ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Standing in a hardware aisle at Walmart, Anne Norris appeared to be considering her options.
Before her was a display of hammers. Norris selected two and examined them both, then put them in opposite hands. She bounced them. She made small striking motions. She brought them closer to her face and examined them again. In the end, she put one back and selected the other.
Within an hour, Norris was back in the hammer aisle, with two more hammers in her hands. She repeated her selection process, laying one of the tools carefully in her cart before leaving that part of the store.
Norris had chosen two Stanley hammers — one a 16-ounce steel curved-claw hammer with a black handle, and the other a 20-ounce yellow-handled steel nailing hammer, similar but a little heavier than the one she had chosen from that same aisle five days earlier and had used to kill Marcel Reardon.
Norris put a number of items in her cart with the hammers during that visit to Walmart on May 13, 2016, including a coat, a backpack and scissors. She ended up leaving the store empty-handed but in handcuffs: undercover police officers had been watching her movements for a couple of days, and were in the store. They seized the items, arrested her and charged her with first-degree murder in connection with Reardon’s death.
Norris was taken into custody wearing clothing loaned to her by an acquaintance, Shawn Pumphrey, who, like her, was a new tenant in the Harbour View Apartments building on Brazil Street in St. John’s.
Pumphrey found Reardon’s body under the building’s back steps the morning of May 9, and had coincidentally befriended Norris. She was polite, pleasant, articulate and well brought up, he would later say, and he felt bad for her.
While police had visited the apartments of other tenants as part of their investigation into Reardon’s death, they had taken a special interest in Norris’s, and she was banned from entering it. Given another apartment temporarily, she had nothing but the clothes on her back, Pumphrey would later explain to the court, so he lent her some things to wear: sneakers, grey jogging pants with the word “freak” branded on one leg, some T-shirts, a sweater and a black jacket.
“It was all I had that was clean and appropriate for a young girl to wear,” Pumphrey explained.
Surveillance footage of Norris in the Topsail Road Walmart was the focus of her murder trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s Wednesday. Jurors spent the day watching video of her visit to the store four days after the murder — which ended in her being escorted out by police — as well as footage captured hours before Reardon was killed.
Norris spent about an hour and 15 minutes in the store the evening of May 8, 2016, putting two hammers, four knives, a backpack, two bath towels and a fabric liner in her cart. She is seen in the video walking around the store, at times examining and rearranging her items. The video shows Norris attempting to leave the store without paying, before security guards stop her. She’s seen going back to the checkout, where she attempted to pay for the items, but her debit card was declined. She chose the $18.98 yellow-handled hammer and a $5 kitchen knife, and paid for them.
Norris admits she then went downtown to rejoin a group of others, including Reardon, and surveillance video compiled by police from various locations and shown to the court on Tuesday shows her walking with Reardon and others.
Norris and Reardon got a cab back to her apartment building, and an hour or so later, Norris, appearing on video in a change of clothes, walked back downtown alone, meeting up with a male friend. The pair went to the waterfront, where Norris threw a backpack containing the hammer, some rope and a pair of jeans over the pier.
The backpack was found three days later — the day, according to RNC Const. Ryan Pittman, lead investigator in the murder case, Norris became the main suspect.
Norris’s lawyers say Norris was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time she killed Reardon, and was incapable of understanding her actions, meaning she should be found not criminally responsible for Reardon’s death.
In terms of Norris’s mental health, she had been on a downward spiral since 2011, lawyers Rosellen Sullivan and Jerome Kennedy say, and had just been discharged from a three-week admission at the Waterford Hospital days earlier.
Pumphrey testified on Day 1 of the trial that Norris had spoken to him briefly of suicide and at one point had mentioned she was worried about being followed.
Crown prosecutors Iain Hollett and Jeff Summers say Norris planned and intended to kill Reardon, and knew exactly what she was doing.
Norris’s trial will resume Thursday morning with the cross-examination of Pittman.
The next witness to be called will be Jessica Peach, who was with Norris and Reardon downtown the night in question.