Man pleads guilty to murder of Destiny Norton
SALT LAKE CITY — Rick and Rachael Norton just wanted to get it over — to see the killer of their 5-year-old daughter locked up for the rest of his life.
They got that much Monday, when a 20-year-old neighbor pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and murder of Destiny Norton, whose smile gleamed with a row of silver-capped teeth. It was the image shown on missing posters across the city as volunteers spent more than a week looking for her.
The plea spared Destiny’s family the pain of years of trial and appeals.
It spared the confessed killer, Craig Gregerson, a possible death sentence. The pale and contrite Gregerson was sentenced to life in prison without parole in a deal from prosecutors.
“Everything was taken care of like it should have, and he’s not going to hurt anybody else. So, you know, in the end he will get what he deserves,” said Destiny’s mother, Rachael Norton.
She spoke four days after what would have been Destiny’s sixth birthday.
“It’s always on our mind, our baby. I’m just glad that it’s over with. She can rest in peace,” Norton said outside court.
The father, Rick Norton, a 30-year-old construction worker, was too overwhelmed to speak with reporters, saying he was leaving to “take care of our other kids.” The couple has two other daughters, including Faith, who was born five weeks after the murder.
Gregerson gave no explanation for his crimes but offered a handwritten letter to Destiny Norton’s parents declaring, “I hate myself for what I did.”
“Her death was not the worst part. What I did after she was dead was unexcusable, sick and disgusting,” said Gregerson, referring to a sexual assault on her corpse.
Destiny had been missing for eight days when police found her body stuffed in a plastic storage box in Gregerson’s cellar, just two doors away, on July 24.
She died within minutes of the abduction from her backyard July 16. Police said Gregerson lured the barefooted girl into his house, where he covered her mouth to muffle her screams, smothering her.
“You have every right to hate me, every right to want me dead and every right to never forgive me,” Gregerson said in the letter to Destiny’s family, which was released by 3rd District Court.
He said he took full responsibility for the girl’s death.
Destiny’s grandmother, Leslie D. Borchardt, referred five times to Gregerson as a “monster” in a court statement. “I now know what hate is, and mine is unmatched,” she said.
Prosecutor Robert Stott said Gregerson will live in isolation in a high-security cell except for shower time. The inmate will have to be protected from others who could seek retribution for the killing of a defenseless girl, he said.
Gregerson received a separate 15 year-to-life sentence on the kidnapping charge, even though it has no practical effect. His estranged wife was in court but said nothing after the hearing.
Gregerson confessed to the murder after taking an FBI polygraph test, then consented to a search and Destiny’s body was found concealed in his cluttered cellar. He used cleaning agents to mask the odor and had a white hazardous materials suit hanging upstairs, court files say.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A1.