By Dave Russell
Accused murderer Thomas Glenn Palmer Jr. could find himself fighting for his life in front of a jury of his peers in April. He stands accused in the shooting death of his stepfather, Tim Norris, of Panorama Trail in Cashiers.
Jury selection in the death penalty trial is slated to begin during the April 19 term of Jackson County Superior Court.
Norris, 49 at the time, was found dead on Feb. 2, 2016, by his wife, Tammy Norris, in the couple’s bed.
Tammy Norris had last seen him sitting in his recliner in the living room. When she returned home from working an overnight shift at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital that morning, she noticed the back door open.
Tim Norris never left the door unlocked, Tammy Norris later told investigators.
She went in to find Tim Norris with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. She called 911 dispatchers at 7:34 a.m.
Palmer was in April 2018 extradited to Jackson County to face criminal charges. Palmer had been held in Coffee County, Georgia, for two years after Norris’ death on charges stemming from the 2015 armed robbery of a gas station there.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation took custody of Palmer on April 3, 2018 and flew him to Jackson County to await trail. He has been held without bond in the Jackson County Detention Center ever since.
At the same time, prosecutors filed a Rule 24 request with the court, setting the stage for a possible death penalty trial.
In addition to first-degree murder, Palmer is facing charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, larceny of a firearm, possession of a stolen firearm, first-degree burglary, larceny after breaking and entering and possession of stolen goods.
Investigators say on the morning of Feb. 2, 2016, Palmer, 35, of Tignall, Georgia, went into the Norris’ home on Panorama Trail, stood over Tim Norris as he lay in bed and pumped multiple bullets into his stepfather using a 9 mm handgun.
Court documents detail the evidence that investigators used to build their case:
Capt. John Buchanan of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office obtained video from surveillance cameras in the area of the crime scene.
Video shows that on Feb. 2, at 1:50 a.m., a four-door truck with a short bed headed toward the Norris residence. At 2:26 a.m., the truck drove back by the camera, only to return in the direction of the Norris house at 2:31 a.m. At 2:43 a.m., the truck came back out.
The victim’s cousin, Matthew Norris, lived directly behind the murder scene. He told authorities he heard three bangs that sounded like a hammer striking a padlock at about 2:30 a.m. while he was awake checking his Facebook page on his computer.
The video Buchanan obtained showed the truck was missing its lower right tail light. He and Chief Deputy Kim Hooper were able to identify the truck as a Ford F-150 with a short bed.
A week later, Thomas Palmer and his wife, Aliyah Palmer, were asked to come to the Justice Center for interviews. They arrived in a red Ford F-150 pickup truck that had the lower section of the right tail light missing. The vehicle was registered to Tammy Norris, Palmer’s mother.
There were no signs of forced entry to the house. During the interview, Thomas Palmer told deputies he had a key to the house but had thrown it away when he learned of the murder.
After the couple left the Justice Center, a Jackson County deputy pulled Palmer’s truck over at the intersection of North Norton Road and N.C. 107. He handed the deputy a bag of marijuana. Palmer was charged with possession and bonded out of jail.
That same day, investigators, armed with a search warrant, seized spent shell casings from the yard of Palmer’s home at 202 Norman Lane in Tignall. The shell casings were identical to the casings found at the crime scene.
About a month later, Palmer’s brother, Roy Palmer, told investigators he had purchased a Taurus 9 mm handgun for Thomas Palmer. Roy Palmer said after the purchase, he and Thomas Palmer went to his house and shot the gun in the back yard. Investigators went to the scene and found spent shell casings in the lawn.
Forensic tests conducted by the State Crime Lab determined the shell casings from Thomas Palmer’s yard, Roy Palmer’s yard and the crime scene were fired by the same gun.
From March 20, 2003 to May 11, 2004, Palmer was behind bars in Georgia for burglary and criminal damage in the second degree. The sentence was originally for five years, but he was granted parole. In December 2004, Palmer was convicted of possession of methamphetamine, serving time in prison from April 28, 2005, to Aug. 23, 2007, according to Georgia public records.