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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 16, 2006
Date of arrest: 8 days after
Date of birth: March 12, 1986
Victim profile: Destinity Norton (female, 5)
Method of murder: Asphyxia due to suffocation
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 4, 2006

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Craig Roger Gregerson (born c. 1986) is a Salt Lake City, Utah man convicted of the kidnapping and murder of five-year-old Destiny Norton on July 16, 2006.


Gregerson grew up the seventh of eight children in a Mormon family in Orem, Utah. According to his older brother Spencer, Gregerson "just seemed like a lazy person", and Spencer does not recall him graduating from high school.

He was previously employed by Radio Shack and a number of temporary staffing agencies. He was convicted of assault in December 2004 for punching his mother-in-law in the face, and other domestic violence incidents with his wife Catherine have been reported.

Norton murder

Gregerson resided in a duplex in downtown Salt Lake City that shared a yard with the house that Destiny Norton and her parents occupied along with a number of other people who were acquainted with each other from the drum circle scene in downtown Salt Lake City.

Norton was reported missing on July 16, 2006. The case earned national press attention, and police launched an investigation, and suspicion eventually focused on Gregerson.

Police search warrant affidavits revealed that Gregerson consented to an FBI polygraph test on July 24, 2006, and later signed a full confession, telling authorities he had been keeping the girl’s body in his basement for eight days.

Gregerson reportedly told FBI agent Steve Fillerup, the polygraph examiner, that he had been planning Destiny’s abduction "for some time" and that he had "made written plans" for the crime. Gregerson reportedly lured the girl into his row house unit, where she “panicked and began to scream", then "went limp" after he gagged her.

Gregerson carried the girl’s body into his basement and sexually assaulted her. He kept the body in a plastic container, and later purchased supplies to mask the odor coming from the basement.

Gregerson was charged with kidnapping and aggravated murder on July 27, 2006. Gregerson waived his rights to a speedy trial, and later waived his rights to a preliminary hearing which had originally been scheduled for October 3 and October 4, 2006.

In a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, he plead guilty to capital murder and child kidnapping on December 4, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder, and fifteen years to life for the kidnapping. The sentences will be served consecutively.


Gregerson pleads guilty, gets life for killing Destiny

By Ben Winslow

Deseret Morning News

Monday, Dec. 4, 2006

Destiny Norton's parents held each other and sobbed as a judge meticulously questioned Craig Roger Gregerson over the details of his guilty plea.

"Do you feel you are guilty of both the crimes you have been charged with?" 3rd District Court Judge Robin Reese asked him.

"Yes, I do," Gregerson replied softly.

Gregerson, 20, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and child kidnapping in the death of Destiny Norton, a 5-year-old girl with green streaks in her blond hair and a mischievous smile full of silver-capped teeth.

Her backyard disappearance on July 16 launched a massive eight-day search, which ended when Salt Lake police discovered the little girl's body inside a plastic storage bin in Gregerson's basement — just two doors away from the Norton home.

In a guilty-plea statement read by his lawyer, Michael Peterson, Gregerson admitted to killing Destiny: "I placed my hand over her mouth, and she suffocated and died."

Gregerson admitted to luring Destiny from her back yard into his apartment. When she said she wanted to go home, Gregerson said he restrained her. After she died, police said Gregerson raped Destiny's body and then stuffed it in a plastic storage bin in his basement.

He admitted to killing her under questioning by an FBI agent and even said he had fantasized about kidnapping her in the past.

Gregerson apologizes

The plea deal spares Gregerson the death penalty. He was immediately sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder, and he received an additional 15 years to life in prison for kidnapping the 5-year-old girl.

The deal was made at the request of Destiny's family, who prosecutors said did not want to keep reliving the tragedy through years of court proceedings.

"He's not going to hurt anybody else. In the end, he'll get what he deserves," Destiny's mother, Rachael Norton, said outside of court. Her husband, Ricky Norton, buried his face in her shoulder while he sobbed quietly.

In a handwritten letter to Destiny's family, Gregerson offered an apology for the murder.

"You have every right to hate me, every right to want me dead and every right to never forgive me," Gregerson wrote. "I take full responsibility for your daughters (sic) death. But her death was not the worst part, what I did after she was dead was unexcusable, sick, and disgusting. I hate myself for what I did. I am in terrible pain every day because your daughter is dead by my actions. She should still be with you. All I can say is I'm sorry. The words are small but they are so sincere. Sincerely, Craig Gregerson."

Gregerson did not speak during the sentencing portion of his hearing. Instead, his defense attorneys gave his letter to the judge to be entered into the court record.

'A monster'

In her remarks to the judge, Rachael Norton remembered her daughter.

"She was a good kid with lots of dreams about life," Norton said, her voice trembling at times. "She always wanted to do the best at everything that she could. She wanted to be a vet when she got older. She told me one day that she was going to buy me a house and her dad a motorcycle."

As Norton spoke, her husband cried. Tears streamed down his face, and he shook under the weight of his sobs. Destiny's grandmother, Leslie Borchardt, placed her hand on his shoulder. Surrounding him were members of the Nortons' extended "street family."

The Nortons grew up on the streets, bringing themselves up in the world. They were living in a house near 700 South and 500 East with several other members of their street family when Destiny vanished. They put in hundreds of hours searching for the little girl.

Describing her life since her daughter's death, Rachael Norton called Gregerson a "monster," saying she hated him for what he has done to her family.

"That man took everything from us when he took her," she said. "She was what kept me and my husband going all these years."

Destiny's grandmother could not bring herself to speak at the sentencing. In a statement read to the court by a prosecutor, Borchardt lashed out at Gregerson.

"That monster not only murdered our little angel, he has also murdered a big part of who I am," she wrote.

Across the courtroom, Gregerson's estranged wife, Cadie, also cried as the Norton family spoke. When the judge handed down the sentence, she gasped — so loudly that the Nortons turned their heads to look across the aisle at her.

"You'll be incarcerated for life. You'll never be released from prison," Reese told Craig Gregerson.

As soon as the hearing ended, Cadie Gregerson bolted from the courtroom, covering her face with a coat and sobbing audibly.

'She was one of ours'

After the hearing, Salt Lake police detectives, FBI agents and prosecutors who worked on the case gathered in the rotunda of the Matheson Courthouse.

"This was an ordeal that tried us all," Salt Lake District Attorney David Yocom told reporters. "We all fell in love with Destiny as if she was one of ours."

Some people who participated in the massive eight-day search effort felt that Gregerson got off too easily.

"The world did him a favor. There's never been a better excuse for the death penalty in this state than Gregerson," said Shane Siwik, who helped organize the search.

Rachael Norton recently gave birth to the couple's third child, whom they named "Faith LeeAnn," based on a name that Destiny suggested. The sentencing came just a few days after what would have been Destiny's sixth birthday — Nov. 30. The Nortons acknowledged that the timing weighed on their minds.

"I'm just glad that it's over with, so she can rest in peace," the mother said, adding that the family also wants to move on with their lives.

"And take care of our other kids," Ricky Norton said, tugging at his wife's sleeve.


Destiny Norton One Year Later

By Tori Richards

July 26, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Crime Library) —  This week marks one year since a massive search effort for a young a girl came to a tragic end when her body was found stuffed inside a plastic tub in a neighbor's basement. Her loving parents have managed to eke out some semblance of a life thanks to overwhelming support from the community, friends and their church.

Rick and Rachael Norton have moved away from the low-income downtown duplex that held the horrific memories of daughter Destiny, 5, who disappeared while playing in their side yard only to surface seven days later in the filthy basement of a secretive neighbor.

Destiny was found on July 24, 2006, capping off a massive search involving hundreds of volunteers who scoured every block of Utah's capital city. Her killer, Craig Gregerson, 21, even aided in the search and invited FBI agents into his home while the community desperately held out hope that she was alive.

Last December, Gregerson pleaded guilty to first degree murder and child kidnapping in order to avoid the death penalty. He also admitted to having sex with Destiny's corpse but wasn't charged with that offense. Destiny was suffocated — squeezed to death — Gregerson would later confess.

The Nortons now live in a suburb of Salt Lake City, in a home they are buying thanks to a flood of donations they received in the wake of their daughter's disappearance. Their little girl who dreamed of being a veterinarian and loved wearing pink would leave the lasting legacy of a better way of life for her beloved parents and two sisters.

"They live in a really good neighborhood in a nice house," said Jeannie Hill, Destiny's aunt. "Both of them seem to be holding up pretty well. They still are considering moving out of state, but right now they're pretty far outside of downtown."

It's a world away from the environment where Destiny grew up — a squalid series of duplexes infested with termites and roaches, housing people who could never afford a better way of life. Built in the World War II era, the two-bedroom units look like they haven't been renovated since then. Each has a basement that was used to house a coal burning stove indicative of that time period.

The Nortons removed the stove and turned their basement into brightly decorated room that Destiny could call her own. She shared it with the younger sister she adored Trenaty, 2. And she eagerly awaited the birth of another sibling, promising to help her mother care for the baby. One month after Destiny's death, Rachael gave birth to a girl, Faith Leann, a name selected by Destiny.

Rick and Rachael dote on the girl, but both of them have gone back to work. They have new jobs with the Mormon Church, which also counseled them through the aftermath of the horrific crisis, Hill said.

Of the two, Rachael has remained the solid rock while Rick was inconsolable at times because Destiny was a "daddy's girl." During the search, she was the one who met with volunteers and aided the police, Rick too distraught to function.

The family has managed to go on.

"We're doing OK so far," Rachael said in an interview with a local newspaper, the Desert Morning News. "We have our moments when we just kind of lock ourselves in our bedroom and tell everyone to leave us alone."

Destiny was found on Pioneer Day, a state holiday that she loved because it includes fireworks in a park. The day would be a celebration of finding Destiny, not losing her, Rachael told the newspaper.

In May, Rachael attended the Salt Lake City Police Department's annual awards banquet. Each officer in the department received a pink medal in honor of Destiny to be worn on their uniforms. Rachael received her own award, a Distinguished Service Citation. Approximately 70 police officers and FBI agents were out in the community, searching for Destiny. Everyone held out hope until the end that she was alive. A tipster even called police to report seeing a blonde child with a bottom row of silver capped teeth, just like Destiny. The girl was sitting in a truck in a gas station and touched off a flurry of excitement as searchers looked for that truck.

It was never found, but Destiny was. A day later, Gregerson confessed after failing a polygraph and gave police directions on where to find the body.

Suzanne Burkhalter, the mother-in-law of Destiny's killer, says she thinks about the Nortons often but is at a loss of what she would say to them if they met.

"What can you say to somebody that doesn't sound hollow?" Burkhalter said. "That her sixth birthday came and went without her and she missed the birth of the little sister she was so excited about? I can't even imagine.

"I just hope for their sake, that people are allowing them to get on with their lives. To me, it a blessing that Craig was caught and thrown in jail for the rest of his life," she said.



Craig Roger Gregerson's letter to Thomas Loudamy

October 19th 2006

Thanks for writing me, I would never think anyone would actually want to write me as I've been wanting a pen pal all my life but I just never knew how to go about finding one. And the last thing I'd expect, if I ever did get a pen pal, was that it would be a girl.

Anyway, because it takes about 2 weeks to get letters from you, and I'm close to being sent to prison so it would be best if we started correspondence when I get out there. You can probably get one or two letters off, but because of the 2 week delay it's best to just bet on one. Basically after this letter reaches you, you could probably get one letter to me shortly before I get sent to prison. Then once I'm there we can write and not have to worry about if I'm going to get letters confiscated or what not. I had a couple letters I sent out that were confiscated, along with some letters I received, that's why I say that.

With that now said we can move on to the heart of the matter, getting to know each other. I'm not too good at this part so bear with me as I have never started a conversation in my life. When I have it wasn't too pretty...They fell asleep by the time I had something to say.

Well, I don't know what you know about me. So I'll just give the basics and you can fill me in with what you do know so I'm not repeating myself later on.

I'm doing well, not the best I could be, but well enough to get by. I got moved upstairs to Health Services and I hate it up here, that's why I'm not doing much better than "well". The reason for the move was because they think I'm suicidal, even despite them knowing I'm not, they still insist on me being up here. They being the mental health doctors. But it's awful up here. The showers are, and probably have never been cleaned, my room smells like a bag full of underwear and socks that were worn for a month and never washed, and it's always hot. Not to mention the guards and their attitudes. To put it simply, they are very strict compared to the lax guards of downstairs. That's why it's awful, need I say more? So just put my SO#(285372) and my name and the letter will reach me no matter where I'm at as I may get moved fairly soon. Otherwise mail gets delayed 2 days more than it should.

So that's my situation, now a little about me. I'm a Utah native, born and raised in Orem and haven't seen much of the country except some parts of Texas and the Grand Canyon. Although I dropped out of school in 10th grade, on many levels I am actually much higher in intelligence than those who have a high school diploma. I am now working on improving my math skills so I can then work on getting me GED and as high of a college education as I can while in prison. As of right now, for passing time, I do Sudoku puzzles and read. (I read what seems to be popular among the prisoners). But once in prison I plan to study and learn many languages and subjects. As far as things I want to go into, well I haven't really thought about it but among the things I want to learn are Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, Psychology, and a number of math areas.

Among the languages included if I can learn them, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian. But all of it depends on what tools are available for those subjects. And if you know of any good books let me know so I can see if this place carries them as I'm not hearing as many books to be read among the other prisoners lately. That's all I can think of for now. If you have any questions for me, I'll answer any of them except when it comes to my case...I don't like what happened and hate talking about it.

So enough about me, what's going on with you? How did you find my name and stuff, and why me? I'm sure you've seen my picture, but try sending a picture of you again, now that you know what's allowed and what's not...I'm very curious as to what you look like. I've never written or talked to anyone who's face I haven't seen so it's very weird not knowing, you know?  Let's see what else... What do you do for a living? How old are you? You married or in a relationship? If so, have any kids? What's your life been like? Where are you from originally? Watch any sports? What do you do in your free time? Have you been to any other states? —sorry for all the questions I'm just thinking of stuff I'm curious about. But I don't want to be too intrusive so I'll end it now....besides mail will be sent out soon and I want to get it out before too long. So I look forward to hearing from you and hope this letter reaches you.

Until next time,
Craig Gregerson



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