The Norman Transcript

September 14, 2013

Judge jails witness as murder trial takes a turn for the dramatic

By Michael Kinney and Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — After repeated warnings to avoid the television-like drama and just answer the questions or face wearing orange jail coveralls, a Cleveland County District Judge on Friday found a prosecution witness in direct contempt of court and jailed her for five days.

Out of jurors’ view, county sheriff’s deputies handcuffed Shannon Davis on the witness stand in District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s courtroom. It came on the second day of testimony in the first degree murder trial of Russell Lee Blackwood.

Blackwood, 41, of Purcell, is accused of killing Gary Norton Sr., 55, of Lexington, early on Easter Sunday morning in 2012.

Davis, who was told to avoid the drama and just answer the attorneys’ questions, testified she still loved the defendant Blackwood, with whom she has a child. She said they had talked often while he was in jail but she had not visited or talked to him in recent weeks out of respect for their child.

Before becoming combative with defense attorney Charles Douglas, Davis testified that law enforcement officers searched her home. She said some clothes were missing and some were on the floor.

Earlier Friday, testimony began with one of the victim’s sons, Josh Norton, 35, who took the stand wearing an orange jumpsuit and with hands manacled. Norton is serving time for larceny of domestic animals, accessory after the fact and possession of cocaine.

The younger Norton told Assistant District Attorney Allie Spears and the 12-person jury that Blackwood, 41, had threatened him the night before Norton’s father, Gary Norton Sr., was murdered.

According to Norton, he was at his father’s house April 7 along with his girlfriend, Tonya Pittman. Norton said his ex-wife, Shannon Davis began “blowing up” his father’s cell phone with calls trying to reach the younger Norton.

After ignoring several calls, Norton testified that Gary Norton Sr. finally gave his son the phone and told him to handle it. Josh Norton said Davis was screaming over the phone that he needed to hurry and come over because she was going to kill herself because her old man was going to take her kid.

According to Norton, his father took him to Davis’ house where he found his ex wife on the phone, but no signs of an emergency. After 10 to 15 minutes, when he asked to use the phone to call his father, Norton said Davis wouldn’t let him. So he began to try and splice phone wires together to hook up to his cell phone, which he said was either dead or out of minutes.

According to Norton, Davis then tried to hand him her cell phone to talk to whoever was on the line. Norton assumed it was her boyfriend, Blackwood.

Norton said he wouldn’t take the phone so Davis put it on speaker. After each one identified each other, according to Norton, Blackwood said, “Better get your wheels on. I’ll be there in a minute.” Norton took that to mean he better leave quickly.

Norton went to a neighbor’s house to call his father to come back and pick him up. When they got back to the father’s house in Lexington, Pittman was not there. He assumed she was angry at him for going to his ex-wife’s house.

According to Norton, soon after arriving, Blackwood called the elder’s Norton’s cell phone looking for Josh.

“This is Russell Blackwood,” Josh Norton said he heard during the phone call. “You are a walking dead man. And as we speak, Shannon (Davis) is filing charges with the police for tearing phone wires and forcing yourself upon her.”

Even though Norton denied forcing himself upon Davis, since he already had a warrant out for his arrest, he said he left his father’s house so he would not get arrested if Davis really did file charges.

While at his friend Charles Manson’s house, who lives a couple of blocks away, Norton said he heard about 15 to 17 shots fired during the middle of the night. But Norton said he thought the shots came from the south of where he was and not in the direction of his father’s house.

The next day, Norton testified to going to visit friends in Slaughterville before going back to his father’s house on the afternoon of April 8 with Pittman and a few other friends. He said he told everyone to wait outside while he went inside to look for his dad.

“I walked into the bedroom and found him,” Norton said. “Seen him still in bed. Shot in the head.”

This contradicts what Pittman told the jury Thursday when she said Norton wouldn’t go into the house and that she was the one who found Gary Norton Sr. dead in bed.

Norton said he left the house and went to a Love’s convenience store because he didn’t want to be arrested and have to be in jail with all those thoughts in his head.

Norton admitted to the court he was a drug addict and that he used meth two to three hours after finding his father. He was later picked up by police and arrested on the active warrants.

On cross examination, Blackwood’s defense attorney asked Norton several times if the state had made a deal with him or his attorney in exchange for his testimony. Norton said no.

The defense pointed out that since he has four felony convictions, he should be going to prison for the latest conviction instead of the community sentencing program he is now under. Norton said he didn’t know what he was talking about and reiterated angrily no deal had been made.

Blackwood’s defense also pointed out several differences between Norton’s testimony and the testimony he gave at the preliminary hearing and the initial interview he had with OSBI agent Marvin Akers. Norton responded to most questions with “I don’t remember.”

Blackwood’s daughter, Lauren King, also was called to the stand by Spears in the morning session. She testified that on April 7 Blackwood was at her house for a party she was having for her daughter. At some point, Blackwood took a phone call and stepped out of the house. King said she overheard her father say, “I hope you are not there when I get there.”

King also testified to finding shell casings at her house. She said she believed that her brother had brought the casings into the house.

Under cross examination by Blackwood’s lead defense attorney, Charles Douglas, King said the shell casings had been at her house at least a week before the death of Gary Norton Sr. and as much as three days afterward. King said sge thought Blackwood’s former girlfriend Monica Henry had entered the house and took the shell casings.

Douglass objected, saying it wasn’t first hand knowledge. District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s agreed.

Late Friday, Henry testified that she was with Blackwood on Easter Sunday and she witnessed Richard Dean Lansdale, of Purcell, give Blackwood a gun. That gun was taken to Henry’s home and given to her father, she testified.

Also Friday, Lexington’s police chief testified they received several calls reporting gunshots between 12:45 and 12:52 a.m. on Easter Sunday 2012 from residents near Norton’s home in the 400 block of Broadway.

The chief said officers didn’t find anything but returned the next day when Norton’s body was discovered. At that point, the OSBI was immediately brought in to handle the investigation

Testimony continues at 8:45 a.m. Monday.