The man accused of kidnapping, killing and then raping 5-year-old Destiny Norton will make his first appearance in court this morning.
Craig Roger Gregerson will appear via video hook-up from the Salt Lake County Jail, where he will formally hear the charges against him. He could receive the death penalty if he is convicted.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office charged Gregerson, 20, with aggravated murder and child kidnapping Thursday. Prosecutors revealed graphic details about how Destiny died and where police found her body.
"This is very devastating for our entire family," Destiny's uncle, Peter Brooks, said, speaking for her parents, Ricky and Rachael Norton. "They are very pleased at the outcome of the charges that were filed."
In charging documents filed in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court, prosecutors allege that Gregerson spotted Destiny on July 16 as she was playing in her back yard. He persuaded her to come inside his apartment, prosecutor Bob Stott said.
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The medical examiner's autopsy said that Destiny died because she was smothered.
"The defendant stated that once she was inside the defendant's residence, Destiny wanted to leave and became very vocal," Stott said Thursday. "The defendant placed his hand over Destiny's mouth and squeezed. Destiny went limp.
The defendant then carried Destiny's deceased body into his basement and later engaged in sexual activity with Destiny's body."
Destiny's body was found inside a plastic storage container in the basement. Police said it was "well concealed."
"It was concealed in such a way as they were unable to locate her," Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said. Officers searched Gregerson's home, but Burbank would not say how many times or if they looked inside any of the plastic storage bins inside the cellar. Prosecutors described the basement as a tight, confined space with a lot of things.
Police and FBI agents looked at Gregerson for some time. They were unable to remove him from their list of people that they were investigating in connection with Destiny's disappearance.
"We would never, ever cross anybody off the list until we were fully satisfied that individual could explain where they were," said Tim Fuhrman, the special agent-in-charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City office.
Gregerson met with an FBI agent July 24. According to the criminal charges, Gregerson told the federal agent what happened.
"There was an interview, and he confessed," Stott said.
Gregerson's estranged wife, Catherine, has said her husband took a polygraph test Monday. Later that day, he was arrested, and Destiny's body was found.
Gregerson remains in the Salt Lake County Jail on $5 million bail.
The details of Destiny's death horrified her family and friends. Many were outraged that Gregerson participated in searches and vigils for Destiny.
"I'm devastated," family friend Jeannie Hill said.
Speaking to reporters at Liberty Park, she wore a black armband with Destiny's name and a heart symbol to memorialize the little girl.
"I can't even say his name," Hill said of Gregerson. "I feel personally that he does not deserve a Christian name."
Death penalty case?
Gregerson is charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense. However, prosecutors have not decided if they will seek the death penalty against him.
"Right now we are focused only on the conviction," Stott said.
Destiny's family and friends offered mixed opinions about whether they wished for Gregerson to die, if he is convicted.
"It makes me very angry," said Donna Archuleta, the "street mom" of the Norton family. "I'm glad they're going for the death penalty."
Outside the Norton home, people continued to bring flowers, stuffed animals, balloons and condolence cards. They placed them up against a pair of trees in front of the home. A cardboard butterfly hung from a branch. A child had written on it "Fly High Destiny!"
Dozens of candles continued to burn around a makeshift memorial to the little girl with a bubbly smile full of silver teeth.
Jody Emery, another of Destiny's uncles, said he wasn't sure if death would be good for someone like Gregerson.
"I almost think the death penalty would be too convenient of a punishment," he told the Deseret Morning News.
Destiny's parents have not offered an opinion on whether prosecutors should ask for the death penalty. They met with prosecutors Thursday morning shortly before the charges were announced. Stott said they did not discuss the death penalty.
Brooks said he did not discuss the death penalty with the Nortons.
"He took an innocent child out of her own back yard . . . lured her into his house and then did the unspeakable acts that he performed on this child," Brooks said, trying to contain his anger. "No human being deserves to walk on this planet after doing that."
Destiny's body has been released from the state medical examiner. Funeral arrangements are pending.
A fund set up for Destiny's family at Washington Mutual bank will help them pay for the funeral as well as move from the house near 700 South and 500 East where their daughter vanished. The fund will also help pay the family's expenses.
"Rick's not going to be able to work for a little while," Hill said.
The Nortons have been in seclusion since their daughter was found dead. They appeared briefly Wednesday to thank volunteers and police for helping to find Destiny.
Rachael Norton is 8 1/2 months pregnant and trying to stay strong, Archuleta said.
"She knows she has to try to keep calm for the baby."