Present in a Travis County courtroom during Mark Norwood’s murder trial last month was a woman who believes she would have been killed the same way as his victim, Debra Baker, if not for a rotting wooden log.
Debi Scott was attacked on Sept. 15, 1990 as she slept in her Wells Branch home. Her attacker hit her in the head with a log he had grabbed from her porch. Like Baker and Christine Morton, the two women that Norwood has been convicted of murdering, Scott was a brunette in her early 30s, the target of a burglary, beaten with a blunt object while she slept.
Scott saw only a side view of her attacker, but the description she gave to police matches that of the lanky and bearded Norwood.
If the rotten log had not splintered during the attack, Scott believes her injuries would’ve been far worse than the concussion she sustained.
“I didn’t use them much,” she said. “I kept them for kindling.”
Norwood was not implicated in either the Baker or Morton killings for more than two decades. Since he was first charged in 2012 for the 1986 killing of Christine Morton, investigators have continually puzzled over what other crimes he might have committed in that 27-year period when it seemed he had gotten away with murder.
Scott, who is now a real estate agent in New Braunfels, attended parts of Norwood’s two-week trial in the Baker murder, and sat alongside Lisa Tanner, the former Williamson County prosecutor who secured Norwood’s conviction in the Morton case. Tanner said she too is suspicious Norwood is behind Scott’s attack, “but there is no evidence, unfortunately.” Attempts by police to lift fingerprints from Scott’s home were unsuccessful, Tanner said.
“I think unfortunately it’s always going to remain a case where you have a healthy suspicion and you’re struck by the similarities, but you have nothing else,” Tanner said.
There currently are no active investigations with Norwood as a suspect, according to Tanner, who said that every now and then she gets calls from investigators elsewhere asking, “Do you know where Mark Norwood was at this time?”
At various points as an adult, Norwood lived in Nashville, Austin, California and finally Bastrop, where investigators questioned him for the first time about Baker’s murder.
At one time, Norwood was also a suspect in the 1985 murder of Natalie Antonetti, who, like Morton and Baker, was murdered on the 13th day of a month. That case remains unsolved after a state appeals court in 2015 dropped charges against Dennis Davis, who had been found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to 36 years.
Norwood, who says he’s not a violent person and that he never killed anyone, spoke with the American-Statesman last week from Travis County jail and called the criminal justice system “a big mess that has gotten way out of hand.”
Asked about Scott’s suspicion, Norwood said he didn’t attack her either.
“I don’t know anything about this woman,” he said. “I have no idea what she’s talking about. This is something that got put in her mind.”
Norwood did not explain how two pubic hairs linked to him through DNA testing were found at Baker’s home, but said “I got framed” for the purpose of exonerating Michael Morton, who was falsely convicted and served nearly 25 years for his wife’s murder. In the Baker murder trial, Norwood’s attorneys argued that there are many reasons his hair could be at her house.
As for Morton, Norwood said a bandana belonging to him that was found near Morton’s home may have been left there by Norwood’s work associate, Louis Wann, who he suspects may have broken into the house to steal a handgun. In recent years, investigators found the gun in Tennessee with Wann, who, after originally saying he got the gun from his mother-in-law, changed the story and said he bought it from Norwood. Wann has since died.
Norwood says he doesn’t think Wann killed Morton. “But he was in the vicinity, he was a gun collector, he wanted Mr. Michael Morton’s guns,” Norwood said. “He had someone break in his house and he was there.”
Stressing the many similarities of the two murders, Tanner persuaded a Williamson County judge to deliver a major blow to Norwood’s defense and admit testimony from Baker’s case into the Morton trial. A judge also allowed evidence from both killings into Norwood’s trial for the Baker murder.
Norwood’s conviction in the Morton case was upheld by an appellate court in 2014.
Norwood, who is serving two life sentences and is likely to also appeal the Baker conviction, said he keeps up with his cases in the newspaper and is aware of the comments Michael Morton made recently about wanting to visit Norwood in prison. That’s fine, Norwood says, but “don’t expect me to make you feel better about this.”
“I’m not going to confess to something I didn’t do,” Norwood said.
Christine Morton was killed at her home in Williamson County in 1986. Norwood was convicted of her murder in 2013.
Debra Baker was killed at her home in north Austin in 1988. Norwood was convicted of her murder last week.
Norwood over the years
Mark Norwood is the oldest of three children born to Dorothy and the late Marx Norwood, who was an intelligence officer for the U.S. Air Force.
The family lived in several different places during his childhood, including France, California and Guam. They settled in Austin in 1970.
Mugshots and family photos show Norwood’s appearance over the years (l-r): Nashville mugshot that was taken sometime from 1980 to 1983; a 1987 mugshot from an arrest in Austin; a 2003 family photo.