Editor's note: This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. Earlier versions mischaracterized where Sherry Norton was struck with the ax.
HADLEY — Michael Norton suggested his wife’s death was an accident Tuesday, as he entered Hadley Town Court wearing orange prison garb.
“I love my wife very much, and I did not mean for this to happen,” the 58-year-old Hadley man told reporters.
Following Norton’s arraignment on second-degree murder and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon charges, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said Norton is accused of causing Sherry Norton's death by striking her in the back and the head with an ax.
“We believe we have a motive,” Sheriff Michael Zurlo said before deferring further questions to Heggen.
“I’m not going to discuss motives at this time,” she said. “We will be promptly moving this case forward toward the grand jury.”
Sherry Norton, 52, of Hadley, was found dead Wednesday, May 3, in her home at 7 Third Ave. Sheriff’s deputies investigated, and the state police forensic unit processed the scene, Zurlo said. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be homicide due to blunt trauma, he said.
Deputies also found Michael Norton in the home when they responded to a call about “some sort of unknown problem," just before 1 a.m. that day, Zurlo said. He was taken to Saratoga Hospital for treatment of an “undisclosed illness, which I’m not going to get into due to HIPAA regulations,” Zurlo said. The sheriff said Norton was on disability.
Norton was arrested Tuesday after his doctor determined he was ready to be released, Zurlo said. He was considered a person of interest after the investigation began last week and was under 24/7 observation, Zurlo said.
“There was no threat to the public at all.”
Norton kept his head down as he sat in the front row of the courtroom waiting to be arraigned by Judge Leland Aldrich — who sent him to prison without bail.
“Not in the time since I’ve been dealing with the town has there ever been a murder like this,” said Aldrich, who first served on the bench in 1974, following the arraignment.
Rene Bovee is Michael Norton niece. She was in court to see him arraigned on the charges and said she was “obviously devastated.”
"She wanted what was best for her daughter," Bovee said in explaining why Sherry Norton stayed with Michael Norton, even after he discharged a weapon in their home last year.
Court records show Sherry Norton had an active “refrain from” order of protection against Michael Norton, based on an April 22, 2016, incident. Unlike “stay away” orders of protection, refrain from orders allow people to be in each other’s presence.
Norton pleaded guilty April 5 in Saratoga County Court to first-degree reckless endangerment in connection with the 2016 incident. The order of protection is dated the same day as the plea and was to run until September.
“He admitted in Saratoga County Court that he had recklessly discharged a weapon in the home while there were two occupants there,” said Heggen. “It involved a disagreement, but there was no threat of use of the weapon.”
Those occupants were Sherry Norton and their daughter, Savannah, 19, who was not home when Michael allegedly used an ax to kill Sherry, Zurlo said.
A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Monday, and Norton is due back in town court June 7.