3 decades after woman stabbed to death at home, husband charged with her murder

John Joseph Norton charged with wife’s murder 33 years later.

BALTIMORE — More than three decades after a woman was slain in her Baltimore area home, new evidence — including the re-examination of crime scene photos — has led to murder charges against her husband, Maryland police say.

Karen Ann Norton, 23, was stabbed after returning home in Catonsville from work on December 17, 1985, with evidence first indicating a burglary, police say.

The case went cold quickly. Investigators initially said she was killed by an unknown suspect during a burglary. But police thought the break-in seemed staged and, over the years, began to narrow in on her husband, John Joseph Norton, as a prime suspect.

“There were five additional suspects in this case that were all eliminated, but investigators were unable to eliminate the husband over the years,” Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Jennifer Peach tells CNN.

“Police have long suspected her husband in this case but couldn’t prove it. Just the fact that she was murdered in their house made him a suspect,” says Peach.

New evidence leads to the husband being charged

Recently discovered evidence supports the theory of the husband as the main suspect, police say. Prosecutors brought the case to a grand jury on May 1.

The panel indicted Norton, and he was arrested and taken to Baltimore County Detention Center that evening. He is charged with murder in the first degree and stabbing with maim, according to the online court filing with Circuit Court of Maryland.

CNN has attempted to reach an attorney for Norton, but he does not have one yet.

Crime scene photos were re-examined to show the district attorney that the crime scene was staged. These photos had been reviewed many times over the years, but this time the investigator discovered fresh details, Peach says.

Also, witnesses who had been interviewed repeatedly now offered more information.

“They didn’t think certain details were significant and had never disclosed them before, but it became significant to the case,” says Peach.

“The most recent evidence is the most crucial in the case, and it is what allowed us to change the prosecutor’s mind so it could move forward,” Peach says, declining to elaborate about the new evidence. “After all these years, the district attorney finally agreed there was enough evidence. You only have one shot at this and you want to make sure a conviction is possible.

“A new person came into the unit and started to work this case three years ago. And he started to push further some of the investigative measures taken by other investigators who also thought the husband did it,” says Peach.

Norton remains held without bail pending trial.

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