Two defendants were sentenced Wednesday for the murder of businessman Larry Norris, and although the circumstances of their convictions were starkly different, they will both spend decades in prison.
Wednesday afternoon, Judge Patrick Robb ordered Michael Limley to serve 25 years in prison for second degree murder. Limley pleaded guilty, cooperated with investigators and prosecutors, and testified against his co-defendant Christopher Helton. For his part Wednesday, Helton broke down in tears, once again denying he killed Norris. A jury found him guilty, and judge Robb ordered him to serve life in prison for murder, 20 years for attempted robbery and ten years for armed criminal action.
Because of the vagaries of sentencing laws, Limley must serve just over 21 years before he becomes eligible for parole. With his consecutive sentence, Helton will not be eligible for parole for more than 28 years.
Judge Robb noted Limley’s cooperation, but told him if he had not participated in the crime, it would not have happened. Robb said it took two people to plan and execute the robbery behind Norris’ business in August, 2009. Robb said he had to look at the impact of the crime, the robbery, the use of a weapon, and the killing that resulted. He said it had a vast impact on a lot of people.
Limley told the court that he was deep under the influence of methamphetamine that morning. He said he was sorry, and that he regrets not only the crime, but the stupidity that led up to it.
Norris owned a Valvoline service business – Helton worked there.
Helton took the witness stand Wednesday morning, breaking down in tears as he once again denied involvement in the crime. Judge Robb gave little credence to the tears or the denials, telling Helton “you did murder a decent and good man, and caused grief to his relatives and friends.”
Judge Robb ordered Helton to serve life in prison for second degree murder concurrently with a 20 year prison term for attempted robbery in the first degree. He then imposed a ten year sentence consecutively to the other two terms, meaning if parole is granted, on the murder and attempted robbery, Helton will then begin serving time for armed criminal action.
Under oath Wednesday, Helton asserted that he was not present during the robbery and did not kill Norris. Helton claimed that Limley committed the robbery and the murder, and then barged into his house and admitted the crimes.
Judge Robb pointed out that Helton’s continuing denials have not been consistent with his story shortly after the crime when he was interviewed by detectives. Robb told the defendant his claim he hadn’t spent time with Limley was inconsistent with video evidence that showed the pair together the night before the murder.
Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Scroggins told the court that Helton had multiple opportunities to reform his conduct, involving stealing and substance abuse, but he either failed or refused to do that. He called the murder the tragic consequence of Helton’s failure to address his legal and personal issues.
Todd Norris, the victim’s son, read a short statement from his mother, Larry Norris’ wife, during each of the two sentencing hearings. They said the victim visited his 11-year-old granddaughter at least once a week, and loved hanging out with his 4-year-old granddaughter. They also said he would sometimes talk non-stop about his 6-month-old grandson, with whom he expected to play a lot of football. In the statement, Mrs. Norris said she prayed for the Lord to be involved in the sentencing.