Killer gets 48-year sentence
Penalty is longest allowed under law
On her 49th birthday last June, Kathy Fortner and David Norman went to Colorado National Monument.
Cindy Edwards, one of Fortner’s three sisters, said Fortner’s smiling face is seen in a photo taken just outside one of the monument’s entrances. It’s among the last photos they have of her.
Two weeks after the birthday outing, authorities believe Norman savagely beat her, loaded her body in his pickup truck and dumped her at the monument.
“He took her to the same place and that’s the last slap in the face to my sister,” Edwards told the judge, making an emotional plea to “remove this poor excuse of a man from the streets.”
Norman, 44, was sentenced by District Judge Valerie Robison to serve 48 years in prison, the harshest term available following Norman’s guilty plea last month to second-degree murder in the death of Fortner.
Fortner’s body was found July 2, 2013, by tourists near the monument’s west entrance. An arrest warrant affidavit said Norman reported Fortner missing that morning and told authorities she’d left their North Avenue apartment following an argument over him using his cellphone too much. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office deputies who responded to the missing person report discovered blood in the bed of Norman’s pickup, which later proved to be Fortner’s.
Norman’s truck was allegedly seen on surveillance video at the monument’s west entrance in the early-morning hours of July 2. At one point, he appears to be looking directly into one of the cameras, the affidavit said.
The Mesa County Coroner’s Office ruled Fortner died of multiple blunt-force head injuries. There were so many wounds that a forensic pathologist didn’t count them all during an autopsy, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told the judge.
“(Coroner Dr. Dean Havlik) said this was one of the most aggravated, serious assaults against a woman in terms of head injury he’s seen locally,” Hautzinger said.
In a handwritten letter given to the judge this week, Norman claimed Fortner kicked him in the groin during an argument and he responded by pushing her down, causing her death, Hautzinger said. Norman said he then “threw rocks” at her.
The account is wildly inconsistent with Fortner’s litany of injuries, Hautzinger said.
Deputy Public Defender John Burkey said Norman has stayed true to the story since he was arrested.
“There was an argument based on financial difficulties, which escalated from there, ” Burkey said. “He could have reported it (Fortner’s death), but he didn’t and compounded everything in a terrible way.”
But by Edwards’ estimation, her sister got involved with a “monster.”
Fortner, a mother of two daughters, received monthly disability checks totalling $700. Norman was said to have spent all of the July 2013 check on the day of Fortner’s slaying, including an early morning trip to Walmart to buy hot dogs after authorities believe he killed her.
“He said he’d spent it all driving around looking for her,” Edwards said.