HOUSTON - It's a murder that shocked Houston. A powerful man, Ross Allyn, who moved in the city's inner circles, killed and his house burned.
Thirteen years later, investigators still don’t know who started the fire.
It's hard to see past the flames.
"It just shocked us all,” said Mark Allyn, his brother.
But when the dust settled, the emotion became raw and the crime scene crowded with Houston's most powerful politicians. In 2003, firefighters found Allyn, a lobbyist, shot to death and his Timbergrove Manor home set on fire.
"He lived life I like to say with the throttle wide open,” said Mark Allyn, who lives in Dallas. "It sure doesn't appear to be some random event, a stranger that he brought home... he must have upset somebody.”
Ross Allyn was behind some big deals at city hall. The night he died, he even attended a political fundraiser for former Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
"He knew a lot of things, maybe too much," said Paul Gomberg, the last friend to see Ross Allyn alive.
The two had dinner together at Hickory Hollow on Heights Boulevard and were preparing for an upcoming court date.
"In a case where I was being sued in...he was like my star witness," Gomberg said.
Ross Allyn was killed that night -- the same night he left this voice message for his friend.
"I wouldn't be surprised. They know where I am, know when I'm coming and going... and sitting around by the pool, it's easy to put a recording device in someone's house,” Ross Allyn said on the voicemail.
Could his phone have been bugged? There's no proof. He was known to dabble in drugs, which his family says could have triggered paranoia. However, Ross Allyn had a bad history with by secret recordings.
It was Ross Allyn's former boss, a city councilman, who was caught taking a bribe and indicted by the FBI. Ross Allyn got sucked in, but his case was later dismissed.
So was the murder a political hit, a drug deal gone bad or a male hustler taking advantage of an openly gay lobbyist? It's all been explored.
"I've never seen a body burned to that extent," said Detective Paul Vela, with the Houston Police Department’s Cold Case Unit.
Investigators say Ross Allyn was shot in the neck, but police never recovered the gun. They found his body near the front door.
"I believe that the perpetrator or perpetrators told someone else and there's someone else who has some information,” Vela said.
Ross Allyn's family tried desperately to get answers, even putting up billboards around town with a $10,000 reward. It got little response, but his funeral at St. Anne's where he attended mass regularly and served as an usher was overflowing.
"I love my brother, but I had no idea he had touched so many lives,” Mark Allyn said.
Lives police have been digging through looking for a motive, but all these years later, this family is still searching for the killer that took the light out of their world.
"Some people would say closure; I don't know that it's really closure as much as it's a resolution finding out who did this. Why did this happen to my brother?” Mark Allyn said.
There were really no good witnesses. A neighbor thought they saw a car leave and a few other people reported hearing different things. If you have any information, call Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-TIPS.
© 2017 KHOU-TV