Murder charge in woman’s death
Body found near monument on July 2
A Grand Junction man who originally reported his girlfriend missing to authorities is charged in connection with her death.
David James Norman, 44, was served Friday at the Mesa County Jail with a warrant for second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and false reporting to authorities, in the death of 49-year-old Kathy Fortner, whose body was discovered by tourists July 2 near the west entrance of Colorado National Monument.
Norman was jailed that day, hours after Fortner’s body was found, on suspicion of violating parole.
That morning at 7:54 a.m., Norman phoned the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and reported Fortner was missing; that she was unheard from since she left after an argument at their apartment, 2955 North Ave. Unit 2, around 11:30 p.m. on July 1. Norman claimed she’d left without her purse, money or identification, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
He told deputies Fortner “got pissed about me being on the phone ... cause I’m always on the phone,” the affidavit said. “David said, ‘She does it when she gets pissed, she usually just walks around here and comes back ... in 15 to 20 minutes.’”
Deputies had earlier noted a faint odor of bleach in the apartment. They also saw blood in the bed and on the rear bumper of a pickup truck parked outside. Gathered for DNA testing, the blood later proved to be Fortner’s.
Authorities were called around 12:34 p.m. on July 2, after tourists snapping photos near the Monument entrance found the body.
Fortner suffered multiple blunt-force injuries primarily around the head, “at least 4 or 5 and very likely even more than that,” Mesa County Coroner Dr. Dean Havlik was quoted in the affidavit. Havlik concluded Fortner was killed elsewhere and left just outside the west gate. While concluding the injuries were likely caused by a hard object, Havlik said it was possible they could have been caused by a human fist.
Turning to surveillance video at the Monument, cameras captured a pickup truck at the west entrance in the pre-dawn hours of July 2.
Roughly an hour after the truck was initially spotted, the same camera spots the same truck stopping near where Fortner’s body was found, the affidavit said. Other cameras capture a man behind the wheel of the pickup and its license plate number.
“It appears he is looking directly into the camera ... as he drives around,” a deputy wrote in the affidavit. “Based on meeting with him on July 2, and viewing past mug shots, I positively identified the person on the video as David Norman.”
A half-hour later, Norman is seen on another surveillance camera at a North Avenue car wash where he spends about 15 minutes washing the truck, “appearing to pay special attention to the truck bed,” before throwing away several other items, the affidavit said.
Cellphone records for Norman and Fortner suggest the couple on July 1 had traveled up Colorado Highway 141, “but not as far as Divide Road (so remained well within Mesa County),” the affidavit notes.
Norman had texted a message to Fortner at 12:11 p.m. on July 1: “Pack for overnight. Going back to the mountain in 45 minutes. No questions. Leave it ... David.”
A man who told authorities he’d been hanging out with Norman before his arrest on the night of July 2 said Norman denied hurting Fortner. The same witness explained Norman and Fortner fought “a lot,” but claimed he never saw any violence.
Another witness told investigators Norman had confided fighting with Fortner over money problems.
Norman was serving parole stemming from a 2002 assault arrest in Summit County. A Dillon police officer wrote in an arrest affidavit that a female clerk at a Super 8 Motel was, “severely beaten with head and facial injuries including hair ripped from her scalp,” after Norman’s two credit cards were declined as she tried to check him in.
He was convicted of robbery and second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury and sentenced to serve 16 years in prison.
Norman was convicted in 1993 of receiving stolen property in California and sentenced to two years in prison.
He was also convicted in 2000 of carrying a firearm with a prior felony conviction in Oklahoma.