Crime

Accused deputy killer found guilty of murder, jury decides

Accused deputy killer cries during ex-wife's testimony about their marriage ending

Christopher Keith Calmer, a Monroe County man charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputy Michael Norris, erupted into tears Thursday as his ex-wife, Samantha Peterson, testified about the end of their m
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Christopher Keith Calmer, a Monroe County man charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputy Michael Norris, erupted into tears Thursday as his ex-wife, Samantha Peterson, testified about the end of their m

Jurors deliberated about 30 minutes before finding Christopher Keith Calmer guilty of murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County deputy Michael Norris.

Calmer, 49, who also was accused of wounding deputy Jeff Wilson, additionally was found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and single counts of aggravated battery and criminal attempt to commit murder.

Calmer nodded his head up and down as the verdict for each charge was read aloud.

The same Upson County jurors who have listened to testimony during the more than week-long trial will decide whether to sentence Calmer to life, life without parole or to be executed.

Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams called Calmer a “scheming manipulator” during his closing argument Monday night, saying Calmer lured the deputies to his parents’ home Sept. 13, 2014, with a plan of shooting at them in hopes they would then kill him.

Adams held up Norris’s bloody uniform shirt and the gun used to shoot him, saying the two deputies had gone to Calmer’s parents’ home near Interstate 75 and Pate Road to help Calmer. Calmer’s uncle had called 911 seeking help because Calmer was suicidal.

Calmer, who suffered from chronic pain, made a conscious choice to shoot the deputies, Adams said.

Calmer’s attorneys have argued their client suffers from multiple mental illnesses and wasn’t in his right mind at the time of the shooting.

Norris died of his wounds. Wilson survived.

‘One of the best men I ever knew’

At 5:45 p.m. Sept. 13, 2014, Michael Norris sent a message to his wife, Logan.

“I love you,” the message read.

Logan Norris Doyle testified it wasn’t uncommon for her husband to send her a message saying he loved her when he had a bad feeling about going to an emergency.

He wanted those words to be the last she heard if something happened.

Doyle said she had a feeling as she read the message and called Norris. He answered, said he couldn’t talk and that he’d call later.

It wasn’t 10 minutes later that she got a message to call a sheriff’s office dispatcher and learned Norris, her husband of less than five months, had been shot.

She said she doesn’t remember much of what happened at the hospital that night.

The next day she was not longer his wife.

“I was his widow,” Doyle said.

Doyle was one of several victim impact witnesses who testified Tuesday as the sentencing phase of Calmer’s trial began.

A co-worker, the then-principal at K.B. Sutton Elementary School where Norris worked for a while as a school resource officer and Norris’s best friend testified about the impact of the killing on their lives and the community.

Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick testified he was 15 minutes into a flight to Texas when Norris and Wilson were shot.

When he landed, Bittick turned on his cell phone and saw he had numerous messages.

“I immediately knew whatever the news was, it was extremely serious,” the sheriff said.

Bittick said he knew Norris as a child, when Norris was a boyscout, then as he became a volunteer firefighter, a jailer and finally a deputy.

“He was respectful and well respected,” the sheriff said.

Norris was dedicated to becoming the best deputy he could be and genuinely wanted to help everyone he encountered, Bittick said.

Norris’s death impacted the entire law enforcement community, taking away lawmen’s sense of security and reminding them of their mortality, the sheriff said.

“Michael Norris was one of the best men I ever knew,” he said.

Wilson also testified about the impact of his being shot.

A deputy of seven years, Wilson said he’s now anxious and apprehensive when he interacts with people.

He’s lost his enthusiasm to help people and sees people as a threat.

Suffering permanent health effects from the shooting, Wilson said he survived, but his life has been cut short.

Samantha Peterson, one of Calmer’s two ex-wives, also testified, pleading for jurors to spare his life.

She described Calmer as a man who brought her flowers when they were dating and someone who she enjoyed laughing with.

“This was not Chris. … The Chris I knew wouldn’t get a speeding ticket. He wouldn’t break the law,” Peterson said.

“Don’t kill Chris for one day,” she said.

Testimony is set to continue Wednesday.

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon

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