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Sorrow for Destiny: Man accused in her slaying had participated in search

The man accused of killing 5-year-old Destiny Norton was one of the hundreds of people who ventured out into the hot summer temperatures to search for the missing girl.

It wasn't until days later that Salt Lake City police found Destiny's body inside Craig Roger Gregerson's apartment — just two doors from her home.

"After knowing what he did, he was still there," searcher Stephanie Archuleta said. Others confirmed to the Deseret Morning News that Gregerson participated in the search effort, handing out fliers and claiming to be looking for the girl.

Investigators believe Destiny was standing barefoot outside her family's home on the warm summer evening of July 16. The little girl with blond hair and a mischievous smile filled with silver teeth had just finished a bath when she went outside.

Police said Gregerson spotted her — and that minutes later she was dead.

According to a police booking report from the Salt Lake County Jail, Gregerson opened the gate to the back yard and lured Destiny into his house.

"The juvenile female began to scream. Suspect Gregerson put his hand over the juvenile's mouth and began to squeeze. The juvenile female went limp and suspect Gregerson laid her body on the floor," the jail probable cause statement said.

Police found Destiny's body in the basement of an apartment just two doors from her home Monday night. Officers arrested Gregerson on investigation of kidnapping and murder.

Destiny's family was both devastated and enraged by the news.

"This was a 5-year-old child," Destiny's uncle, Peter Brooks, said, seething. "That is cold-blooded murder!"

Gregerson, 20, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail at 1:42 a.m. Tuesday on investigation of criminal homicide and child kidnapping. He is being held without bail. Gregerson was being kept in a cell by himself in an area reserved for prisoners that need to be isolated for their own protection, jail officials said.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said the man they arrested was cooperating. An autopsy was performed on Destiny on Tuesday. The Salt Lake District Attorney's Office is expected to begin screening some of the case against Gregerson today or tomorrow.

"We will be soon," assistant district attorney Bob Stott said.

'It's closure'

Destiny's parents spent the day in seclusion. Tuesday was the birthday of Ricky and Rachael Norton's daughter Trinity, who turned 1. They spent part of the day holding a small birthday celebration for her.

"They were trying to keep a happy face on for the baby," said Donna Archuleta, who attended the party.

Rachael Norton is 8 1/2 months pregnant with their third child, whom Destiny had already named "Fate LeeAnn" Norton.

Brooks told the Deseret Morning News that he had spoken to Ricky Norton.

"He's dealing with it in his own way," he said. "Rick told me, 'It's closure.' "

Outside the Norton home near 700 South and 500 East, Destiny's family and friends held on to each other and sobbed. Some were too stunned to speak and sat around the home.

"They're all just kind of lost," said Archuleta, the "street mom" for the Norton family. Many of the people in the Norton home once lived on the streets and were trying to bring themselves up in the world. Ricky Norton had been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just the day before his daughter vanished.

Dozens of people showed up to place flowers, cards and stuffed animals in front of the family's home on Tuesday. Some lit candles in front of a framed flier showing Destiny's picture that read: "In Memory of Destiny Ann Norton. Thanks to all the volunteers and all the support we received. God Bless."

Police criticized

Some signs placed around the family's home blasted Salt Lake City police and the FBI for their handling of the case. "Way to Go SLPD. You messed up" read one sign that a man held by the street. He jeered every time a police car would drive by on 500 East.

Some demanded to know why the police didn't pursue a search warrant if Gregerson refused to allow police to search his apartment.

"They screwed up and they screwed up big!" screamed family friend Jeannie Hill. "The Salt Lake City Police Department screwed up!"

Despite numerous questions about the search, what led police to Gregerson and whether his apartment had been searched before Monday, Salt Lake City police said little.

There are conflicting reports about whether Gregerson allowed his apartment to be searched or if he refused to give consent for a police search. Detective Robin Snyder said if Gregerson refused a search, that would not have been enough probable cause to make him a suspect or get a judge to sign a warrant.

"We've got to follow the search and seizure laws of the Constitution to a T. You cannot violate those or you lose everything," she said. "If we would have found her without probable cause, the evidence would have been thrown out. You got to have probable cause. You have to convince a judge there is enough evidence that what you are looking for is inside."

But neighbor Dylan Wood said he watched as police searched his and Gregerson's apartments, just after Destiny vanished. They were questioned by FBI agents.

"We're sitting out here at the picnic table talking with him and the federal marshals and everything," he said. "We all filled out questionnaires together."

A history of violence

Gregerson's estranged wife, Catherine "Cadie" Gregerson, said she did not believe he could have killed the little girl, saying she would remain supportive of her husband. She said as much when she called a talk show on KSL Radio. (See related story).

"If he's guilty, I'm not going to stand by him," she told the Deseret Morning News afterward. "If he's not, I'll still stand by him."

Cadie Gregerson went near her estranged husband's house on Tuesday, surrounded by several police officers. She waited across the street as officers retrieved mail. The Gregersons have a 1-year-old daughter, but Cadie Gregerson does not live with her husband.

Throughout the week, Wood saw Gregerson but did not think his demeanor was any different than anyone else dealing with the disappearance of the little girl next door.

"I just took it he was as screwed up as the rest of us over this whole ordeal," he said. "We didn't know she was right here the whole (expletive) time."

Others who knew Gregerson said they were stunned by his arrest. Monica Evans lived above the Gregersons in a Liberty Park-area apartment in 2005. She described Gregerson as "kind of strange."

"He never really talked," she said.

Evans said the only trouble was one night when she heard Cadie Gregerson screaming from her apartment. She opened the door and said she saw Gregerson bleeding from her head.

Outside the Norton home Monday night, heartbreak turned to anger and outrage over Destiny's death and spilled out into the streets. Hundreds of people showed up outside the home. Some screamed at police officers still investigating the crime scene at Gregerson's apartment.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank came to address the angry mob.

"This individual cooperated on all different levels," he said Monday night. "We had to wait until significant probable cause to obtain a warrant . . . we did not know this was a crime scene until now."

At the volunteer search headquarters, located at an LDS ward on Harvard Avenue, the massive effort was being dismantled.

Hundreds of people turned out for eight days in the heat, searching through alleys and back yards, going through garbage and peeking in bushes.

Search organizers dropped off food and water at the family's home — items left over from the massive volunteer effort.

Shane Siwik, who helped organize the search for Destiny, said he was "numb" at the news of her death. His own daughter had been kidnapped and recovered, thanks to volunteer searchers.

"It was an incredible effort by the community to show up and look," he said Tuesday. "I hope as they see the outcome that nobody has any regrets. Ultimately, there's one person to blame more than anybody else."


Contributing: Wendy Leonard.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com; preavy@desnews.com