A Williamson County grand jury today returned a capital murder indictment against 57-year-old Bastrop resident Mark Alan Norwood in the 1986 murder of Christine Morton, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced.
“An indictment in a cold case cannot bring back the life that was unnecessarily taken, but this is a big step toward answering long unresolved questions for the crime victim’s family,” Abbott said in a press release.
Christine Morton's husband, Michael Morton, was wrongfully convicted of her murder in 1987 and served 25 years of a life sentence in prison. DNA testing confirmed last year that Christine Morton's blood was mixed with Norwood's hair on a blue bandana found about 100 yards from their North Austin home, where she was killed. Further DNA tests linked Norwood to the 1988 murder of Debra Masters Baker in Austin.
Michael Morton was released from prison in October after his lawyers presented Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley with test results that linked Norwood to both murders. Norwood is considered a suspect in the Baker murder, but he has not been charged with that crime.
Caitlin Baker, Debra Masters Baker's daughter, said she thought the grand jury made the right decision. "I'm very happy for the Morton family," she said.
Norwood's lawyer, Russell Hunt Jr., has said that his client is innocent of both killings and that he plans to fight the murder charge.
"We’re disappointed at the indictment, but we look forward to seeing what evidence the state has that underlies the charge," Hunt said in a phone interview Wednesday.
He said it's far too early to know when a trial might take place. "There's just too much unknown at this point," he said.
Hunt said the Travis County District Attorney's office has not contacted him about the Baker murder or another murder case in which the prosecutor's office has said it is exploring the possibility of a link to Norwood. Travis County officials said they are discussing whether to review the 1985 murder of Natalie Antonetti. Last year, Antonetti's former boyfriend, Dennis Davis, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 36 years in prison. But her killing bears striking similarities to those of Morton and Baker. All three women — mothers in their 30s — were bludgeoned to death with a piece of wood in the early morning hours while they slept.
"What I know is what I read in the newspapers," Hunt said.
Norwood appeared in court for the first time this month, and the next hearing in his case is scheduled for Feb. 22. He is being held in the Williamson County Jail, with bail set at $750,000. The grand jury indictment charges Norwood with one count of capital murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit burglary. If he is convicted, Norwood could face life in prison or the death penalty.