Saturday, 22 June 2024

Edmonds, Norton sentenced; juror speaks on Norton's behalf

LAKEPORT – Two men who were tried in connection with a Clearlake man's September 2009 murder received their sentences on Monday, with one facing a lengthy prison term and the other having a strike taken from his record that will see him spending six and a half years in prison.


Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, went before Judge Arthur Mann for sentencing on Monday, with a juror from the mens' trial speaking out on Norton's behalf.


Due to a heavy court calendar, the sentencing – originally scheduled for the morning – was pushed back to mid-afternoon.


The men were put on trial earlier this year for the murder of 25-year-old Shelby Uehling on Sept. 22, 2009.


On March 11, Edmonds was convicted of second-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon – a knife – and assault with a deadly weapon, an asp or police-type extendable baton, as Lake County News has reported.


That same day, Norton was acquitted of murder and lesser included offenses of manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter, but convicted of assault and accessory charges.


Uehling was founded beaten, with his throat cut, alongside Old Highway 53 shortly after 1 a.m. last Sept. 22. Both Uehling and Edmonds had had romantic interest in the same woman, Patricia Campbell, who also was a friend of Norton's.


Norton and Edmonds said they went up separately to confront Uehling, whose car was seen near Norton's home, because Campbell had claimed Uehling was stalking her. Norton said he found Uehling in his car and they got into a shoving match before Edmonds arrived and began a fierce physical fight with the former Montanan.


Lake County Probation had proposed a sentence of 24 years to life, according to Edmonds' defense attorney, Doug Rhoades. However, Judge Mann sentenced Edmonds to 15 years to life, running the terms for all of the convictions except the murder charge concurrently rather than consecutively, as Lake County Probation had suggested.


Rhoades said Edmonds must serve 15 years in prison before he'll be eligible for parole. At that point he will be 50 years old.


An appeal of both the judgment and sentence was filed Monday, which Rhoades said is normal procedure in such cases. He won't handle the case, which will be taken by an appellate attorney.


Rhoades said Edmonds will remain in local custody a short time before he's transported to San Quentin for admission to the state prison system before week's end.


Following Edmonds' sentencing, Norton's sentencing took place.


Norton's defense attorney, Stephen Carter, had filed a Romero motion seeking to have both of Norton's previous felony strikes stricken from consideration.


It was during the trial that a second strike had been discovered in Norton's background, which raised the possibility that he could have faced more time in prison than Edmonds – as much as 50 years to life.


Although Carter's motion asked for two strikes to be removed, in court he only argued for one, while Deputy District Attorney Art Grothe asked the court to deny the motion.


Mann granted the motion, with Norton receiving nine years, four months in prison. With credits for time served and the requirement that he serve 80 percent of the remaining time, Norton is facing about six and a half years in prison, Carter said.


“I was very pleased that Judge Mann used his discretion to strike one of the strikes, because I think the resulting sentence was extremely fair, given the entire state of the case,” Carter said.


The judge had more leeway in his sentencing of Norton, Grothe said; in the case of Edmonds, the sentencing for his convictions “is 15 to life, period.”


Carter said a major theme in his case on Norton's behalf had been the difference in culpability between Norton and Edmonds.


Removing the strike took the case back to where it was before the second strike was discovered in Norton's record, which Carter said was a “gratifying” result in a case complicated by a joint trial with co-defendants who he said weren't “similarly situated” in their involvement.


Juror speaks to the court on defendant's behalf


What may have appeared to be a rather normal sentencing for the felony cases had an extraordinary aspect to it.


“We had four jurors show up for the sentencing, and I've never had that happen before,” said Grothe, and Carter agreed.


Chief among those interested jurors was Tasha Klewe, juror No. 7 from the trial, who wanted to address the court about the sentencing options for Norton.


Klewe waited all day long to address the court. “I didn't want to miss whatever was going to happen,” she told Lake County News in a Monday afternoon interview.


She had written a letter to the court, which was attached to Carter's Romero motion, and which she read aloud to the court, which Carter and Grothe previously had agreed that she could do.


Klewe said that after the verdict was reached and she was released from jury service, she began to read up on the case and on Edmonds, and found out information about him related to previous cases.


Those cases included the December 2005 incident at his Clearlake Park where he allegedly shot two men in the back as they ran from his home following an attempted home invasion robbery, as well as a case later where he allegedly attempted to force his girlfriend to commit suicide with him.


Edmonds was not prosecuted for either case, although a young San Francisco man, Renato Hughes, was charged with Clearlake Park shootings of his friends. He was later acquitted of murder but convicted of burglary and assault.


Klewe also contacted Carter and spoke with him, and told him she wanted to write a letter to the court on Norton's behalf.


Klewe said she didn't think Norton was a saint, and that he should have to serve some time in prison. However, she said she wanted him to have hope, and believed he had a heart.


During the trial, she had been approached while on a break by a local business owner who told Klewe that Norton had hit her in a hit-and-run, but that he later came back and apologized. Klewe had disclosed that to the court immediately afterward, but Mann and the attorneys had no issue with its impact on her as a juror.


Since the end of the trial, Klewe has visited Norton in jail three times, the first with Norton's sister. Klewe said she needed closure because her concerns were “eating me alive.”


When she and Norton's sister arrived for her first visit with him, she said he greeted her with a big smile, which relieved her, because she didn't know what his reaction would be.


She said Norton has taken responsibility for his actions, and told her, “You are not the reason I am here.”


Klewe said that, in light of the other previous allegations against Edmonds, she was angered that the information wasn't available to jurors, although when questioned Monday by Grothe, she stated that she understood that the law required that such information couldn't be considered in their deliberations.


“Had I known Shannon Edmonds’ background, I would have taken differently Melvin Norton’s statement that he had hidden the bloody clothes because he was 'scared,'” Klewe's letter stated. “Those words have an entirely new meaning when you consider that Mr. Norton knew that Mr. Edmonds had ‘gotten away with’ the homicide of these two other men and the attempted homicide of his former girlfriend.”


She appealed to the judge to grant the Romero motion, noting, “There was no one in the jury room that stated that they believed that Mr. Norton had even struck Shelby Uehling one time. I would further submit that Mr. Norton’s association with Mr. Edmonds should not lend to his imprisonment for a longer period of time that the perpetrator himself.”


Klewe continued, “None of my statements is intended to diminish the horrible circumstances under which Shelby Uehling died. From what I’ve gathered from the posting of family and friends of Mr. Uehling, he was a kind young man grieving the loss of his brother and mother. He did not deserve to die, and I believe that his murderer, Shannon Edmonds, deserves the most severe sentence allowed for this crime.”


Klewe said Tim Tillman, Uehling's uncle and an acquaintance of hers, gave a victim impact statement during both hearings, stating that he hoped the two defendants could find forgiveness for themselves. He told Norton specifically that God prefers mercy over sacrifice.


Members of Norton's family and extended family also were there, and one man spoke, Klewe said.


Based on her discussions with Norton, Klewe said he's talked to her about what he plans to do when he gets out of prison. She said she wants him to be a successful person and to have hope.


“I wish the very best for him,” Klewe said.


Grothe said Klewe's letter to the court and her request “was all done in an appropriate and sincere fashion.”


He said the jury on the case had conducted itself very well, had been easy to work with and was “a nice, solid group of people” who devoted two months of their lives to the case.


The case, Grothe noted, moved quickly. In all, it was just over seven months from Uehling's death to the sentencing. He said that was mostly because both Norton and Edmonds didn't waive the time requirements for a speedy trial.


Klewe said she wondered during the trial why she had been chosen to be a juror, but noted that her faith in God leads her to believe “that everything happens for a reason,” and that there has to be good that comes from every situation because there is so much bad that happens in the world.


In the end, she concluded that her purpose, once the trial – with its awful images and testimony – was done, was that she would be a source of strength and support for Norton.


“I had a purpose because I had something to work towards,” she said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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