A Belfast woman convicted of hiring someone to kill her husband in 1983 died early Sunday morning while serving a 70-year prison term.

Norma Small Courtesy Maine Department of Corrections

Norma Small, 83, died in the care of medical personnel at 12:17 a.m. Sunday at the Women’s Center in Windham, according to the Maine Department of Corrections.

Small made headlines in May 2001 when she was charged in the 1983 murder of her husband, Navy Petty Officer Mervin “Sonny” Grotton.

“This is a murder for hire,” Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills said at Small’s sentencing hearing that year, according to an AP report. “Mervin Grotton was worth more to her dead than alive, and apparently that proved to be true.”

Grotton was shot to death outside the family’s Belfast home after returning from his duty station in Newport, Rhode Island, on the evening of Dec. 16, 1983. In several media stories published since her conviction, police have said they immediately suspected Small, who had developed a reputation for infidelity and drug use while her husband worked three states away. But a lack of evidence kept the case on ice for nearly two decades.

That changed after an undercover Naval Criminal Intelligence Service operation broke new leads, culminating in the arrests of Small, who had since moved to Kansas, and two alleged accomplices.


During the trial, prosecutors played tapes of Small’s interview with a state police detective and a Navy investigator on the day of her 2001 arrest, on which she said “I asked (Boyd Smith) if he would take care of my husband for me, to take him out.”

“I did make a mistake and I couldn’t correct it. … I waited too long to put a stop to it,” she said.

But she also told police she had no guilt over her husband’s death.

“I’m right at ease,” she said. “I have no qualms.”

Smith, who had rented a room in the Grottons’ home in the months before the murder, turned state’s witness and testified that Small had offered him $10,000 to kill her husband so she could collect his military benefits.

Chief Petty Officer Merton “Sonny” Grotton

He considered the deal, but after deciding he didn’t have the stomach for the crime, he looked up Joe Fuller at a Belfast bar and explained the situation.


“I gave him Norma’s name and address,” Smith said, according to an AP report from Aug. 2, 2002. “I told him I didn’t want any more to do with it.”

Police believed Fuller had fired the fatal shots, as he described committing a similar crime to a friend, according to newspaper accounts from the time. But Fuller, who was already serving two life sentences on drug-related homicides, was ultimately acquitted.

Smith was also acquitted.

After four-and-a-half hours of deliberation, a Sagadahoc County jury found Small guilty on Aug. 2, 2002.

Small was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the murder, and a separate 10-year sentence for theft after collecting more than $180,000 in life insurance and benefits.

In a 2016 documentary on the case, the victim’s daughter Rosalyn Grotton said her father would not have justice as long as Small lived.

“She’s watching TV, she’s eating food, and my tax dollars are paying for her medicine,” she told CBS reporters. “It shouldn’t be like that. It’s not really over until she’s gone.”

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