July 18, 2019

Belfast murder-for-hire case to air on cable

BELFAST – Twenty years after Mervin “Sonny” Grotton was gunned down in his Wight Street dooryard in a murder-for-hire killing, A&E television’s “Cold Case Files” will recount the story of his death and the conviction of the widow who orchestrated his murder.

Grotton, then 46 and a Navy petty officer, was felled by three shots from a rifle as he walked from his pickup truck to his front door Dec. 16, 1983.

Grotton’s assailant fired the first two shots from behind a nearby woodpile and delivered the third at close range as he stood above his victim. The killer then slipped away into the darkness. Those involved would not be charged with the murder until 17 years later.

According to producer Mike West, the case titled “The Merry Widow” will tell how Maine State Police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Services pooled resources to track down Grotton’s killer nearly two decades after the fact.

The Grotton case was reopened in early 2002. Within a few months, Maine State Police Detective Dean Jackson and NCIC special agent Jeff Morrow concocted an elaborate ruse featuring undercover agents posing as hardened ex-convicts to draw incriminating statements from those they believed were involved in planning Grotton’s murder.

As a result, Grotton’s widow, Norma Small, 64, formally of Gas, Kan., Boyd Smith, 43, of Brooks, a friend of the Grotton family, and Joel Fuller, 48, who is serving a pair of life sentences for two drug-related murders, were each indicted in 2001 on charges of murder. Small was also indicted for the theft of more than $180,000 in survivor benefits she collected from the Navy in the years after her husband’s murder.

Small, a mother and grandmother, was convicted of murder and theft by a Sagadahoc Superior Court jury in July 2002 and is serving a 70-year prison sentence at Windham.Smith and Fuller were found not guilty in separate trials.

Jackson and Morrow focused on the three after a drug dealer told Jackson that Fuller had bragged to him about killing a Navy man in Belfast. The dealer also told Jackson that Fuller told him the victim’s wife paid him to kill her husband.

The police team sent the undercover agents to Small’s place of work in Kansas posing as ex-con friends of Fuller’s. They told her that someone had been talking to authorities about the case and that Fuller wanted the leak plugged.

The undercover conversations were recorded on video, and West indicated that portions of the tapes would be used in the show. West said the “Cold Case Files” crew filmed location footage at Grotton’s former Wight Street home, a Belfast cafe and the back roads of Waldo County.

“Cold Case Files” episode “The Merry Widow” will be shown at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16, on A&E.

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