Police found murder suspect after a tip from a Dallas Voice reader; murders of gay man, trans woman remain unsolved
It was a tip from a Dallas Voice reader that led police to murder suspect Christopher (aka Christian) Colbert, who fled Dallas sometime last year after allegedly impersonating Ronald Shumway during the sale of Shumway’s Oak Cliff home.
Witnesses have identified Colbert as the man who identified himself as Shumway at the closing for the house, a duplex where Colbert lived as Shumway’s tenant, and he was arrested in Los Angeles County on warrants out of Dallas for tampering with a government record, securing the execution of document by deception and money-laundering.
Colbert is also the prime suspect in the murder of Shumway, whose remains were found in a plastic bag under a concrete slab in the yard of the Oak Cliff home last September.
Police were able to locate Colbert in California after Dallas Voice passed along to Dallas Police LGBT Liaison Officer Laura Martin contact information for a reader who had emailed the paper saying he had information on Colbert’s whereabouts. The reader, who asked not to be identified because he fears for his safety, turned over to police a cell phone number through which Colbert had contacted him and pictures sent by Colbert via text that helped to identify where in California he was.
Within a week of receiving that information, police announced Colbert’s arrest.
Colbert is being held in California pending extradition to Texas. According to Dallas Sheriff’s Department Sr. Sgt. James Temple, his office doesn’t normally announce when an extradition will take place for security reasons. The DCSO will make an announcement once Colbert has been booked into Lew Sterrett.
The current charges against Colbert are related to identity theft that allowed him to sell Shumway’s Oak Cliff house and pocket the proceeds. He has not yet been charged for Shumway’s murder.
Shumway was last seen on April 25, 2015. Supervisors at Dallas Area Rapid Transit, where he worked as a bus driver, received an email purportedly from Shumway saying he was resigning, and after that, posts were made to his Facebook account from a cell phone indicating he had met a new partner in Austin and had moved there.
Police now believe the email was sent and the Facebook messages posted by someone other than Shumway.
Meanwhile, Shumway’s house was put up for sale in May and sold in June. The man identifying himself as Shumway at the closing has been identified through photos as Colbert. He was unable to produce ID at the closing, but promised to fax it in later.
The faxed ID had Colbert’s face overlayed on Shumway’s driver’s license. That fax lead to the charges pending against Colbert of tampering with a government document.
Because Shumway had no heirs, no one reported him missing. Over the course of the summer, the duplex in Oak Cliff was flipped a couple of times until the torso, which was buried in the yard under a concrete slab, was found in September.
Still, until they were able, using DNA, to positively identify the body as Shumway earlier this year, officials didn’t know whether someone had killed Shumway and buried him in the back yard, or if Shumway had killed someone else and was on the run himself.
After Shumway’s torso was identified, neighbors who had seen Shumway and Colbert argue suggested he might be the person police were after. Colbert had not been seen in Dallas since the June sale of the property.
While police can tie Colbert to the theft of the property through witnesses at the real estate and title companies who accepted the falsified ID, detectives are still building their murder case against him.
Meanwhile, records from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department show Colbert is being held without bail. He was transferred to permanent housing on March 8 in the Inmate Reception Center at 450 Bauchet St. just north of downtown L.A. No court date is scheduled, but under California law, Colbert must be given a hearing before he is extradited.
He is currently not allowed visitors.
While the Shumway murder caught the attention of mainstream media because of its gruesome nature and the way Colbert allegedly stole his former neighbor’s identity to sell his house, two other LGBT murders last year, both of which remain unsolved, are getting little attention.
On July 11, Tony Sanchez, 51, was found dead at the Budget suites on North Walton Walker Boulevard at Singleton Boulevard. A friend found his body when he went to the apartment after being unable to contact Sanchez by phone.
Homicide detectives determined Sanchez “died as a result of homicidal violence.”
As of this week, police had no new leads.
According to Sanchez’s friend Roger Herrera, an attorney and 2007 mayoral candidate, Sanchez worked at Hunky’s at one time and was a volunteer at Oak Lawn Community Services, an AIDS service organization in the 1980s and ’90s.
The badly-decomposed body of a trans woman known as “Miss Shade” Schuler, 22, was found July 29 last summer in a vacant field off Record Crossing Drive, north of the Medical District. She had been shot to death.
A vigil for Miss Shade was held at the beginning of September to focus attention back on the murder after police found no clues to help identify a murderer.
Police have made no progress in either the Sanchez or Shade murders. Anyone with information should call 214-671-3650.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2016.