Man faces 48 years in killing of woman
A Grand Junction man faces a maximum 48 years in state prison after admitting Thursday to killing his girlfriend, then dumping her body outside the west entrance of Colorado National Monument.
David Norman, 44, can be sentenced to anywhere between 16 and 48 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 49-year-old Kathy Fortner. The sentence will be left to the discretion of District Judge Valerie Robison on March 14.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger agreed to dismiss four habitual criminal charges, as well as tampering with evidence, false reporting and abuse of a corpse.
Hautzinger told the judge he and a deputy prosecutor had “consulted extensively with various members of the victim’s family,” who were “on board” with the plea agreement.
Those contacts included conversations with two of Fortner’s adult daughters and two siblings, including a phone conversation last week with a sister, Hautzinger said after Thursday’s hearing.
Fortner, who hailed from Mississippi, has three surviving sisters.
One sister, Mississippi resident Cindy Edwards, said she was “very upset” with Thursday’s plea agreement and she wanted no deals to resolve the case.
“We’ll be there for sentencing and I want him (Hautzinger) to face us,” Edwards said.
Hautzinger said he doesn’t know Edwards, has never spoken with her and she had not contacted his office to be kept in the loop on victim-notification matters.
Aside from cementing the plea agreement, Hautzinger also signed off on an unusual request, agreeing to release to Norman his pickup truck, cellphone, wallet and watch, which were seized during the investigation.
The DA said Norman indicated through his public defender he has a prospective buyer for his pickup truck, and he was eager to sell it in order to have money for commissary expenses while serving his sentence in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Hautzinger agreed to the request, provided Norman waive any future appeal for ineffective assistance of counsel. Norman did so verbally in court Thursday.
Fortner’s body was found July 2, 2013, at 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.
An autopsy showed Fortner died of multiple blunt-force injuries to the head.
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.
At the time of Fortner’s killing, Norman was on parole stemming from a 2002 assault conviction in Summit County, aside from convictions in 1993 for receiving stolen property in California and carrying a firearm with a prior felony conviction in 2000 in Oklahoma.