HOUSTON – The convicted killer behind one of the most heavily publicized murders in recent Houston history walked out of prison Thursday morning, almost exactly 30 years to the day after he shot a postal carrier making the rounds in his neighborhood.
David Port, the teenaged killer who’s now a bald and middle-aged man, was driven away from a prison building in Huntsville to a halfway house in Austin. Under the terms of his release, authorities said, he must remain under strict supervision, wear an ankle monitor at all times, stay out of Harris County unless he’s given special permission and have no contact with the family of the woman he was convicted of murdering.
“This was probably one of the most infamous, notorious murders in this city,” said Andy Kahan, the city’s victim rights advocate, who’s followed the story for decades.
Port served only a fraction of his 75-year term in prison. Under sentencing guidelines in place when he was convicted, inmates received extra credit for the time they serve with good behavior. The family of the victim in this case condemned the long-since abandoned rule as “absurd.”
“I can understand petty thieves being released,” said Phillip Harmon, the victim’s brother-in-law. “I can understand that. But why in the world would you want to release murderers? We’re talking murderers!”
Port convoluted criminal case began on June 7, 1984, when he was a 17-year-old living with his father and stepmother in an affluent neighborhood on Houston’s west side. That’s the day Debora Sue Schatz, a 23-year-old letter carrier delivering mail disappeared. Her postal service truck, containing her purse and undelivered mail, were found in the same block as Port’s house.
Port didn’t return home that night and his parents reported him missing. Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities using bloodhounds followed a trail that led them to Port’s house. At first, Port’s parents agreed to allow police into their home, but they quickly changed their minds and told them to leave.
When investigators returned to the home with a search warrant, they discovered bullet holes, blood stains and a recently fired pistol. As officers searched the house, Port drove up the street and neighbors who recognized his car yelled to police. That started a high-speed chase through the usually tranquil streets of the Memorial area.
“I’d only been here like three weeks,” said Wandy Brown, who distinctly remembers police cars and television trucks speeding down the street where she’d just bought her home. “And it was scary. My neighbor called me and said that there was a murderer on my street. And it frightened me.”
After Port was taken into custody, he allegedly told a police officer he had pulled a gun on Schatz and ordered her to go upstairs with him to his bedroom.
“She wasn’t going to have it,” said Harmon. “So she fought him off. And she was able to run back down the stairs. And that’s when he shot her.”
A wrecker driver, who saw television coverage of the arrest, told police he had unwittingly helped Port by pulling his car out of a muddy area of woods. He led police to the site where they found her body. She had been shot three times in the head.
The case garnered national attention when Port’s parents refused to testify before a grand jury, claiming their religion forbade them from offering testimony against their child. For a time, Port’s parents were jailed while the accused killer himself was free on bond.
Port was sentenced to 75 years, but under old sentencing guidelines designed to relieve prison overcrowding he received extra credit for every day he served behind bars. As a result, he was freed to a halfway house just two days before the 30th anniversary of Schatz’s murder.
"I’m just asking everyone here in Houston, ‘Be on your toes. Get a picture of this guy, identify this guy.’ Let’s hope that he does something wrong to go back in prison.”