Thomas Tommy Glenn Palmer

Thomas “Tommy” Glenn Palmer, flanked by his attorneys, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday in the death of his stepfather, Tim Norris, in February 2016.

Thomas “Tommy” Glenn Palmer, 38, of Tignall, Georgia was sentenced to at least 30 years behind bars Monday after admitting in a Jackson County courtroom he shot and killed his stepfather, Tim Norris, in February 2016.

“We know a court sentence can’t replace Tim as a son, father, brother or friend,” District Attorney Ashley Welch said afterwards. “But we do hope today’s action will bring some comfort to his loved ones, who have lost so much.”

The 49-year-old Norris was killed in his Cashiers home on Panorama Trail.

Superior Court Judge Brad Letts sentenced Palmer to serve a minimum of 360 months in prison and a maximum of 444 months in prison and pay $5,000 restitution.

Palmer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, larceny of a firearm, first-degree burglary, felony larceny and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Speaking to Norris’ family members, Letts said Palmer had inflicted “unspeakable sadness” upon them.

There was “something to be said for (Palmer) for not putting your family through a difficult and emotional trial,” he said.

Tim Norris’ father, J.C. Norris, and his mother, Donna Houston, are both in poor health. They requested a plea offer to see the matter through.

In victim-impact statements, current and former family members talked about Norris’ faith in God, their certainty he is in a better place and his widespread influence on others.

A self-employed painter, Norris was well-known and well-liked in Cashiers, where he was affectionately called “The Gentle Giant.”

”I can’t believe Tim could be mean enough to anyone enough for them to take his life,” J.C. Norris told the court. “I don’t know why Tommy did this. I don’t know what Tim could have done to warrant this.”

Through tears, he said, “This is the worst hurt I’ve ever had in my life.”

J.C. Norris and other family members thanked the District Attorney’s office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, State Bureau of Investigation and court officials for their hard work on the case.

“They have shown me a side of law enforcement I didn’t know existed,” J.C. Norris said. “I think Jackson County is very fortunate to have each one of them.”

Norris’ daughter, Brianna, told Palmer she had forgiven him. She presented court officials with a Bible to give him.

“I will never understand the violence you showed toward my dad,” the 19-year-old said to Palmer. “I pray for your salvation every day.”

Assistant district attorneys Chris Matheson and Jeff Jones prosecuted the case.

At about 6 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2016, Tim Norris’ wife, Tammy Norris, went to work. Her husband had a cold and told her he intended to go to bed early.

The following morning, when Tammy Norris returned home from work, she discovered her husband dead, lying in their bed with multiple bullet wounds.

Investigators later found shell casings at Palmer’s home in Wilkes County, Georgia, and at his stepbrother’s home in Lincolnton, Georgia. Those shell casings matched shell casings recovered at the murder scene in Cashiers.

In addition to his North Carolina prison sentence, Palmer is serving 10 years active time in Georgia for an armed robbery.

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.

Palmer was extradited to Jackson County in April 2018 to face the 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.