Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By MICHAEL SHEPHERD Kennebec Journal
BANGOR — The Auburn woman accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter admitted to giving the girl sleep medication and smothering her before trying to kill herself, a state police detective says in a search warrant affidavit released Friday.
Police allege that Leanna Norris, of Auburn, inset left, drugged and smothered her 2-year-old daughter, Loh Grenda, inset right, in late June. She drove to her parents' farmhouse at 879 Mount Pleasant Road in Stetson, background, where authorities later arrived and found Grenda dead in Norris' car, according to a police affidavit.
Staff photo by Michael Shepherd / contributed photos / illustration by Sharon Wood
Leanna Norris, 24, was arrested July 3 and charged with murdering her daughter, Loh Grenda, whose body was found in a car in the Penobscot County town of Stetson on June 23.
Documents released Friday by Penobscot County Superior Court describe a distraught Norris confessing to the murder, and the Maine State Police detective, Thomas Pickering, seeing Loh dead on her side in the front seat of a car.
Norris pleaded not guilty to one count of murder on July 5. She was ordered to be held in jail pending a bail hearing. She was in the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Friday, showing little emotion and wearing a black T-shirt.
Pickering's affidavit, dated June 27, said Norris told another detective that she left her home in Auburn with her daughter to drive to her parents' house in Stetson. On the way, she stopped on Durham Bridge Road in Newport around 8:45 p.m. on June 23.
The document says Norris gave Loh "two or three syringes of Benadryl to make her go to sleep." Then, it says Norris put black duct tape over her daughter's mouth and put a blanket over the girl so Norris "would not have to look at Loh's eyes."
Norris said she killed the girl by putting her hand over Loh's face and took the tape off the girl's mouth "so it would not look so horrible."
After that, Norris said she drove to a cemetery in Stetson, where she took a bottle of Advil and put tape over her face to kill herself. The suicide attempt failed and she called her father, Steven Norris, before she drove to her parents' home, according to the document.
Pickering wrote that Steven Norris told a detective his daughter called at 2:47 a.m. on June 24. He said she told him "that she killed her baby and wanted to die," according to the document.
A few minutes later, Steven Norris told detectives that Leanna Norris drove to his home. When she got there, he checked the car. The toddler, bundled in a blanket, was dead.
Leanna Norris begged for a gun to kill herself, Steven Norris said. That's when he called 911. After police came to the scene, Leanna Norris was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor to be treated for an overdose.
Pickering said he arrived at the farmhouse of Leanna Norris' parents at 879 Mount Pleasant Road in Stetson just before 5:30 a.m.
He said state police Sgt. Troy Gardner told him the child's body was in the front seat of the white Chevrolet Lumina parked in the driveway. Pickering looked in the car and saw the body. Leanna Norris had been taken to the hospital by then.
Affidavits filed by Pickering in order to get warrants to search the car and Leanna Norris' cellphone were released after Superior Court Justice Ann Murray denied a motion by Leanna Norris' Bangor-based attorney, Martha Harris, to keep them confidential Friday morning.
Earlier this month, Murray approved a motion filed by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson that called for the two affidavits to be impounded until Leanna Norris' first court appearance, July 5. But Harris informed the court that she was going to ask they be kept confidential, which she formally did Tuesday.
The Portland Press Herald had requested them July 5, and Harris wrote that "it could be detrimental to the defendant's case if any search warrant affidavits are released to the press prior to defense counsel's receipt and review of discovery."
In the courtroom Friday, Harris said there was information in the documents "that could affect her ability to get a fair trial." But Murray said since the affidavits will become public, Harris' fair-trial argument didn't hold up.
"I don't think release of that information will impact a fair trial today," the judge said.
After the hearing, Harris went into a meeting with Norris for some time. Harris' Bangor office was closed Friday and no one answered the phone.
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:
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Loh Grenda in a May 2013 Facebook photo.
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Facebook photo Leanna Norris with her daughter Loh Grenda, who was born in 2011.