today and we need to talk with you about it,” Garza explained.
Larson voluntarily agreed to accompany the murder squad sergeants back to homicide division located downtown Houston at 61 Riesner Street. Arriving at downtown station shortly before 10:p.m., the suspect was escorted to room# 363A. Prior to interviewing Larson, Sgt. Garza issued a miranda warning explaining her right to remain silent if she wished to do so. Garza already knew the dynamics behind the relationship the suspect once had with the murdered woman’s husband Paul Doll, and the fact Larson threatened suicide to blackmail Doll into not breaking off the turbulent affair. With no eyewitness to the crime, no murder weapon, and no physical evidence to put Larson inside the house, Garza needed a confession. Or even if the suspect gave a self-serving incriminating statement this also would suffice to file charges. “I have nothing to hide,” Larson said.
During interview Larson denied killing Shelia Doll but she fondly recalled how she first met Paul Doll back in November 1987. “It was love at first sight,” Larson spoke in a monotone voice. Paul would make remarks inferring that someday we would be married and that he loved me.” She acknowledged Paul being separated from his wife Shelia and that Shelia had returned to Illinois after the separation. Larson said the victim cheated on Paul and the couple split up.
Larson and Paul Doll lived together periodically at Paul Doll’s townhouse during his separation from his wife. Recalling how the relationship between herself and Doll went sour, Larson said she was so despondent over Paul’s intent to break off their relationship to reunite with his wife until she purchased a weapon and threatened to kill herself at the home of Paul Doll’s mother. Paul eventually convinced Larson to put the gun down, asking her to please return the gun back to the store where she purchased it from.
“What kind of gun was it?” Garza asked skeptically.
“It was a small type gun,” Larson replied. “A few weeks later we had another bad argument and I purchased a second gun from a different gun shop,” Larson pointed out.
“I was really going to kill myself this time–and I went through a long period of depression,” she added as if she wanted Garza and Castillo to believe they were her confidant. For a second time, Larson said, her lover Paul Doll coaxed her to put the gun down.
Although Larson’s love affair with Paul cooled off still they continued to spend time together and have sex. Doll would later testify in court that Larson would drive him to the airport so he could catch a flight to Illinois to visit his estranged wife. Larson insisted she had not been nowhere near Shelia Doll when she was murdered. But Garza knew she lied because a witness had already informed Sgt. Waymon Allen that he saw Larson on the property before noon.
Garza played the game to trap Larson in more lies. Larson gave an alibi to prove she was not the killer. “This morning I went to school at Carr Elementary to get everything ready for the kids.”
Claiming stomach cramps forced her to leave early Larson said she returned to her apartment and later had the apartment manager to change her door lock. Next, she said she went to Houston’s Northwest Mall where she walked around, window shopping; then, she went to the home of Paul Doll’s mother to have lunch. Leaving there Larson visited a friend’s business place on Pinemont Street.
From there Larson further said she went to Willowbrook Mall to visit a friend at Zales’s Jewelry, a store where Larson also worked part-time. “I returned to my apartment to wait for a friend named Robert to arrive when you all came,” Larson stated. Garza pressed Larson about the second gun she purchased, asking her pointedly, “What kind of gun it was?” And, “where did she throw it to get rid of it?” Despite remembering specific dates, locations, and exact times she interacted with Paul Doll and other people, yet she feigned ignorance as to when she purchased the second gun, what caliber it was, and where she disposed it.
Sgt. Castillo took over the interview after questioning Paul Doll some more. Castillo said Doll remembered the first gun as a .38 and the second one as a .25. A .25 shell casing was found at the murder scene. Castillo pointed out Larson’s inconsistencies in her statement to Garza. He reminded her that a witness saw her on the property where the homicide took place around noon or shortly before. Larson’s eyes widened in surprise upon hearing she’d been spotted on Doll’s premises when she previously denied that she had not been there. “A witness saw you, he knows you from being there with Mr. Doll,” Castillo said. He also told Larson she’d been seen with a small caliber pistol similar to the one used to kill the woman.
“You need to get your business straight,” Castillo warned Larson.
“We know you first bought a .38 and then you bought a .25 caliber. “If you had an argument or a fight with the woman that caused you to shoot her, you need to tell us.”
Castillo went on to tell the woman that if they proved she first burglarized the house by using a key and then shot the woman, he said, “you could be looking at capital murder,” he warned her. The penalty for capital murder carried automatic life in prison or a death sentence. If a first-degree murder charge was filed against Larson the penalty carried less as five years and up to life in prison. A person with no prior felonies like Larson even qualified for probation under Texas law written at that time.
Castillo’s psychology worked. Christine Larson had another story to tell.
“I haven’t told the whole story. I want to tell the truth now,” Larson spoke tearfully. “After I left work this morning I went home to change my clothes and to have my door locks changed. Then I went over to Paul’s apartment.
“At first I walked around the front door to see if Shelia was watching TV in the front room. But I couldn’t see inside. Then I went around to the back door where the parking area is. I rang the doorbell and then put my finger over the peep hole so she couldn’t see.”
Larson’s story indicated when Shelia Doll opened the door, a wave of fear gripped the targeted victim when she saw this desperate looking woman standing there. Before Shelia closed the door, Larson pushed it open. “You must be Chris,” Larson recalled the woman saying. “And I said,” you must be Shelia.” Larson Continued. “I already had the gun in my hand and I asked her where Paul was, and she said upstairs. I know he wasn’t because I already talked to him at work.”
Larson’s versions of events further indicated that when the woman turned to go back into the apartment a shouting match between them erupted as the two struggled over the gun. As both women pulled on the gun Larson explained, the gun went off. Larson excitedly said she didn’t know if the bullet struck the woman because she ran through the living room, opened the patio door and felled on a chair.
“She was still breathing, I tried to talk to her but she didn’t say anything. I walked over to where she was and I could see all the blood on the chair.”
Next, suspect Larson described her exit strategy. “I locked the door that I came in, then went back out the patio door to make it look like somebody else committed the crime.” Trying to downplay the cold-blooded murder she committed, Larson offered this self-serving version.
“I thought if I had the gun in my hand that I could get her to talk without fighting. I didn’t want her (Shelia) to hurt Paul anymore–like she had the first time she left him. I love Paul.
“I didn’t tell the truth because I was scared; I’ve never done anything like this in my life.”
According to criminal investigative experts most killers usually give police self-serving statements to make their bad act appear not as bad as it seem. Or in many cases if there is a shooting similar like Larson’s case usually the suspect will claim self-defense or the gun accidentally went off. After studying the facts in Larson’s case, J.C. Mosier, a retired former city of Houston-Texas Homicide detective, said.
“Suspect in this case definitely gave a self-serving statement . It’s kind of hard to claim that during the struggle the suspect shot the victim in her back accidentally.”
“Guilty suspects want to make an intentional shooting look like an accident so they don’t get charged with murder,” Mosier said. Johnny Bonds, also a former Houston city homicide detective explained why it benefit an officer for a suspect to give a self-serving statement.
“Anytime(like in the Larson case) that you can get a suspect to talk it is a good thing even if the suspect tells a self-serving lie. In this case the suspect(Larson) admits the shooting; so this saves an officer from having to prove who did it. and the more lies they tell, the more you prove they’re lying.” Bonds continued.
“Best thing a guilty person can do is say nothing but most of them think they can talk their way out of it.” As a retired Lieutenant criminal police investigator with Harris County District Attorney office, Bonds, once the subject of a best-selling book, The Cop Who Wouldn’t Quit, can now be seen working true life cold case murder cases on TNT’s blockbusting reality show Cold Justice.
Obsessive Love And Murder
Following Christine Larson’s first-degree murder charge arrest in Shelia Doll’s death, the lurid details of marathon sex, obsession, undying love, and Larson’s suicidal blackmails against her lover Paul Doll, the dead woman’s husband, all the drama exploded into a media sensation.
Front page news and TV coverage dominated the story prime time. News reporters dubbed the case a true life “Houston’s Fatal Attraction Murder.”Fatal attraction stories like Christine Larson’s involvement with Paul Doll, a married man, swept the nation during the 1980′s following the popular blockbusting movie Fatal Attraction. Released in 1987, actors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close played the star roles that highlighted the extreme danger of marital affairs. Like the characters in the Fatal Attraction movie, Paul Doll and Christine Larson first met at a social club atmosphere.
“It was love at first sight,” Larson lamented to homicide investigators. Fatal attraction stories are a common occurrence among people. It is the oldest form of violence and jealously when a person desire to control another person’s life. Fatal attraction stories are common occurrences among people whose desire to control another person’s life.
According to psychiatrists, killers who murder in this fashion are in fact psychopaths, unable to accept rejection. They usually claim they kill out of an intense love similar to the Shakespeare’s Sonnets. “Rejection is the trigger of toxic and obsessive love,” according to Melanie Canie. Canie is the author of a book Poisoned Love. “People with obsessive love disorder between only the person they fixate on can make them feel happy and fulfilled,” Canie further says.
“The obsessed is trying to hook you into loving them, but their concept of love is control–and you will end up feeling like you are on a scary, twisted ride if you join them, says Mary Jo Rapini, a Texas-based psychiatrist in Houston. “Christine Larson tried everything to hold onto this relationship including threatening suicide.”
When this ploy didn’t work her final weapon was murder. Author Gloria Lee wrote in her spiritual book You Are the Prophet Of Your Life. Psychological assessments of Larson’s actions towards Paul Doll has a large degree of accuracy particularly when he rejected her and telling her he wanted to reunite with his wife. Author Lee further wrote, “the greatest illusion in the world held by women is ‘I can supplant the wife by using sex’.” Still the million dollar question is: why would a woman like Larson persist in a relationship where she is the third party?
Author Lee’s book explains it this way. “It took a woman with low-self esteem with the sense of competition pure and simple. I am going to be the winner.” Psychological assessments of Larson’s actions towards Paul Doll when he rejected her, but still he continually had sex with Christine Larson, although Mr. Doll already told Larson he would reconcile with his wife Shelia.
Efforts to bring capital murder charges against Larson shifted in high gear due to the unclear statement she made indicating how she entered the home. There was also the question of the exact position the victim was in to sustain a gunshot to the back and the fact Paul Doll suspected Larson of having keys to his home.
Lt. Holland assigned homicide sergeants Hub Mayer and A.J. Toepol to search Larson’s home for keys while CSU officer G.L. Burke searched Larson’s Honda vehicle. After searching Larson’s apartment Mayer and Toepol found keys but none matched the door where the victim was murdered nor did Burke’s search of the vehicle yield any clues. Sgt. John Adams (deceased) subpoenaed phone records that belonged to the victim’s parents’ landline service to determine if Larson’s phone records showed she had made the threatening calls to Illinois prior to pulling the trigger.
“If the suspects made the calls it shows intent,” Sgt. Allen said to fellow detectives while discussing the ongoing developments. But to file a capital murder charge they needed to prove Larson first burglarized the apartment. Christine Larson was released on a $10,000,00 bond pending trial for Shelia Doll’s murder.
An anonymous source reported to this author that while Larson awaited trial she accepted Christ as her savior and joined the same church that her parents belonged too. And when a spiritual friend of Larson asked how she felt about taking another human’s life the source says that Larson unleashed a stream of profanities to describe the character of the woman she murdered.
Next Installment: Jury Trial