Monday, July 5, 1993

Corrections Officer Kenneth M. Norton - Murder of Tabatha Horn

Also See:
Corrections Officer Kenneth M. Norton - Sentenced For Tabatha Horn Murder - [02/10/1994]
http://michiganoidv.blogspot.com/1994/02/corrections-officer-kenneth-m-norton.html

Corrections Officer Kenneth M. Norton - Paroled - Murdered Tabatha Horn [12/11/2012]
http://michiganoidv.blogspot.com/2012/12/corrections-officer-kenneth-m-norton.html



In July 1993, Corrections Officer Kenneth Monroe Norton murdered Tabatha Horn - the three-year-old daughter of his fiancee' Wendy Gokee. Norton claimed that Tabatha had been abducted from his vehicle...

When Tabatha's NUDE body was discovered buried a few miles from the home Norton shared with Tabatha's mother, Norton was charged with murder.

At the time of Tabatha's murder, Norton had custody of his brother Brent Norton's minor children - because Brent was in prison for several criminal sexual conduct offenses with children under the age of 13. AHEM!





In January 1994, Corrections Officer Kenneth Monroe Norton Jr. was convicted of second-degree murder for the death of three-year-old Tabatha Horne. Norton was sentenced to 22 - 35 years in prison for murdering Tabatha...



In December 2012, Kenneth Norton was paroled from prison...









Child missing from convenience store
July 06, 1993
The Blade
Toledo, Ohio

BRIGHTON, Mich. [AP] - Authorities searched yesterday for a 3-year-old girl who apparently climbed out the back of a station wagon during a stop for oil, state police said.

Ken Norton told police he left his fiancee's daughter, Tabitha Hunt, inside his station wagon when he stopped at a convenience store along I-96 in Brighton to buy motor oil, said state police Sgt. Scott Kelley.

When he returned about 11:50 a.m. yesterday, he found Tabitha missing and called police, Sergeant Kelley said. Mr. Norton said he left a car window rolled down.

A helicopter and police on foot searched the area, including nearby ponds, Kelley said. He said police also were questioning Mr. Norton and the girl's mother, Wendy Gokee.

















Police skeptical about girl's disappearance
Ludington Daily
Ludington, Michigan
July 06, 1993

BRIGHTON, Mich. [AP] -  Authorities skeptical of initial reports about the disappearance of a 3-year-old girl questioned her mother and the woman's fiance for several hours today.

Ken Norton told police he left Tabatha Horn inside his station wagon for a few minutes late Monday morning when he stopped to buy motor oil at a store off Interstate 96 near Brighton, state police Sgt. Scott Kelley said.

When Norton returned, Tabatha was missing and he called police, Kelley said. Norton said he left a car window rolled down.

Despite heavy traffic around the convenience store, no one remembers seeing the little girl, Brighton police Lt. Gerald Bockhausen said.

Police still consider Tabatha missing, but that could change after investigators meet today to discuss the case, Bockhausen said.

State police at the Brighton post questioned Norton early today while the girl's mother, Wendy Gokee, was questioned at the Brighton Police Department. Neither was in custody and no arrest warrants were issued, Bockhausen said.

Gokee, who has diabetes, had been undergoing tests at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor when Tabatha disappeared. She was released to join the search, Kelley said.

Norton said he and Tabatha were on the way from Vestaburg, near Mount Pleasant, to visit Gokee, the sergeant said. Norton and his three children share the house with Gokee, her two children and several of Tabatha's cousins.

















Missing toddler's case treated as a 'criminal act'
Ludington Daily
Ludington, Michigan
July 07, 1993

'Nobody has confirmed anywhere ... that they saw the child...' State police
BRIGHTON, Mich. [AP] - State police began searching Isabella County this morning for a 3-year-old girl last seen Monday at a convenience store.

"We're treating this as a missing person," said Sgt. Barry Trombly of the Mount Pleasant post. He said the search team will include divers, two specially trained tracking dogs and officers from the state police, sheriff's office, and Brighton and Mount Pleasant police.

The effort focusing on Fremont Township began about 9 a.m. "This will go until we're satisfied ...they've literally turned over every rock," Trombly said.

Ken Norton, 35, of Vestaburg told police he left his fiancee's daughter, Tabatha Horn, alone in his station wagon for a few minutes just before noon Monday, when he stopped to buy motor oil at a store off Interstate 96 in Brighton.

Norton said he had left a window rolled down and Tabatha strapped into a child seat, but she was missing when he returned. "I never feel comfortable leaving her there, but I couldn't take her in the bathroom with me," he said.

Police spent Monday and Tuesday searching a one-mile area around the store but turned up no sign of the child, and said they suspected foul play.

"From this point forward we have to deal with it as a criminal act," Brighton Police Chief Michael Kinaschuk said Tuesday. 

Investigators also today planned to retrace the route Norton took from Vestaburg en route to visit his fiancee, Wendy Gokee, who was undergoing treatment for epilepsy at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

Norton is not considered a suspect in the girl's disappearance. But Kinaschuk said police no longer believe Tabatha got out of the station wagon by herself, and they still haven't found an eyewitness to vouch for Norton's story.

"Nobody has confirmed anywhere along the route that they saw the child," said Lt. Gerald Bockhausen of the Brighton police. "You become very concerned when there wasn't an eyewitness to what happened."

Gokee, 24, said Tuesday that she believed her daughter had been abducted, but that she didn't blame Norton for Tabatha's disappearance.

"Whoever has her, bring her home," Gokee said Tuesday at the Brighton police station, where she thanked the dozens of volunteers who participated in the search. "Tabatha, if you can hear me, I love you. If anyone knows anything, just call. I want my baby back."

State police questioned Norton early Tuesday while Brighton police questioned Gokee.

Norton, his three children and four foster children share a home with Gokee and her two daughters in Vestaburg, 120 miles northwest of Ann Arbor.


















Man refuses polygraph in probe of missing toddler
July 08, 1993
Ludington Daily News
Ludington, Michigan

BRIGHTON, Mich. [AP] - The man who reported a 3-year-old missing from his car at a convenience store refused to take a lie detector test, state police said.

The search for Tabatha horn shifted Wednesday from Brighton, where she was reported missing, to rural Isabella county, where she lived with her mother and the woman's fiance, Ken Norton.

Investigators now suspect foul play but lack solid evidence pointing to a suspect, Brighton Public Safety Director Michael Kinaschuk said.

The mother, Wendy Gokee, 24, passed a polygraph test Wednesday but Norton, 34, a state prison guard, refused the test, state police Lt. Frank Hughes said from the Mount Pleasant post.

Norton refused to take the test after an investigator upset Gokee by saying to them, "'You're not looking for a baby, you're looking for a body,'" John Gokee Jr., the child's father, told The Detroit News in a report published today.

Brighton police, who asked that state police conduct the tests, refused to confirm or deny John Gokee's story.

More than 25 officers from five agencies searched for five hours Wednesday in and near the house where Norton lived with Tabatha, her mother and several other children. Divers and tracking dogs participated.

Police removed one of several guns found inside the home after learning its serial number did not check out, Hughes told The News.

The search of the area near the Fremont Township house "will go until we're satisfied... they've literally turned over every rock," state police Sgy. Barry Trombly said.

Norton has told police he left Tabatha in his station wagon for a few minutes late Monday morning, when he stopped at a store off Interstate 96 in Brighton.

Norton said he had left a window rolled down and Tabatha strapped in a child seat, but she was missing when he returned. He said they were en route to visit Gokee, who was undergoing treatment for epilepsy at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

John Gokee, 30, of Higgins Lake said he met Norton for the first time Wednesday morning at the home of Wendy Gokee's parents. He later met with investigators at Brighton police headquarters.

Gokee has been separated from his wife since 1991 and said he last saw Tabatha last winter. He said he believes Norton's story, but added, "I think it would make him look better if he would open up and talk and start pleading his innocence."



















ACROSS  THE  USA:  NEWS  FROM  EVERY  STATE
USA TODAY
Friday, July 9, 1993
MICHIGAN

BRIGHTON - Ken Norton, who reported a girl, 3, missing from his car at a convenience store, refused a lie detector test. Police say they suspect foul play in the disappearance of Tabatha Horn but lack solid evidence to name a suspect. Her mother, Wendy Gokee , 24 - Norton's fiancee - passed a polygraph test. 

















Searchers for girl still come up empty
July 09, 1993
Ludington Daily
Ludington, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. [AP] - The search for a missing 3-year-old took investigators along the roads near her home in central Lower Michigan.

Ken Norton, the fiance of Tabatha Horn's mother, has told police he briefly left the toddler strapped in her car seat Monday while he went inside a convenience store along Interstate 96 in Brighton.

A search of the area around the busy store turned up no sign of the girl. On Wednesday and Thursday, authorities searched Norton's home near Vestaburg in Montcalm County.

They then decided to trace the path Norton said he traveled from Vestaburg to Alma while taking Tabatha to Ann Arbor, where her mother was undergoing hospital treatment.

Norton and Tabatha's mother, Wendy Gokee, both maintain the child was abuducted from the back of his station wagon after he stopped in Brighton.

Investigators suspect foul play but lack solid evidence pointing to a suspect, Brighton Public Safety Director Michael Kinaschuk said. In an interview with WDIV, Norton denied any involvement with Tabatha's disappearance.

The couple lived with Gokee's two daughters, Norton's three children and four of Norton's brother's children.
















Police search home, trace car's route in hunt for girl
July 09, 1993
The Blade
Toledo, Ohio

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich [AP] - Police are retracing the path that Ken Norton says he drove before reporting a 3-year-old girl missing from his car parked outside a convenience store.

Authorities searched mr. Norton's rural home Wednesday and yesterday before deciding to trace his path from Vestaburg to Alma, Mich., accorind to a statement from the state police post in Mount Pleasant.

State police searched the area around  the Brighton, Mich., convenience store off I-96 late Monday morning after Mr. Norton said Tabatha Horn, his fiancee's daughter, was missing. He said he left the girl strapped in her car seat with the window rolled down.

Mr. Norton lives with the girl's mother, Wendy Gokee. They maintain the child was abducted from the back of the station wagon when Mr. Norton stopped briefly for motor oil and to use the bathroom.

He told police he also stopped once earlier, just before 8 a.m. at an Alma gas station.

Mr. Norton said he and Tabatha were on their way to Ann Arbor, Mich., to visit Ms. Gokee, who was undergoing treatment for epilepsy at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

Investigators suspect foul play but lack solid evidence pointing to a suspect, said Brighton Public Safety Director Michael Kinaschuk.

Ms. Gokee, 24, passed a lie-detector test Wednesday, but Mr. Norton, 34, refused, said state police Lt. Frank Hughes.

Mr. Norton refused to take the test after an investigator upset Ms. Gokee by telling her, " 'You're not looking for baby, you're looking for a body,' " said John Gokee, Jr., the child's father.

Brighton police, who asked that state police conduct the tests, refused to comment on John Gokee's story.

In an interview with WDIV-TV in Detroit, Mr. Norton denied he had anything to do with Tabatha's disappearance.

The couple lived with Ms. Gokee's two daughters, Mr. Norton's three children, and four children of Mr. Norton's brother.


















Body of child found; police arrest fiance of girl's mom
July 10, 1993
The Blade
Toledo, Ohio

VESTABURG, Mich [AP] - The body of a small, female child was found about 2 miles from the home 3-year-old Tabatha Horn shared with her mother and her fiance, state police said last night.

Sgt. John Terry would not confirm the body was that of Tabatha. But, he said Ken Norton, the fiance of Tabatha's mother, was arrested late yesterday on an open charge of murder.

Mr. Norton had told police he briefly left the toddler strapped in her car seat Monday while he went inside a convenience store along Interstate 96 in Brighton, Mich.

A body was found about 7:30 p.m. yesterday near the home Norton, 35, shared with Wendy Gokee, 24, Tabatha's mother. The little girl's sister, Norton's three children, and four of Norton's brother's children also lived at the sprawling house near Vestaburg.

There was no answer last night at the Montcalm County home.

A search of the area around the busy Brighton store turned up no sign of the girl. On Wednesday and Thursday, authorities searched around Norton's home. Earlier yesterday, they traced the path Mr. Norton said he traveled from Vestaburg to Alma while taking Tabatha to Ann Arbor, where her mother was undergoing hospital treatment.
















Child's body found; fiance of mother is arrested
July 10, 1993
The Argus-Press
Owosso, Michigan

VESTABURG, Mich [AP] - A body tentatively identified as Tabatha Horn was found in a shallow grave near the home the 3-year-old shared with her mother and her fiance, state police said Friday night.

The fiance, Ken Norton, was arrested 2 1/2 hours later, said Lt. Frank Hughes, commander of the Mount Pleasant post. Norton, 35, a state prison guard, was to be arraigned Saturday on an open murder charge, Huges said.

Authorities scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. today at Mount Pleasant city police headquarters.

Norton, 35, had told police he briefly left the toddler strapped in her car seat Monday while he went inside a convenience store along Interstate 96 in Brighton.

Acting on a tip, investigators found the girl's body about 8 p.m. Friday in a wooded area about two miles south of her home near Vestaburg in Montcalm County, Hughes said.

There was no answer Friday night at the house Norton shared with his fiancee, Wendy Gokee, 24, her two daughters, his three children and four children of Norton's brother.

Norton's initial report prompted a two-day search of the area around the Brighton store. The search shifted Wednesday and Thursday to the area around Norton's home. Earlier Friday, investigators traced the route Norton said he and Tabatha were taking to Ann Arbor, where Gokee was undergoing hospital treatment.



















Self-described pyschic leads police to tot's body
July 11, 1993
The Argus-Press
Owosso, Michigan

A self-described psychic's tip led police to the buried body of a 3-year-old girl who had been missing for five days, state police said yesterday. The fiance of the girl's mother was arrested.

An arraignment was scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow for Ken Norton. He was expected to be charged with open murder in Tabatha Horn's death, said Lt. Frank Hughes, commander of the state police post in Mount Pleasant.

The child's body was found Friday in a shallow grave near the home where she lived with her mother and Mr. Norton. Mr. Norton was arrested 2 1/2 hours later, Mr. hughes said. The 35-year-old state prison guard was being held in lieu of $500,000 cash bond.

There were no visible signs of physical or sexual abuse on the girl's body, Mr. Hughes said. An autopsy was being conducted Saturday.

Norton had told police he briefly left the toddler strapped in her car seat Monday while he went inside a convenience store off Interstate 96 in Brighton.

A woman who identified herself as a psychic called police at 4:15 p.m. Friday and said she had a vision of a child near a wishing well, police said at a news conference Saturday morning. The woman also said the body would be found in or near a green duffel bag, Huges said.

Authorities searched an area matching the woman's description about two miles south of Tabatha's home near Vestaburg in Montcalm County. The girl's naked body was found about 8 p.m., near a green baby seat, Hughes said.

Police did not release the woman's name, and said she would be questioned further as part of the investigation. But Hughes said the only suspect in the case was Norton.

Hughes said he didn't know if the woman had psychic powers or found out where Tabatha's body was through more conventional means.

"I just thank God they called us," he said. "I don't care if it was Bozo the clown."

Norton lived with his fiancee and Tabatha's mother, Wendy Gokee, 24; her two daughters; his three children; and four children of Norton's brother.

Norton's initial report prompted a two-day search of the area around the Brighton store. The search shifted Wednesday and Thursday to the area around Norton's home. Earlier Friday, investigators traced the route Norton said he and Tabatha were taking to Ann Arbor, where Gokee was undergoing hospital treatment.

In an interview with Detroit's WDIV-TV earlier this week, Norton denied any involvement in Tabatha's disappearance.



















Psychic's tip leads to body
July 11, 1993
The Blade
Toledo, Ohio

A self-described psychic's tip led police to the buried body of a 3-year-old girl who had been missing for five days, state police said yesterday. The fiance of the girl's mother was arrested.

An arraignment was scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow for Ken Norton. He was expected to be charged with open murder in Tabatha Horn's death, said Lt. Frank Hughes, commander of the state police post in Mount Pleasant.

The child's body was found Friday in a shallow grave near the home where she lived with her mother and Mr. Norton. Mr. Norton was arrested 2 1/2 hours later, Mr. hughes said. The 35-year-old state prison guard was being held in lieu of $500,000 cash bond.

There were no visible signs of physical or sexual abuse on the girl's body, Mr. Hughes said. An autopsy was being conducted yesterday.


















Woman says 'impressions' let her describe girl's burial site
July 13, 1993
The Argus-Press
Owosso, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich [AP] - Elizabeth Mahan's previous psychic exploits had been limited to predicting that friends would have car trouble.

Last week, however, the 43-year-old woman told police where to look for the body of 3-year-old Tabatha Horn.

After five days of fruitless searching, Mahan's tip led police Friday to the girl's naked body, buried in a shallow grave about two miles from her Vestaburg home. Hours later, they arrested her mother's live-in fiance.

Ken Norton, 35, was arraigned Monday before Isabella County District Judge Peter O'Connell on a charge of open murder. 

O'Connell ordered the state prison guard held on a $500,000 cash bond and scheduled a July 20 preliminary examination.

"It was nothing this big before," Mahan's husband Cliff said Monday. "She'd just been able to sometimes tell people to watch out for things like 'You're going to have car trouble.' "

The search for Tabatha began July 5 at a convenience store in Brighton, where Norton said the girl had somehow gotten out of the station wagon they were taking to Ann Arbor, where her mother was undergoing medical treatment.

The search later shifted to the area around Tabatha's home and the route Norton said he had been taking to Ann Arbor.

Mahan, meanwhile, said she began having severe headaches the day Tabatha disappeared. The girl lived a few miles down the road from her house.

Mahan said Monday that she meditated and asked Tabatha to tell her where she was.

"I went inside myself and I just kept saying, 'OK, baby, tell me where you are.' I said, 'I can help you' and I kept hearing 'Bad man ... bad man ...,' " Mahan said.

The day before Tabatha's body was found, Mahan said she had formed an "impression" of something green, possibly a duffel bag, along with an image of a wishing well. Police found the girl's body about 150 yards away from a well, buried underneath a box spring and a green child safety seat.

Police credited the deputy who recovered Tabatha's body with looking beyond Mahan's tip, but they acknowledged her part in the discovery.

"I will give her some credit for helping us find the body," Detective Clare Fox said from the state police post in Mount Pleasant.

"We went to the location she was describing ... It was the general area, but if we had based it on what she had told us and had not looked any farther, we never would have found the body."

An innocent plea was entered on Norton's behalf. He continues to maintain his innocence, said his attorney, James Veldhuis.

"The whole thing has been very hard on Ken, just like it has been for everybody else," Veldhuis said.

Results of an autopsy performed Sunday remained unavailable today.

Tabatha's funeral is scheduled for today in Ypsilanti.


















Man Accused of murdering child described as caring
July 20, 1993
Ludington Daily News
Ludington, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich [AP] - A man charged with murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter and burying her nude body is described as a family man who gave love and care to many children.

Ken Norton, 34, of Isabella County's Fremont Township faced a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. today in the death of 3-year-old Tabatha Horn, daughter of his fiancee, Wendy Gokee.

Tabatha's body was found July 9 in a shallow grave about 1 1/2 miles from Norton's home. Norton had reported her missing July 5, saying she disappeared from his car when he stopped at a convenience store in Brighton.

He became a prison guard in 1986 and in 1989 started working at the Carson City Regional Correctional Facility.

He, Gokee and Tabatha shared their rural home with his three daughters, ages 15, 13 and 8, and Gokee's other daughter, 5.

In April, he took in four children of his brother, Brent Norton, 33, who was sent to prison on seven criminal sexual conduct convictions.

"He worked hard to provide for his family," his former mother-in-law, Dixie Moss, told The Saginaw News.

Moss said Norton helped when she and her husband Gorden decided to put up a pole barn at their Lincoln Township home.

Norton graduated from Shepherd High School in 1977, the year he married Dixie Moss and enlisted in the Army. He served as a military police officer and was honorbly discharged in 1980. When the Nortons divorced in 1991, he kept the children and she paid child support.

Norton helped his children with their schoolwork and sports, Moss said. "He did what he figured was best for his children," she said.

Gokee's older daughter, Tiffany, has multiple handicaps and must be fed through a tube, Moss said. "What kind of man would take in a woman with two kids, one severly handicapped and blind?" Moss asked.

Moss said she never saw Norton lose his temper. "He was far from a monster," she said.

Authorities haven't given a motive for the slaying. Moss said she believed Tabatha's death might have been accidental.

"If something happened, then it was unfortunate that it wasn't reported immediately," she said. "If it was him who did it, I believe it was an accident, and he wanted to remove [Tabatha] from the house for the sake of his children. Ken's main concern all along was protecting his children."


















Child-murder suspect described as a dedicated family man
July 20, 1993
The Argus-Press
Owosso, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich [AP] - A man charged with murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter and burying her nude body is described as a family man who gave love and care to many children.

Ken Norton, 34, of Isabella County's Fremont Township faced a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. today in the death of 3-year-old Tabatha Horn, daughter of his fiancee, Wendy Gokee.

Tabatha's body was found July 9 in a shallow grave about 1 1/2 miles from Norton's home. Norton had reported her missing July 5, saying she disappeared from his car when he stopped at a convenience store in Brighton.

He became a prison guard in 1986 and in 1989 started working at the Carson City Regional Correctional Facility.

He, Gokee and Tabatha shared their rural home with his three daughters, ages 15, 13 and 8, and Gokee's other daughter, 5.

In April, he took in four children of his brother, Brent Norton, 33, who was sent to prison on seven criminal sexual conduct convictions.

"He worked hard to provide for his family," his former mother-in-law, Dixie Moss, told The Saginaw News for a story Monday.

Moss said Norton helped when she and her husband Gorden decided to put up a pole barn at their Lincoln Township home. He also came through when they needed transportation in a 1980 family emergency, she said.

"Ken handed my husband the keys, and said, 'Take my car. It's ready," Moss said.

Norton graduated from Shepherd High School in 1977, the year he married Dixie Moss and enlisted in the Army. He served as a military police officer and was honorbly discharged in 1980.

When the Nortons divorced in 1991, he kept the children and she paid child support.

Norton helped his children with their schoolwork and sports and taught the oldest daughter to play golf, Moss said. "He did what he figured was best for his children," she said.

Gokee's older daughter, Tiffany, has multiple handicaps and must be fed through a tube, Moss said. "What kind of man would take in a woman with two kids, one severly handicapped and blind?" Moss asked.

Moss said she never saw Norton lose his temper. "He was far from a monster," she said.

Authorities haven't given a motive for the slaying. Moss said she believed Tabatha's death might have been accidental.

"If something happened, then it was unfortunate that it wasn't reported immediately," she said. "If it was him who did it, I believe it was an accident, and he wanted to remove [Tabatha] from the house for the sake of his children. Ken's main concern all along was protecting his children."



Ken Norton's brother - Brent Edward Norton: 
CSC Convictions

















Daughter's testimony damaging to suspect
July 21, 1993
The Argus - Press
Owosso, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. [AP] - Ken Norton punished Tabatha Horn the day before she died for rebelling against toilet training, his oldest daughter said during his preliminary hearing on charges of killing the toddler.

The 15-year-old testified she saw Tabitha sitting in her room blindfolded with her hands behind her back.

The testimony Tuesday was the most serious against Norton, 34, who was ordered to stand trial on charges that he murdered the 3-year-old daughter of his fiancee.

Norton faces arraignment July 30 in Isabella County Circuit Court on a charge of first-degree murder. He faces life inprisonment without parole if convicted. Norton remains jailed on a $500,000 bond.

Tabatha's body was found July 9 in a shallow grave about 1 1/2 miles from the Fremont Township home Norton shared with the girl's mother, Wendy Gokee, 24, and eight other children. Norton had reported Tabatha missing July 5, saying she disappeared from his car when he stopped at a convenience store in Brighton.

Sparrow Hosptial pathologist Laurence Simson testified that Tabatha, whose body was not bruised, probably was asphixiated. He didn't give other possible causes of death.

An attorney for Norton asked whether the death could have been accidental, and Simson said yes.

Norton became a prison guard in 1986 and in 1989 started working at the Carson City Regional Correctional Facility.

He, Gokee and Tabatha lived in a rural home with his three daughters, ages 15, 13, and 8; Gokee's other daughter, age 5; and four of Norton's brother's children.

Tuesday's preliminary hearing as delayed shortly when an attempted bank robbery nearby sent police officers out of the courthouse.

A man attempted to rob the Isabella Bank and Trust about 2:30 p.m. by taking two women and a baby hostage and forcing them to go through the bank drive-thru.

The suspect who was in the back seat, was shot and killed, Mount Pleasant City Manager Paul Preston said. The 8-month-old child was slightly injured from the knife the man was holding but did not require hospitalization, Preston said. The women were unhurt.



















Police kill suspect in Mount Pleasant kidnapping attempt
July 21, 1993
Ludington Daily News
Ludington, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. [AP] - Police shot and killed a man who took an infant and two women hostage while trying to force one of them to withdraw money from her bank.

Names of the four Mount Pleasant-area residents involved in the Tuesday afternoon incident were not being released this morning, Sgt. Timothy Gill said from the state police post at Mount Pleasant. 

The man and at least one of the women were neighbors, he said.

The man locked one woman in the trunk of the car and held a knife against the 8-month-old boy. He then forced the other woman - the baby's mother - to drive to Mount Pleasant about 2:30 p.m. and withdraw money from a branch of Isabella Bank and Trust, Gill said.

The driver was able to pass a note through the bank drive-thru to let tellers know she was being held hostage. Bank employees called city police; two officers responded and one shot the man to death, Gill said.

The infant suffered a slight wound from the knife the suspect was holding but did not require hospitalization, said Mount Pleasant City Manager Paul Preston. The women were unhurt.

City police turned over the investigation to the state police.

The incident interrupted the preliminary hearing for Ken Norton, who is accused of first-degree murder in the death earlier this month of Tabatha Horn, his fiancee's 3-year-old daughter.

Police briefly had to leave the Isabella County courthouse to respond to the emergency at the bank. Norton's hearing concluded in the evening with an order that he stand trial in Circuit Court in the girl's death.





















Norton on trial in toddler's death
January 09, 1994
The Argus-Press
Owosso, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. [AP] - A man on trial in the slaying of a toddler told police a story of the girl's kidnapping from his car that began coming apart almost as soon as he told it, prosectors said.

Kenneth M. Norton Jr. "made a schematic plan, cover-up of his killing of this child," Isabella County Prosecutor Larry J. Burdick said in opening arguments Friday in Norton's murder trial.

Norton has said he is innocent.

Burdick said some of the first holes in Norton's story of driving from Vestaburg to Brighton began showing when he said the normally two-hour drive took him about four hours.

Also, a truck driver who followed the car for some time along the highway remembered noticing empty car seats inside and no one but the driver.

"His story began to unravel," Burdick said.

Norton, 35, faces trial in an open charge of murder in the death last July of Tabitha Horn, the 3-year-old daughter of his fiancee, Wendy Gokee.

Norton reported the girl kidnapped from a convenience store near Brighton during a trip he said he took with Tabatha to visit her mother at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. 

Norton had called in sick that day on his job at Carson City Regional Correctional Facility.

Burdick said Norton used some of the four hours he said it took him to make the trip to bury Tabatha's body and her clothes. Her body was found a few days later, buried in Montcalm county near her home. An autopsy indicated she may have been suffocated.

"Ken Norton is a meticulous killer who killed Tabatha Horn because she could not abide by his rules," the prosecutor told the Isabella county Circuit Court jury. "The defendant was a prison guard by occupation and was also a prison guard in the treatment of Tabatha."

Testimony at Norton's preliminary hearing last year indicated Tabatha had been blindfolded and possibly tied to a chair as punishment for wetting her pants. Norton's teen-age daughters testified he was very harsh with the child.

Defense attorney James D. Veldhuis told Judge Paul Chamberlain he would make an opening statement later in the trial.

John C, Schneider, a truck driver for Gordon Food Services, testified Friday to seeing Norton's station wagon about an hour before Norton told police he stopped at a convenience store and Tabatha disappeared. Schneider said he noticed the car's back window was down and there was only the driver inside.

"There were two car seats facing me, but there were no children in the seats," he said.

One witness, Scott MacGunigal was the first officer who responded to the missing child call.

"We did not believe the story he was telling us," Gunigal said.

The trial is to resume Monday and expected to take a total of two weeks. he could face up to life in prison if convicted.





















Norton convicted of murdering Tabitha
January 22, 1994
The Argus-Press
Owosso, Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. [AP] - a 35-year-old man was convicted Friday of second-degree murder in the suffocation of his fiancee's 3-year-old daughter.

Kenneth M. Norton Jr. faces up to life in prison for killing Tabatha Horn July 5, 1993, while her mother was hospitalized for epilepsy tests.

Prosecutors said Norton killed the girl while disciplining her, then buried her near the Vestaburg home he shared with Wendy Gokee and nine children.

He drove south to Brighton, saying he was taking the girl to visit Gokee at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

He reported her kidnapped while he briefly left his car at a convenience store. Deputies found the toddler's body four days later. 

Norton's teenage daughter's testified to seeing Tabatha blind-folded, seated in a chair with her hands behind her back and crying the night before she was reported missing.

Norton testified he didn't kill the girl, but had buried her after finding her dead in bed. He said he feared either his 14- or 15-year-old daughter had killed her.

The Isabella County Jury began deliberating late Thursday, broke and resumed deliberations Friday. It returned a verdict at midafternoon. The jurors had been instructed they could find Norton innocent or convict him of first-degree or second-degree murder, or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.






















Norton found guilty of killing 3-year-old 
South Bend Tribune
South Bend, Indiana
Sunday, January 23, 1994

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - A man who testified he buried his fiancee's 3-year-old child because he feared one of his daughters might have killed her was found guilty of second-degree murder Friday. 

The jury deliberated about six hours over two days before finding Kenneth M. Norton Jr., 35, of Vestaburg guilty in the suffocation death of Tabatha Horn on July 5, 1993. 

Norton faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced next month by Circuit Judge Paul Chamberlain. 

``He took something away from me I can't get back. He can get his freedom back,'' Tabatha's mother, Wendy Gokee , told Detroit's WDIV-TV. 

``But no matter how many years go by, I can't get back what I lost,'' Gokee said. 

Prosecutors alleged that Norton killed Tabatha while disciplining her, then buried her near the Vestaburg home he shared with Gokee and nine children. 

He drove south to Brighton, saying he was taking the girl to visit Gokee when she was undergoing epilepsy tests at University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. 

He reported her kidnapped after he briefly left his car at a convenience store. 

Deputies found the toddler's body four days later. 

Norton's teen-age daughters had testified to seeing Tabatha blindfolded, seated in a chair with her hands behind her back and crying the night before she was reported missing. 

Norton testified he didn't kill the girl, but buried her after finding her dead in bed. 

He said he feared either his 14-or 15-year-old daughter had killed her, but did not confront either of them about the death. 

During the two-week trial, Gokee had stormed off the witness stand at one point and suffered an epileptic seizure after becoming enraged at the antics of some people in the courthouse. 

The Isabella County jury had been instructed they could find Norton innocent or convict him of first-degree or second-degree murder, or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.



















Vestaburg man found guilty of suffocating his fiancee's daughter
South Bend Tribune
South Bend, Indiana
Sunday, January 23, 1994

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - A man who testified he buried his fiancee's 3-year-old child because he feared one of his daughters might have killed her was found guilty of second-degree murder Friday. 

The jury deliberated about six hours over two days before finding Kenneth M. Norton Jr., 35, of Vestaburg guilty in the suffocation death of Tabatha Horn on July 5, 1993. 

Norton faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced next month by Circuit Judge Paul Chamberlain. 

``He took something away from me I can't get back. He can get his freedom back,'' Tabatha's mother, Wendy Gokee , told Detroit's WDIV-TV. 

``But no matter how many years go by, I can't get back what I lost,'' Gokee said. 

Prosecutors alleged that Norton killed Tabatha while disciplining her, then buried her near the Vestaburg home he shared with Gokee and nine children. 

He drove south to Brighton, saying he was taking the girl to visit Gokee when she was undergoing epilepsy tests at University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. 

He reported her kidnapped after he briefly left his car at a convenience store. 

Deputies found the toddler's body four days later. 

Norton's teen-age daughters had testified to seeing Tabatha blindfolded, seated in a chair with her hands behind her back and crying the night before she was reported missing. 

Norton testified he didn't kill the girl, but buried her after finding her dead in bed. 

He said he feared either his 14-or 15-year-old daughter had killed her, but did not confront either of them about the death. 

During the two-week trial, Gokee had stormed off the witness stand at one point and suffered an epileptic seizure after becoming enraged at the antics of some people in the courthouse. 

The Isabella County jury had been instructed they could find Norton innocent or convict him of first-degree or second-degree murder, or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. 
















February 10, 1994: 
Kenneth M. Norton sentenced to 22 - 36 years for the second-degree murder of Tabatha Horn.



















July 18, 1994:

Kenneth M. Norton filed an appeal on his murder conviction. Norton's conviction was upheld.


















May 31, 1996:

Kenneth M. Norton filed an appeal of his murder conviction with the Michigan Supreme Court. His appeal was denied.



















Did a psychic solve the Tabitha Horn murder case?
Posted on March 27, 2009
By Matt Briggs
http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=471

Background
On Monday, 5 July 1993, Kenneth Norton, 34, a resident of Vestaburg, Michigan (his home was about ten miles from Mount Pleasant and Central Michigan University) was driving to Ann Arbor in his station wagon with his live-in girl friend’s daughter, Tabatha Horn, 3. 

They were on their way to see Wendy Michelle Gokee, Tabitha’s mother, who who was at a medical facility in Ann Arbor undergoing tests.

Norton, who at the time was a Correctional Officer at the Carson City Correctional Facility, called the police around noon from the Hop In convenience store in Brighton (which is near Ann Arbor) and reported that Tabatha was missing. Norton claimed he could not remember the last time he saw Tabitha, but said she had certainly started the trip with him. 

The state police conducted a thorough search of Norton’s vehicle and when that offered no clues, they began to re-trace Norton’s route, hoping to find evidence of Tabitha’s whereabouts along the way. No signs of Tabitha were found. No one at the Hop In convenience store had seen the girl, nor had anyone noticed anything unusual.

Norton said he left his home at about 7:30 am Monday and first stopped for gas in Alma, which is about 15 miles away. It normally takes about 20 minutes to make this trip, but Norton claimed it took over an hour. When questioned about the discrepancy, Norton said he wasn’t good at looking at his watch and estimating times. 

After this odd admission, Police also searched around Norton’s Vestaburg residence, which is actually nearer the town of Winn, Michigan. 




After three days, police began to openly suspect that Tabitha’s disappearance was not a “wandering incident” but instead that a crime had occurred. 

Suspicion naturally fell on Norton and on Tabitha’s mother, Wendy Gokee. Lt. Frank Hughes of the Michigan State Police offered a polygraph examination to both Gokee and Norton. Gokee took the test: according to Hughes, she passed that test.

Norton refused to take the test or even talk to the police. His refusal was the subject of a front page story on 8 July Morning Sun (a Mt. Pleasant paper, which is the primary paper for Vestaburg and surrounding area).

However, Brighton police and the State police were also quoted as saying that “no solid evidence had been uncovered”, so no arrests were made at this point.

The last person to see Tabitha besides Norton was another child who lived with Norton and Gokee. That child reported seeing Tabitha in bed on Sunday night at 10:30 pm. 

That child shared the Vestaburg home with another daughter of Gokee’s, three of Norton’s children, and four of Norton’s brother’s children (the brother was in prison at the time).

I talked to Sgt. Barry Trombly of the Michigan State Police in Mt. Pleasant who reported that Norton’s attitude was extremely suspicious. He was seemingly impassive about losing a girl that was “like a daughter to him.” Trombly was concerned that Norton had refused to take the lie detector test.

On Wednesday, 7 July, the police used a helicopter, dogs and members of the Isabella County dive team in conduct a “cursory” sweep of Gokee’s residence, a country-side home situated in farm land, but nothing was turned up.

The Tip
The next day, Thursday, 8 July, Elizabeth Mahan, 43, a resident of Winn (which it near to Norton’s home), called Janet Flowers, who was the cook at the Isabella county jail, and gave her information to relay to the police about the “location of Horn’s body.”

Mahan claimed she received this information while in a “trance.” 

Flowers said she turned Mahan’s tip over to Deputy Matt Eckerman of the Isabella County Sheriff’s department.


Acting on the tip, on Friday, 9 July, Deputy Eckerman returned to the Gokee residence and conducted a more thorough search of the surrounding area. A home about a mile from Norton’s residence had a decorative well in the front yard. Further down the road was a two track, which Eckerman explored. 

About 150 yards down the two track, Eckerman spotted a green car seat in the woods, and by it was a fresh grave containing 3-year old Tabitha’s body. 

The 1 and a half foot grave was hidden beneath an old mattress. 

Tabitha’s naked body was wrapped in a blue terry cloth towel and a blue baby blanket, all covered in plastic and wrapped with white surgical tape.

An autopsy later revealed that Tabitha died by asphyxiation, possibly as the result of a bag being placed over her head, or a pillow covering her face. There were no wounds on her body and no evidence of sexual assault. 

Ken Norton was arrested later that night and charged with murder. 

On Sunday, 11 July , the Morning Sun and the combined Detroit News and Free Press (papers with statewide circulation) both contained front page headlines detailing the body’s discovery. 

Morning Sun: “Norton arrested in Tabitha’s death: Caller claiming to be psychic leads police to grave site.” 

New/Free Press: “Police follow tip from ‘psychic’ to missing girl’s body.”

On Tuesday, 13 July, the Morning Sun contained another front page headline: “‘Psychic’ heard Tabatha call for help.” 

On Thursday 22 July, the Detroit Free Press gave over its “Way We Live” section to report Elizabeth Mahan’s, and other psychic detective’s, sleuthing feats.

It thus appeared that Tabitha would not have been found with the help of Mahan’s psychic divinations. The press certainly credited Mahan with playing a substantial role in solving the case.

Mahan’s Changing Vision

A press conference was held by the authorities on Saturday, 10 July (and reported in the papers on the 11th). Lt. Hughes, when asked if he thought Mahan used psychic abilities to locate Tabitha, or she had used more normal means, said, “I just thank God she called us. I don’t care if it was Bozo the clown. If there’s a child out there and possibly alive, we will follow up on every tip. ” 

On Tuesday, 13 July, the Morning Sun said that Mahan had been reading tarot cards for neighbors for 17 years. When Tabitha went missing, she claimed she began having “terrible headaches.”

Drawing on powers that have allowed her to have “impressions” for the last 2 1/2 years, Mahan said she meditated and asked Tabitha to tell her where she was.

I went inside myself and I just kept saying, ‘OK baby, tell me where you are.’ I said, ‘I can help you’ and I kept hearing ‘Bad man…bad man…,’” she said, adding by Thursday sher had formed an impression of something green, possibly a duffel bag, along with the image of a wishing well. (emphasis mine)

Note carefully that Mahan’s original statement was that the body “would be found in or by a green duffel bag near a wishing well.” 

This changed to “something green, possibly a duffel bag.”

The Morning Sun (the 13th; front page) said, “Those two elements of the crime scene–the wishing well and the green seat–may make Mahan’s tip seem nearly accurate…” This was the view of the Free Press and Detroit News as well.

The Sun also revealed that Mahan had never had contact with any of the persons connected with Tabitha. Except for Norton.

“‘He used to come into Ric’s Party Store and I used to work there,’ she said. ‘I didn’t even want to wait on him. I’d get feelings—bad vibes—from this guy.’” 

Mahan also said, “I really feel that there was an altercation with a female at least two or three days before he committed this. He was very, very angry and unfortunately poor little Tabatha is the one who got it.” This altercation was not known to police at the time I interviewed them on 26 July. 

On Wednesday, 21 July, the Morning Sun again quoted Deputy Eckerman (p 16) who now said “We’d received a tip that the baby was buried in a shallow grave, possibly in green bag near a well.” (emphasis mine) There was never any mention of a “shallow grave” in Mahan’s original tip. 

On Thursday, 22 July, the Detroit Free Press devoted an exclusive story to Mahan (pp 1C & 4C). The paper said that “everyone in that central Michigan community” was “emotionally consumed with Tabitha’s plight.” 

They also reported that Mahan, who lives just nine miles north of Norton’s home, decided to write Norton’s name in her journal with a question mark after it. Later, while meditating, “I got the impression of a wishing well and something green.” The report then noted how accurate Mahan’s vision had been. 

Doubts
Winn/Vestaburg is a very small community: each town is nothing more than a cross roads. The kind of place where everybody necessarily knows everybody. For example, Ken Norton was well known to Elizabeth Mahan prior to Tabitha disappearing. 

Mahan also knew that Norton was ex-military and that he was currently working as a security guard at a prison. It was well known to neighbors, and to Gokee’s other children, that Norton was very demanding in his disciplining of the kids. 

“He may have been a little strict, but he seems good with the kids,” said Dutch Systermann, who owns the Winn Shopping Center (MS 18 July, p 7A).

Norton was always the prime suspect in the case, even before Mahan’s tip. He was, after all, the last person to have seen Tabitha. 

His inconsistencies about the driving times were reported in the press. As was his refusal to take the polygraph, or to even talk to the police at all. 

And the police had already began searching Norton’s residence, an activity impossible to miss in Winn. Psychic powers or not, it was natural to believe Norton knew more than he was telling. 

What about Mahan’s vision? I drove by Norton’s residences and saw that he and Gokee had a decorative wishing well on their front lawn, in prominent view from the road (this might have been on the next-door neighbor’s property; it was close to the property line). 

Mahan certainly would have been able to see this well. (That well was not uncommon: I saw at least two other such wells on other properties in the area.) 

The well that Deputy Eckerman noted was not the same well as that in front of Gokee/Norton’s residence.

We have already seen that the original vision of a “green duffel bag” morphed to “possibly a green bag” to “something green.” 

Deputy Eckerman did spot a green car seat off the two track. The car seat had been one of two in Norton’s car. Under the car seat was and old box spring mattress and a newly dug grave. The body was packaged in two garbage bags, blue towels, tape, and and blanket. 

None of these details were foretold by Mahan.

The press jumped on the fact that Mahan had “seen” a well which is indeed near Norton’s house—but failed to mention the well in front of Norton’s own house. And Mahan said a green duffel bag, not a car seat. 

The body was not found anywhere near a green duffel bag. The body was not found near a wishing well. The body was found in the woods behind Norton’s property, and Norton was always the prime suspect. 

Incidentally, the police told me the area where the body was eventually found was going to be a “marshaling site” the very next day, Saturday 10 July. Sgt. Trombly told me there was to be a “massive search”, some 40-50 people would have been involved in the hunt. 

The press credited Mahan with a success, even though only one part of her original vision was at best partially correct—but it was also incorrect as it is possible that Mahan meant to cast suspicion on Norton by leading police to his well. 

The press was unable to imagine that Mahan, a humble “soft-spoken” psychic, could have pieced together the same suspicions that the police and the press had had before the body was found. 

The calls I made to the Sheriff’s office were referred to the State Police, who had jurisdiction in the case. The officer in charge of the case, Detective Clare Fox, was on vacation and was unavailable for comment at the time I interviewed the State Police. I never did hear from Detective Fox, but newspaper reports indicate he was skeptical of Mahan’s claims.

No other details of Mahan’s original vision are available except was reported in the press. Lt. Frank Hughes, commander of the State Police post, told me that the original “tip sheet” Mahan dictated to cook Flowers was “probably thrown away.” 

Did Mahan mention a tree in her original vision? An old car? Candy wrappers, Satan’s evil influence? Were the only things she saw the duffel bag and the well? We’ll never know. 

It is always easy to search through a list of possible clues and be able to pick and choose—or redefine them—in order to make a good case, but it does not prove psychic powers.

When I pointed these thoughts out to the police, they understandably demurred. “I don’t care if the tip comes in on a flaming arrow, ” said Sgt Trombly, “Investigate the tip first and the arrow second.” 

Also, he said it is always possible that so-called psychics may be related personally to the case. To discourage any kind of tips would therefore be unwise.


The only documentation of Mahan’s involvement was a copy of the tip sheet Det. Fox made while interviewing Mahan, after the body was found, in order to ascertain whether she was involved in the case. The note contained “highlights” from Mahan’s original report plus follow up questions to see if Mahan was personally involved. I never got to see this sheet.

I wrote the Free Press and the writer of the psychic follow up stories a letter detailing my suspicions but I never received a response. 

The case attracted great state wide attention, especially in the small community of Winn. That a local resident and “psychic” helped solve the case was a good angle that helped sell papers. But in-depth analysis of the case casts great suspicions on the accuracy of the visions. 

It is reasonable to conclude that psychic powers were not involved and that Mahan’s, and the rest of the community’s, wishes for Tabatha’s safety and subsequent horror at the discovery of her death played a very large role in the confirmation of Mahan’s psychic abilities.

















Norton denied parole
The Morning Sun, The
Mount Pleasant - Alma, MI
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kenneth Norton Jr., the former prison guard convicted of murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter 18 years ago, has been denied parole in his first opportunity for early release. 

Norton was the central figure in a tragic case that riveted much of Michigan in the summer of 1993. 

Monday was the first day Norton was eligible for parole, but after a hearing several months ago he was denied release by the Michigan Parole Board. 

"The board looked at him and denied him parole," said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. "They gave him a standard code that means he's still considered a risk to the community." 

Norton's next parole review was set for 18 months after the first, or the fall of 2012. 

Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick's office monitors parole processes for certain cases and can also appeal early releases. 

"It's extremely unlikely somebody convicted of murder would be paroled on their first time up," Burdick said. "I could see it possibly happening the next time he's up." 

Norton was convicted of killing Tabatha Horn and sentenced to 22 to 35 years by Isabella Circuit Court Judge Paul Chamberlain after a two-week trial in January 1994. His maximum release date is in 2022. 

Trial testimony indicated that disciplining of Tabatha, who died of suffocation, was a source of conflict between Norton and the girl's mother, Wendy Gokee. 

Tabatha's case gripped much of Michigan in July 1993 when Norton reported her missing and presumably kidnapped from a Brighton convenience store. 

Norton told police he was headed from Vestaburg to Ann Arbor with Tabatha to visit the girl's hospitalized mother. 

Searches for Tabatha continued for several days, but investigators became increasingly suspicious and eventually started to also look for her body. 

Tabatha's case took another bizarre twist when a woman claiming to be a psychic called police and said her body would be found in a green duffle bag near a wishing well. 

Investigators found Tabatha's naked body, wrapped in a towel and baby blanket, at the end of a two-track road, 150 feet from a wishing well. 

The makeshift grave was about two miles from the house Norton shared with Gokee and nine children, two belonging to Gokee, three to Norton and four to Norton's brother. 

Norton, then 34, was a state prison guard working at the Carson City Correctional Facility at the time. 

Now 52, Norton is imprisoned at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, a dormitory-style facility for prisoners who have displayed good behavior while incarcerated. 

















Isabella County prosecutor not seeking re-election
The Morning Sun
Mount Pleasant - Alma, MI
Friday, February 24, 2012

It was neither an easy nor a quick decision. 

After nearly 24 years in office, Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick is not seeking re-election. 

Burdick announced the decision Thursday, saying he has thought a great deal about leaving the office that has been his employer for more than 30 years. 

Burdick, who started in 1981 as an assistant prosecutor during Joseph Barberi's time in office, said he and his wife have been mulling over the decision for the better part of a year. 

After a stint with the FBI in 1983, Burdick rose in the ranks, returning as senior assistant prosecutor in 1984 and chief assistant in 1987 before being elected prosecutor in 1988. 

He is the longest serving prosecutor in the county's history, serving six terms. 

He is the 32nd prosecutor in Isabella County, the first being Nathan Mosher, who served from 1859 to 1860. 

When Burdick was re-elected in 2008, he thought at the time it would be his last term in office, but over the course of almost four years, he began to change his mind, he said. 

"It's such a great job," he said. "I just didn't see not doing it." 

But for most of the past year, Burdick said, he has been going over and over in his mind what he should do in the future. 

He decided that, if he is so conflicted, it's time to step down. 

"It's 31 years that I've been here," he said. "It's time to move on." 

Burdick said he realized that, if he ran again this year and was re-elected, it would be more difficult in four years to start another career. 

Burdick is finishing his term as president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan as well. 

"I just felt like the time was right," he said, adding that he is certain that he will second-guess his decision during the remaining months he is in office. 

"I'm never going to find anything as fulfilling," he said. "I'm never going to find anything as interesting." 

While Burdick said the cases that he remembers most tend to be those that he lost, he has tried many notorious cases, including that of Thomas Wendt, who shot to death three people in the courthouse parking lot in 2002. 

Another high profile and disturbing case was that of Ken Norton, who was convicted of the 1993 killing of 3-year-old Tabatha Horn . 

Yet another was the trial of then-Macomb County Sheriff William Hackel, who was convicted of two counts of criminal sexual conduct in 2000. 

Other cases that are neither high profile nor capital offenses are ones that will stick with Burdick. 

In one case, a man was tried for indecent exposure on the campus of Central Michigan University, and when the man was convicted, Burdick felt a great sense of satisfaction because of what the victim went through and how relieved she was that he was convicted. 

Burdick doesn't know what his future holds but he is honored to have served the people of Isabella County, he said. 

"This has been a real privilege to represent the people of the community all these years," he said, "and to work with the police. 

"It's been a real joy, and I will miss that." 
















Norton, convicted of second-degree murder, paroled
By SUSAN FIELD
The Morning Sun
Posted: 01/09/13, 4:45 PM EST
Updated: on 01/09/2013
http://www.themorningsun.com/article/MS/20130109/NEWS01/130109664



A former Isabella County man is free after serving two decades in prison for the second-degree murder of a 3-year-old girl. 

Kenneth Monroe Norton Jr., 54, was released from a prison in Muskegon County Dec. 11, after serving nearly 19 years of a 22- to 35-year sentence. 

Norton, who will be on supervised release in Muskegon County for two years, was convicted in Isabella County of killing his girlfriend’s daughter, Tabatha Horn, in July 1993. 

He was sentenced Feb. 10, 1994, four years prior to the passage of Truth in Sentencing by the Michigan Legislature, which mandates that prisoners serve maximum minimum sentences before being eligible for parole. 

Because Norton, who lived in Fremont Township at the time of the murder, was incarcerated before Truth in Sentencing, he was eligible for time off for good behavior. 

Norton was denied parole in June 2011 but served less than the maximum-minimum sentence, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman John Cordell said. 

Former Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick, who handled the murder case, contacted the Michigan Parole Board in June to comment on the “tragic and disturbing aspects of” Tabatha’s murder, and cautioned the board to “look carefully at the case and Norton’s record when reviewing the matter for parole.” 

“In the end, his release is a function of his sentence, which makes him eligible, and the parole board’s determination that he is not a risk to the public,” said Burdick, who retired in September after being prosecutor for 24 years. 

Early releases were the one of the driving forces behind the Truth in Sentencing law, Burdick said. 

An Isabella County jury found Norton guilty of second-degree murder in January 1994. 

Tabatha disappeared in July 1993; her body was found less than two miles from Norton’s home, just inside Montcalm County. 

Norton reported the girl missing July 5, 1993, telling authorities that she vanished from his car at a convenience store in Livingston County’s Brighton while the two were headed to Ann Arbor to visit Tabatha’s mother, Wendy Gokee. 

At the time of the disappearance, Norton was a corrections officer at the Carson City Correctional facility, and Gokee was in the University of Michigan Hospital undergoing tests. 

Norton told police in Brighton that he didn’t remember when he last saw Tabatha but that he was certain she started the trip with him. 

Norton’s car yielded no clues, and nobody at the convenience store saw the girl. 

Norton was arrested July 8, 1994 after police discovered her body the same day in a shallow grave. 

A woman who wanted to remain anonymous offered a tip that the girls’ body would be found in or by a green duffle bag near a wishing well, police said at the time of the investigation. 

Police followed a two-track road and discovered the grave, about 150 yards away from a wishing well, on land near County Line Road, according to previous reports. 

Tabatha’s body was identified later than night. 

Police said at the time that Norton was linked to the murder because he was the last person to see Tabatha and because there were inconsistencies in his account to police about what happened. 

Although not admissible in court, Norton also refused to take a polygraph test.


















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