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A final farewell today for Destiny

Gregerson in court; his family to visit him in jail

Deseret Morning News graphic

Funeral services will be held this morning for 5-year-old Destiny Norton, the angel-faced little girl with a smile full of silver teeth who was found smothered to death two doors from her home.

The funeral begins at 11 a.m. in the family's LDS church meetinghouse at 700 South and 500 East. Destiny's cemetery burial will be closed to the public.

After the funeral, family members said, a tree will be planted outside their LDS church in her memory.

"There's a quote in the Bible about the 'spirit sits in the palm of my hand,' " Destiny's uncle, Peter Brooks said Friday. "A tree's going to be planted in the middle of the oaks in the name of Destiny."

As Destiny's family prepares to say goodbye to her, the parents of accused killer Craig Roger Gregerson will meet with him this morning in the Salt Lake County Jail.

Brooks said he contacted the Gregersons on Friday, urging a family representative to talk to him and spare Destiny's family the pain of court proceedings.

"I don't hold them accountable for their son's actions," he told the Deseret Morning News. "I just wish they'd plead with their son to stand up and be a man and admit his guilt and take his punishment like a man — not to drag the family through every detail of what he did."

Gregerson, 20, made his first appearance in Salt Lake's 3rd District Court Friday via video hookup from the Salt Lake County Jail, where he is being held on $5 million bail. Gregerson, clad in a yellow jail jumpsuit, stared straight into the camera. He appeared pale and stone-faced.

Legal defender Michael Peterson stood by his side at the jail, while defense attorneys Steven Shapiro and Heidi Buchi served as Gregerson's lawyers in the courtroom.

Third District Judge Robert Hilder formally read the two charges against Gregerson: aggravated murder, a capital offense, and first-degree felony child kidnapping.

He then asked about finances and legal representation.

"Do you have the income to retain your own lawyer, sir?" the judge asked.

"No," Gregerson replied.

"What is your income or assets?"

"None whatsoever."

Hilder formally appointed public defenders to represent Gregerson. The judge, on an emergency basis, had already temporarily appointed a lawyer for Gregerson Monday night. Gregerson was arrested Monday.

After an Aug. 7 scheduling conference was set in the case, Gregerson was led away from the camera.

Gregerson's defense lawyers had no comment on his case Friday.

Members of the group Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) sat in the front of the courtroom, clad in their leather biker vests. The tough-looking bikers appear regularly at court cases involving children, sticking up for the victims and often intimidating accused abusers.

"We're just here to overlook the case," said Mike "K-OSS" Marvidakis.

Gregerson's apartment

Prosecutors, defense lawyers, police officers and rubber-gloved crime scene technicians carrying video cameras marched into Gregerson's apartment Friday afternoon. Assistant Salt Lake County District Attorney Bob Stott said they were there to get a firsthand look at the scene of the crime.

"As prosecutors, we want to look at the scene," Stott told the Deseret Morning News as he left the apartment. "Get a sense of what it looks like. A feeling of what happened there so that when we try to describe it or look at diagrams we'll have a better feel for the place."

Stott did venture into the tiny basement where Destiny's body was found, but he refused to describe it.

Because Gregerson is charged with a capital offense, he will get some of the best legal representation available. Only lawyers who are "Rule 8" qualified can take capital cases in Utah, which means they have obtained a certain amount of additional education in death penalty cases as well as experience as counsel or co-counsel in such cases.

If the capital case goes to trial, it will be handled in two phases, with the second phase deciding a possible sentence. If convicted, Gregerson faces the death penalty, life in prison without parole, or a 20-years-to-life sentence.

Prosecutors have not decided if they will seek the death penalty.

Tribute to volunteers

Gregerson is accused of kidnapping, killing and then sexually assaulting Destiny's body.

According to criminal charges filed against him on Thursday, Gregerson spotted Destiny playing alone in her back yard on the evening of July 16.

Prosecutors allege that Gregerson persuaded her to come into his back yard. A chain-link fence suspended by hooks forms a make-shift gate between the two yards. The entire dirt area is enclosed by fences.

Gregerson persuaded her to come inside his home, Salt Lake City police wrote in a probable cause statement filed with the criminal charges.

"The defendant stated that once she was inside the defendant's residence, (Destiny) wanted to leave and became very vocal. The defendant placed his hand over (Destiny's) mouth and squeezed. (Destiny) went limp," the court papers said. "The defendant stated that he took (Destiny's) deceased body into his basement and later engaged in sexual activity with (Destiny's) body."

An autopsy performed on Destiny's body determined that she died from smothering. Prosecutors said Gregerson, while being questioned by an FBI agent, confessed to kidnapping and killing Destiny.

On July 24, Salt Lake City police found Destiny's body inside a plastic storage container that investigators said was well concealed in Gregerson's basement.

For eight days, hundreds of volunteers ventured out into hot summer temperatures to search for Destiny. They searched through alleys and back yards, dug through garbage and bushes in a vain search for the girl.

Gregerson himself was seen participating in the searches and reportedly lit a candle at a vigil for the little girl.

In Liberty Park, a small bunch of sunflowers was placed at the foot of a tree. Brooks said he put them there as a tribute to the volunteers who searched for Destiny.

It was at that tree that family and friends frantically organized a community search for the little girl.

"That was the first tree we put a poster of Destiny on," he said.

"Missing Child" posters were soon tacked up on trees and buildings. Searchers estimate more than 180,000 fliers were taped up across the state and then distributed across the nation.


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