Bangor Daily News

Last updated: Friday, October 25, 2002

Small gets 70 years for husband's murder

By Walter Griffin, Of the NEWS Staff
Bangor Daily News

BELFAST - Norma Small, the grandmother who hired a gunman to kill her husband two decades ago, will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Small, 63, received prison sentences totaling 70 years Thursday for the contract murder of her husband, Mervin "Sonny" Grotton, then 46, in Belfast on Dec. 16, 1983.

She was sentenced to 60 years in prison on the murder charge. Because Grotton was a U.S. Navy petty officer, Small received an additional 10 years for theft of government pension and insurance benefits following the murder.

Small, who lived for years afterward in Gas, Kan., was tried and convicted of the murder and theft by a Maine jury in August.

In handing down the consecutive sentences, Justice Nancy Mills described Small as a cold-hearted killer who had no compassion for her late husband, her three children or her grandchildren.

"This is a contract killing. This is a murder for hire," Mills said. "Mervin Grotton was worth more to her dead than alive and apparently that proved to be true."

Small sniffled and dabbed her eyes with a tissue throughout the sentencing. The only time she spoke was after a few friends asked the judge for compassion on her behalf. Small rose, turned to them and said while sobbing, "You'll never know how much I appreciate it."

Mills reacted to Small's statement by noting that Small never expressed remorse for the killing and never recognized the pain she caused to her family.

"I'm not sure you can reconcile compassion and love for your children after you had someone murder their father," Mills told Small.

Mills described Small as someone "devoid of any emotion" who, instead of divorcing an unwanted husband, coolly spent weeks and months plotting his murder.

"It's to late for Mr. Grotton, and I regret to say it's too late for you, Ms. Small," said Mills.

Small was convicted of pressuring Boyd Smith, 42, of Brooks, a friend of her daughter Rosalyn, to put her in touch with someone who would kill her husband. Smith met with Joel Fuller, 47, a Searsmont man, and gave him Small's name and telephone number. Fuller is serving two life terms in a federal prison for two drug-related murders that took place a few years after the Grotton killing. He is scheduled to stand trial on the Grotton killing in January

The state contends that Fuller hid behind a woodpile outside Grotton's home and shot him when he arrived home from his Navy base in Rhode Island. Grotton was shot three times, twice at long range. The final shot was made as the killer stood over Grotton and "blew off the lower part of his face," Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson told the court in August.

The Grotton murder went unsolved until Maine State Police Detective Dean Jackson and a team of agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service reopened the case two years ago.

Jackson and the Navy developed a plan to use undercover agents posing as prison buddies of Fuller's to contact Small and Smith. Both Small and Smith implicated one another during recorded conversations with the undercover agents in spring 2001. Small, Smith and Fuller were subsequently indicted for murder.

Smith was found not guilty when he was tried in Superior Court in February. He admitted his complicity during the trial and also testified at Small's trial.

Though Small's attorney, Christopher MacLean of Camden, argued for a 25-year sentence, prosecutor Benson urged Justice Mills to sentence Small to life in prison for the murder and 10 years for the theft. Benson may not have gotten what he wanted, but he described Small's sentence as "almost perfect. It's well within the range of appropriate sentencing."

Rosalyn Grotton also asked that her mother be sentenced to life in prison. Grotton described the murder and her mother's involvement as a "nightmare" to her family that she would not wish on her worst enemy.

"It was bad enough to have our father murdered brutally ... but to find out your mother was the murderer, that was the clincher. It ruined our lives," Grotton told the court. "We all feel that our mother should spend her life in prison. She's alive, she's eating, she's sleeping. My dad is 6 feet under the ground."

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