A Person County man pleaded guilty Monday to murdering his mother-law-in northern Durham five years ago.
William “Bill” Eugene Grider Jr., 54, had been charged with the first-degree murder of Altaree Norris and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Norris, 81, was found shot in the head in a pool of blood in her garage at her 4306 David St. home on June 24, 2012.
As part of a plea deal, Grider, of the Timberlake community in Person County, accepted the lesser charge of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to a minimum of 11 years and a maximum of 14 years and three months, which includes the time he spent in jail in Durham waiting trial.
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Norris’ two daughters and other family members sat in the courtroom during the hearing.
Grider stayed seated in a wheelchair, which he was handcuffed to. Tubes delivered oxygen to his nose, and his arms occasionally shook when he spoke to the judge.
“You have personally pleaded guilty to second-degree murder,” Superior Court Judge Henry Hight asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Grider said.
“Are you in fact guilty of that charge?”
“Yes, your honor,” Grider said.
Grider didn’t talk about his medical conditions. He told the judge he takes medicine for his heart, a lung condition and diabetes. His attorney, Mani Dexter, said Grider’s medication has affected his mental state but that he was competent enough to take the plea.
District Attorney Roger Echols said the case was set for trial more than two years ago until the defense questioned Grider’s mental capacity. After multiple evaluations, a competency hearing was finally set for Dec. 4, but a plea deal was reached before then. Grider’s physical and mental health issues were factors considered in the deal, Echols said.
Cold on the floor
Echols said he expected the evidence to show that on June 24, 2012, Grider, his 15-year-old son and his then wife – then Susan Grider now Susan Norris – went to Norris’ home to drop off a car around 3 p.m.
“When Susan opened the garage door, they saw her mother, Ms. Altaree Norris, on the floor,” Echols said. “They touched her and felt she was cold.”
Grider, who didn’t have a criminal record, went into the house and upstairs. He told his wife that there had been foul play and that her mother had been shot, Echols said.
At the scene and while being interviewed, Grider appeared nervous, Echols said.
“He remarked to the officers that they were being serious and that he could get everyone to laugh, but he couldn’t get them to laugh,” Echols said.
Susan Norris told officials she had spoken to her mother around noon the day before she was found dead. Her mother had called her and said Grider had been at her house an hour-and-a-half cleaning a gun.
“She said that was unusual because he didn’t go to her mother’s house alone because they didn’t tend to get along,” Echols said.
Susan Norris said her husband left the house that day at 9 a.m. to sell a .38-caliber gun. Susan Norris said she received another call from her mother at 1 p.m., but missed it. She called back, but her mother didn’t answer.
Grider returned home around 4 p.m., and indicated he had sold the gun.
Blue rubber glove
During the investigation, officers recovered a blue rubber glove in the trash at Norris’ home. A similar blue glove was found in the shorts that Grider was wearing the day of the murder. State crime lab testing found gunshot residue on that glove and the shirt that Grider was wearing, Echols said.
On June 29, 2012, Grider’s neighbor contacted police. Police found in the back of the residence a .38-caliber firearm that belonged to Grider and jewelry that belonged to Altaree Norris.
One neighbor also told police that Grider offered him money to be his alibi.
During police interviews, Grider said he went to his mother-in-laws’ house to clean his gun because she had a cleaning kit.
Susan Norris didn’t speak at the hearing, but her sister Rebecca Keith told Grider that she has forgiven him but is worried about his soul.
“Accepting Jesus in your heart as your lord and savior is a decision you on your own can make,” she said. “As long as you are living, you have the opportunity to do that. You stole a lot of opportunities from us, opportunities to share in birthdays, holidays, vacations, graduations, future weddings and probably the opportunity for Mom to see a great-grandchild one day.”
Carmen Pennington, Altaree Norris’s niece, called Grider a murderer and executioner.
She criticized Grider for sending his wife and son to check on Norris even though he knew he had killed her the day before.
“What human does this kind of thing?” she said. “You took away a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, a sister-in-law, a friend, a faithful church member and a servant of the community.”
Pennington described Norris as “one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving and giving souls that I have ever met.”
Grider is not expected to live a long life, his attorney said.
“He knows there is some question whether he will be able to outlive the sentence or not,” Dexter said. “But he has come to court today to accept responsibility. He wants the family to be able to move on.”
“Mr. Grider is there anything you want to say?” Hight asked.
“No, your honor,” he said.