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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 4, 1996
Date of arrest: February 9, 2000
Date of birth: July 25, 1970
Victim profile: Kenneth Warren
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Kenton, Delaware, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on October 3, 2001

The Supreme Court of the State of Delaware

opinion 510/551-2001

Adam W. Norcross

DOB: 07/25/1970

Race: White Gender: Male

Offense: Murder 1st

Sentenced to Death: 10/03/2001

Date of Offense: 11/04/1996

Norcross and co-defendant Ralph E. Swan broke into the home of and shot to death Kenton resident Kenneth Warren on November 4, 1996.


Robber: Wrong man convicted in '96 shooting

Fellow death row prisoner says dead partner, not convict, aided in Kenton home invasion

The News Journal

Febuary 18, 2006

Ralph E. "Randy" Swan was not present the night Kenneth Warren, a Kenton cattle breeder, was killed in a 1996 home invasion, a man sentenced to death along with Swan testified Friday.

Adam W. Norcross said a "drug buddy" who he knows only as "Wayne" was the 2nd of 2 men who blasted their way into Warren's home and shot him to death as his wife and his 19-month-old son looked on. The testimony came during a hearing on Swan's motion for a new trial.

Norcross and Swan were sentenced to death in October 2001 -- with the trial judge John E. Babiarz Jr. describing them as "like jackals lurking at a water hole."

Norcross said Wayne blasted out a glass back door of Warren's home. Wayne was shot in the upper torso after the 2 men went into the house and scuffled with Warren, Norcross said.

Norcross said he later granted a request to put his companion out of his misery.

"There was no way I could get him to the hospital," Norcross said of Wayne, who, spitting up blood, reportedly crawled out of a blood-soaked car and about 10 yards into woods along a back road.

"He said, 'You've got to stop the pain, man.' I couldn't get him to a hospital, and he was going to die anyway. So I put a bullet in his head."

Friday's Kent County Superior Court hearing before Babiarz was prompted by a letter mailed by Norcross to the judge and lawyers in the case last February. In the letter, Norcross introduced Wayne as the second of 2 men who killed Warren, the nephew of state Sen. Nancy Cook, D-Kenton.

"I had to straighten it out because it was weighing on me," Norcross said.

During cross-examination, Deputy Attorney General Robert J. O'Neill suggested that Norcross' newly acquired pangs of conscience may have been inspired by interaction with Swan, a 34-year-old ex-Marine with martial arts training and gang affiliations.

The 2 men live on the same death row tier at the Delaware Correctional Center near Smyrna, and, in response to a question, Norcross acknowledged that he'd probably get a sound whipping in a fight between the 2.

"Aren't you just substituting Wayne for Swan?" O'Neill asked, drawing a negative response from Norcross.

Babiarz took the testimony under advisement, noting that he'd issue a ruling after studying the hearing transcript and reviewing motions on evidentiary issues from the prosecution and Swan's lawyer, Christopher Tease.

In often-contradictory testimony, Norcross attempted to discount police statements and court testimony in which witnesses, including his estranged wife, Bridget Phillips, said they had heard Norcross talk of teaming up with Swan for the break-in and slaying.

Norcross and Swan, who were co-workers at a Middletown concrete plant, were convicted in separate trials, but they were sentenced together by Babiarz.

Finding resistance

According to Norcross, he was short of money on Nov. 4, 1996, and borrowed Swan's car with the intent to drive to the Clayton-area home of his grandfather, whose name he could not immediately recall, and steal some antique guns to sell later.

That plan, he said, was thwarted when he and Wayne encountered a woman at the residence. The two, lost on west Kent County back roads, eventually chose the Warren home for a random break-in.

Once the two men were inside the house, Norcross testified, he attacked Warren, who was seated at a table and eating a sandwich.

He knocked the victim off his chair and, with Warren's wife and child crying out loud, shot him in the head during a struggle on the floor.

At 2001 trial, there was testimony that several shots were fired, including one that pierced Warren's skull from point-blank range, but investigators never figured out which man fired the fatal shot.

Another motion

Norcross has filed his own motion for a new trial, accusing his trial lawyers, assistant public defenders Lloyd Schmid and Paul Swierzbinski, of ineffective counsel.

His appeal attorneys, Joseph A. Gabay and Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, were present during the hearing to make sure that Norcross didn't undermine attorney-client privilege or otherwise hurt his own case while on the stand.

For their trouble, the killers got away with nothing but an empty purse, which was found later behind the concrete plant.

And if there was a Wayne, O'Neill said, his body apparently was never found.


Factual and Procedural Background

Shortly after 8 p.m. on November 4, 1996, the Warren family was settling in for the night in their Kenton, Delaware home.   Kenneth Warren was sitting at the kitchen bar eating a sandwich while his wife, Tina, and their 19-month-old son, Dustin, were sitting on the family room couch watching television.   Tina's mother Lillian had just left, after babysitting Dustin while Tina attended an aerobics class.   Suddenly, two armed, masked men dressed in camouflage burst through the glass patio doors leading to the family room.   They immediately ran into Kenneth and a struggle ensued.   The intruders shot Kenneth four times, killing him, while his wife and son watched. The intruders grabbed Tina's purse from the kitchen counter and fled.   During the commission of this crime, Tina Warren observed that both assailants carried handguns.   One of the handguns appeared to be bronze or copper colored.   One assailant appeared to have been shot in the left shoulder.

Ballistics evidence indicated that Kenneth Warren had been shot four times with two different types of handguns, a semi-automatic and a revolver.   Kenneth was shot twice in the back;  once on the left side of his head behind the left ear;  and once through the top of his head.   The fourth bullet, fired from a gun barrel held tightly against the top of his head, had traveled through the skull down into the back of his neck, killing him instantly.   Examination of the three bullets removed from the victim's body revealed that the two back wounds had been made by a .357 caliber copper/nickel jacketed bullets manufactured by the Winchester Western Corporation under the “Silver Tip” trademark and had been fired from a revolver, manufactured by either Smith & Wesson, Ruger, or Taurus.   A 10 mm/.40 S & W caliber triple copper jacketed bullet fired from a 10mm semi-automatic gun made by Smith & Wesson or Irwindale, however, caused the fatal wound.

Tina's credit cards and checkbook were found in late November 1996 behind the rear fence of the Eastern Shore Concrete Company in Middletown, Delaware.   The police searched the area and discovered her pocketbook fifteen feet away from the fence and her telephone calling card just inside the fence.   The discovery of the purse and its contents at the concrete plant, however, did not lead to any suspects.

Swan and Norcross both worked at the Eastern Shore Concrete Company at the time of the murder.   On October 20, 1996, about a month before the murder, Norcross' former roommate reported the theft of two handguns from his residence:  a .357 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and a .40 caliber black Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun.   Around the same time, during the fall of 1996, another employee of the concrete plant named Matthew Howell took work breaks with Swan and Norcross.   Howell later testified that a few weeks before the murder, Norcross asked whether he wanted to join Norcross and Swan in a robbery.   Howell declined.

About a week later, Norcross told Howell that he drove a red sports car to a person's house located on a dark road and fired a shot at a glass patio door around the back of the house.   He stated that he wore camouflage clothing and a mask that covered everything but his eyes.   When he entered the house, a man came up to him and fell to his knees, grabbing hold of Norcross.   Norcross put the gun to the side of man's head and pulled the trigger and the man “fell like a bag of potatoes.”   Norcross told Howell that Swan was hit in the shoulder either by the homeowner or crossfire.   Norcross also told Howell that he had earlier robbed an armory in Middletown and stole fatigues and ration packs.   He then told Howell that he grabbed a pocketbook from this house and threw it in the woods behind the concrete plant.   Norcross then, allegedly in front of Howell, disposed of what appeared to be a checkbook by dropping it into a concrete product that was being poured.   He also told Howell that he threw the guns into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and burned the clothing in a barrel.   Norcross told all this to Howell because he claimed not to trust Swan and wanted someone to know what happened.   Howell did not report this information to the police because Norcross threatened to kill him.

Norcross told Howell all this information a day after the incident occurred.   Within a day or so after this conversation, Howell observed that Swan had injured his left shoulder and wore a bloodstained bandage.   In December of 1996, Howell, Swan, and Norcross were laid off from the concrete plant.

Norcross dated Gina Ruberto during his employment at the concrete plant.   She observed Norcross with a black handgun that had to be clicked back to operate.   Ruberto also testified to seeing a big green duffel bag in Norcross' bedroom.   Ruberto testified that Norcross was upset one night and showed her a newspaper article about a murder and robbery.   Norcross started crying and told her about breaking into the back of a home occupied by a man and his wife while wearing camouflage clothing.   Norcross stated that he took a pocketbook and disposed of it behind a fence at the concrete plant. Norcross also stated that he threw the weapon in the water and burned the clothing in the green duffel bag.   Two weeks later, Ruberto saw Swan's left arm in a sling.   A few months later, she saw Swan without a shirt and noticed a purplish bruise or scar on his shoulder.   She asked Swan about the scar and Swan stated he hurt his shoulder while boxing.

In 1997, Norcross worked as a farmhand near Chesapeake City, Maryland.   He married Bridget Phillips in April, and in June or July of that year, Norcross invited Swan to work at the farm.   Swan moved into the same house with the couple, and one day Phillips overheard a loud conversation between the two men.   They were laughing about an incident where Swan had been shot.   Norcross then explained to his wife that he and Swan had planned to “rob” an empty home, but found it occupied.   He told her that the victim fired a shot and died because he “tried to play hero.”   Later, Phillips saw Swan without his shirt and observed a scar on his left shoulder.   Norcross pointed to the scar and said that scar resulted from a gunshot.   Swan responded by sticking his finger in the scar and saying, “Yes, and the bullet is still in there.”   Norcross also told Phillips that they would never be caught because they had worn masks.

Norcross and Phillips separated in December 1997, and two years later she contacted the Delaware State Police.   The police arrested Norcross on February 9, 2000, and he gave a statement the following day.   Norcross admitted that he was present during the incident, but in this version of the story, said that Swan killed Warren.   Norcross claimed that Swan started shooting, but that Norcross' gun would not fire.   Swan allegedly grabbed Norcross' gun, cleared it, and then used it to shoot Warren in the head.   After the two men started running to Swan's car, Swan told Norcross that he wanted to go back and kill the woman because she was a witness.   Norcross stopped Swan by shooting him in the shoulder.   The two men, who both worked at the Eastern Shore Concrete Company in Middletown, disposed of Tina's purse and their weapons the next day.

On a morning scheduled for preliminary hearings, Swan and Norcross were in separate holding cells in the Kent County courthouse when correctional officers intercepted a note Swan had dictated to an inmate.   In the note, Swan warned Norcross not to trust or talk to his attorney and gave his grandmother's telephone number as a means of communicating with him.   Swan further warned Norcross, “Don't say anything or if you did, say you lied.”   Swan also told another inmate that he had nothing to worry about as long as Norcross kept his mouth shut.

Warren's mother testified that she noticed a red car parked nearby when she left shortly before the murder.   Several witnesses testified that Swan owned a red Dodge Daytona at the time of the murder and later painted the car blue/black in April 1997.   Additional testimony revealed that Swan was placed on restricted duty at the concrete plant due to a shoulder injury and that he had a scar on his left shoulder consistent with a gunshot wound.

Swan was a martial arts boxer and presented an alibi defense that he had sparred with a professional boxer named Michael Stewart from October 1996 through November or early December 1996.   He also presented evidence that the scar on his shoulder could not have resulted from a gunshot wound and that he showed no signs of injury when he participated in a February 8, 1997 kickboxing tournament.

Swan's trial for Murder First Degree and related charges began on June 5, 2001.   The jury found Swan guilty of all charges.   At the penalty hearing following the conviction for Murder First, the jury voted seven to five that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances.   On October 3, 2001, after considering the jury recommendation, the trial judge sentenced Swan to death.



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