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One Deadly Mistake: Kathy Blair’s killer nabbed after thermal camera accidentally caught him entering her house

Kathy Blair was born in California but moved to Austin, Texas, due to her love for music. She wasn’t married and lived alone – drawing all her pleasure from her job as a choir director. After having undergone two divorces, she had finally found peace in a quiet area called Tamarack Trail in 2013. On December 6, 2014, Kathy’s son Joe — who was staying with her — went out with his friends for the night. When he returned home, he shockingly discovered that his mother was dead – she had been murdered. Joe immediately dialed 911. Responding officers found a jewelry box on the floor of her bedroom. They noted how all of the drawers had been pulled out and jewelry was missing from them. Police also noted there was blood on the light switch and drawers, suggesting the murder took place before the lights were switched on and drawers pulled out. A coroner noted how the passionate music teacher had been strangled, stabbed and slashed across the neck. However, investigators did not recover any more physical evidence to help with the case.

“Kathy’s personality was very forceful. She was always driven and she always had something to do,” her student of four years Kristin Degroot told producers of Oxygen’s ‘One Deadly Mistake’. “As a teenager, having her there as a role model and a parental figure meant absolute the world to me.”

A nearby witness told police how he was out walking at 1:30 am on the fateful night and saw a car pull up and park on the street. He was testing his thermal imaging camera, and accidentally caught the killer on video walking up to Kathy’s house. He handed over the footage to investigators. Authorities were still trying to gather evidence and figure out the circumstances surrounding the beloved choir teacher’s death, when another double homicide took place about 15 minutes away from Kathy’s residence – nine days after the Kathy’s demise.

The victims, identified as 83-year-old Billie and her 85-year-old husband Sidney Shelton, were a hardworking couple who had been married for 64 years. Their bodies were found on December 15, 2014, by their nurse during a routine visit. Responding officers noted how the bedroom had been ransacked and jewelry drawers emptied – just like in Kathy’s home. Police couldn’t help but look for a link between the murders considering the similarity of the crimes. Three weeks after Kathy’s murder, they finally caught a break. A certain handyman, Tim Parlin, appeared in their inquiries, with friends recalling how he had done some yard work in Kathy’s home previously but was really “weird and rude.”

Investigators proceeded to search Tim’s residence. Police records revealed how Tim had served time in prison for stealing jewelry in the past. Meanwhile, his wife confirmed to authorities that they knew the Sheltons from the same parish. Detectives eventually found a pawn receipt for jewelry at his home, and verified that it belonged to one of Kathy’s necklaces and had been pawned the same night she was murdered. Authorities discovered further evidence as they found Tim’s car and recovered Kathy’s blood from the carpet. When he was brought in for questioning, he told investigators that he wasn’t behind the murders. Instead, he named a certain Shawn Gant-Benalcazar as the killer in all the three murders.

Police soon realized that Shawn was very different from Tim. He had earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas and was had never been in trouble with the law before. When he was brought in for questioning, Shawn was working as a high school science teacher. He was 30 years old while Tim was 49 at the time.

During interrogation, Shawn initially said he didn’t really know Tim and that had met him a few months ago as his sister began dating Tim’s nephew. While Shawn didn’t seem like the possible killer, police decided to investigate him further when they found he was in Austin at the same time as the murders. He later admitted he stayed with Tim when he was in Austin despite having previously claimed he didn’t know him. At some point during questioning, police noticed Shawn’s gait was eerily similar to that of the suspect they had caught on the thermal imaging footage. Shawn eventually confessed he was in the car with Tim the night Kathy was murdered, and claimed Tim went into the home alone. But the more police questioned the science teacher, the more he cracked. He finally admitted he was in the house to steal jewelry, but Kathy suddenly woke up and lunged at him. A struggle ensued and ended with Shawn fatally stabbing her in the neck with a knife. He then handed the jewelry to his partner in crime.

While Shawn admitted to killing Kathy, he told police he wasn’t there when the Sheltons were killed. Tim had told investigators they were at both houses and that he was on the driver’s seat, but there was no other evidence connecting Shawn to that murder – and so he was only charged with Kathy’s murder. Shawn’s defense argued in court that his confession was coerced. He claimed that police had threatened and forced a confession out of him, but it was really Tim who stabbed Kathy to death. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict after 19 hours of deliberations, and the judge declared a mistrial.

Meanwhile, Tim was charged with both the murders. Under Texas state law, you are guilty of a crime if you are a part of it, and Tim had admitted to driving the car to both houses. He was thereby found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. 

In November 2018, Shawn was also convicted of capital murder after a jury accepted as evidence the January 2015 recorded confession he originally gave police in which he said he fatally stabbed Blair. He was automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.