Bloody Shoes: How Texas Stiletto Murder Haunted Houston
Homicides between domestic partners rarely make the news for more than a day or more than just locally, as severe domestic violence is disturbingly common. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime
Texas receives hundreds of thousands of domestic violence reports to police each year, and Houston receives thousands of domestic violence emergency calls a month. In 2019, Texas had 185 documented domestic partner homicides. It's clearly a huge problem, but Texas is a huge state.
So what makes a domestic partner homicide stay in the headlines, and what makes them haunt our collective imagination? In the murder case of Dr. Alf Stefan Andersson of Houston, it's primarily the murder weapon: a high-heeled shoe. His obituary stated he had died of "unforeseen circumstances." That's quite an understatement.
Murder-by-shoe seems implausible, and if it had just been an episode of CSI, I'd think it was corny. But the damage the heel did was so severe that a responding Houston police officer thought the victim had been shot in the head.
I know what you're thinking: were they "bloody shoes," i.e. Louboutins? No, they were actually a relatively cheap pair of shoes, but which had a menacing structure nonetheless:
Inside that long thin heel was something much more menacing that could only be seen on an X-ray shown to jurors. The heel and sole, both made of steel, looked like an ice hammer with a crooked handle.
Ana Trujillo, the woman convicted of this shoe slaying did report that the victim had given her a pair of Louboutin heels as a gift. That's nice, I guess.
As if the shoes were not enough to capture national headlines, other details of the murder were unusual and intriguing. According to true crime writer Kathryn Casey, Andersson, the victim, had been a wrestler and was currently a celebrated scientist:
his early years as a wrestler led to his life as a scientist who investigated the role of steroids and hormones on the human body. In life, small decisions sometimes influence lifelong paths. That happened to Stefan, who watched in astonishment the effect steroids had on the bodies of the Russian athletes he coached.
If you read his In Memorandum from the University of Houston, it gets into technical details of Andersson's work as a notable biochemist and research professor. His talent and notoriety meant he had money, and his death inside a luxury high-rise apartment only added to the mystique and interest surrounding the murder.
The subsequent trial did nothing to diminish the public's interest, as the bloody heel was left on display for eleven days of the trial. Details shared of Trujillo's interest in the tarot raised eyebrows, a clue that lead writer Kathryn Casey to later discover that Trujillo believed herself to be a powerful witch.
Despite the fascinating, and at times, lurid details, the actual event of the murder is sadly mundane. The pair, who had a shaky romantic history, had been drinking all day long. Andersson had already begun to see someone else. Trujillo would have had jurors believe she was defending herself when she struck a prone Andersson in the head with her heel 25 times. But jurors didn't buy it- they had been presented with several witnesses to her previous violent encounters. It seems quite possible that they were just rip-roaring drunk, and that she was jealous and angry. It's a setup for murder that happens all the time in less headline-grabbing circumstances.
Ana Trujillo received life in prison in 2014. She lost her appeal in 2015. She will not be eligible for parole until she is 75 years old.
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