BALLSTON SPA — The Hadley man who beat his wife to death with a hatchet in their home last spring offered a rambling statement at his sentencing Friday, saying he was remorseful for killing his “best friend” but didn’t remember much of what happened the night of her death.
Michael C. Norton’s address prompted Saratoga County Judge James Murphy to rip into him, saying it was an “insult” and that he was a classic batterer who left the couple’s daughter without any parents.
“This is a classic case of domestic violence where you blame the victim,” the judge told him. “You deserve every day in prison that this court is going to sentence you to.”
Norton was sentenced to 20 years to life for the May 3 killing of Sherry Norton in the couple’s Third Avenue home after an emotional hearing that also saw the case’s prosecutor graphically outline how Mr. Norton killed his wife.
Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Buckley pointed to a history of domestic violence by the defendant, including an incident in which Mr. Norton pleaded guilty to felony reckless endangerment weeks before the killing, saying the case showed the “sad realities of domestic violence.” (The prior case stemmed from his shooting a gun in their home during an argument with his wife in April 2016.)
She said Mr. Norton had shown no remorse and had been given a chance by both the court and his wife after that 2016 arrest.
“Yet through it all, she loved him. She was loyal to him,” she said.
Mr. Norton said he was so intoxicated, with a blood alcohol content of 0.48 percent when he was hospitalized the day of his wife’s slaying, that he didn’t remember much of what happened. Mrs. Norton was hit five times with the ax, leaving wounds that shocked even the most hardened investigators, Buckley said.
“There are no words to adequately describe these injuries, the violence of this act,” Buckley said.
Murphy and Buckley both disputed that, pointing to confessions that he made to Saratoga County sheriff’s officers.
Mr. Norton was near tears as he told Murphy that he loved his wife, and relived the day of the killing every morning when he awakened. He said he also thought about the impact of the homicide on their daughter.
“It doesn’t matter what happens to me because I ruined our family,” he said.
Murphy did not buy his claims of remorse or that he loved his wife, and lamented the impact the murder will have on their daughter, who is a young adult.
“She’s lost her mother, she’s lost her father,” he said. “Who’s going to take care of her? Her mother is gone.”
Norton’s lawyer, Saratoga County Assistant Public Defender Andrew Proler, had no comment Friday but said a notice of appeal would be filed on his client’s behalf.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but still can appeal if he wishes. Murphy imposed a 2-1/3- to 7-year prison term for the reckless endangerment charge, which will be served concurrently with the murder term.
The couple’s daughter, Savannah Norton, attended the proceeding but did not make a statement. She wept through much of it, sitting behind Sheriff Michael Zurlo and other officers from the Sheriff’s Office.
Mr. Norton, 59, pleaded guilty last October, during a pretrial hearing in his case that focused on confessions he made to police after officers were sent to their home and found his wife near death.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said a neighbor reported a problem at the home, and officers arrived to find both Nortons there.
An autopsy performed the next day led to the conclusion she was the victim of a homicide and died of “blunt force trauma” to the back of her head, the sheriff said. Her husband confessed later that day.
Mr. Norton told police he argued with his wife over a cigarette lighter before he became violent.
Mrs. Norton worked for an agency that assisted developmentally disabled people.