Arrest made in Texas wrongful conviction case
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A Texas man has been arrested in the slaying of a woman whose husband was wrongly convicted of killing her and who spent nearly 25 years in prison, authorities said.
Mark Alan Norwood, 57, has been booked into the Williamson County Jail on capital murder charges and is being held on $750,000 bail, records show.
Williamson County sheriff’s investigators announced the arrest at a news conference Wednesday.
The attorney general’s office has been acting as a special prosecutor investigating the killing with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office after Michael Morton was released Oct. 4.
Morton, 57, was exonerated by DNA evidence found on a bloody bandanna recovered from the scene soon after the killing but only recently tested over the objections of prosecutors.
“I called Michael immediately,” John Raley, Morton’s attorney, told The Times. “He is very relieved that the man whose DNA was found on the bandanna has been arrested.”
Morton’s wife, Christine, was beaten to death in their home in Georgetown, an Austin suburb, in August 1986.
Authorities said Norwood was taken into custody at his Bastrop home near Austin without incident and that he did not expect the arrest, though they noted he had been interviewed by detectives in August about the case.
Williamson County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Foster said during the August interview, “Norwood provided no innocent explanation for why his DNA would be on the bandanna with the blood and hair of Christine Morton.”
Norwood told them he lived in the Austin area in 1986 and worked as a carpet layer.
Foster said authorities would continue to investigate the case, but would not say whether they were searching for additional suspects. “You can’t deny in this case that an innocent person has gone to jail. At the same time, we are not wanting history to repeat itself; that is why our investigation is ongoing and it’s going to be very thorough and methodical,” he said.
Investigators previously said DNA from the bandanna had been linked to a suspect in the 1988 killing of Debra Masters Baker of Austin. Austin police said they are aware of Norwood’s arrest but would not comment on it.
Baker’s daughter, Caitlin Baker, 27, said Austin police called her Wednesday morning to alert her and her family about Norwood’s arrest. She said she was ‘elated.’
“We’re really, really happy about it,” she said. “It’s a good day.”
Meanwhile, Morton’s lawyers at the New York-based Innocence Project have been investigating allegations that prosecutors withheld evidence from Morton’s defense team that might have proved him innocent. This month, the lawyers heard testimony from the sheriff’s lead investigator on the case, who has since retired, as well as the assistant and lead prosecutors.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Oklahoma City
Photo (top): Mark Alan Norwood, 57, was booked into the Williamson County Jail on capital murder charges and is being held on $750,000 bail. Credit: Williamson County Jail
Photo (bottom): Debra Masters Baker with daughter Caitlin in an undated family photo. Credit: Caitlin Baker.