Arkansas man arrested in 2002 murder in North Carolina
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — An Arkansas man faces a murder charge in connection with the death of a North Carolina woman whose body was found in the trunk of her car more than 15 years ago.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Monday that 42-year-old Isaac McDonald of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was indicted last week on a charge of first-degree murder. He was arrested Friday in the death of 39-year-old Janet Norris.
Norris’ body was found April 20, 2002, stuffed inside the trunk of her abandoned car, found less than two miles from her home.
McDonald was being held in an Arkansas jail to await extradition to North Carolina. Authorities said he’s a registered sex offender who was on parole when he was arrested.
The arrest came after additional testing of evidence that was not available in 2002 was done, the release from the sheriff’s office said. Investigators also spoke with people originally questioned in the death of Norris, who was the mother of two teenagers.
Charlie Disponzio, who is retired from the sheriff’s office, told The Fayetteville Observer in September that investigators had plenty of circumstantial evidence, but no one was charged.
Disponzio, who was head of the homicide division and led the investigation of Norris’ murder, is now an investigator for the district attorney.
One obstacle was an autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that said Norris died from asphyxiation, and listed the manner of death as undetermined, Disponzio said. The autopsy said the investigation at the scene indicated Norris pulled down the back seat and crawled into the trunk.
Disponzio approached District Attorney Billy West in September about the case, which the former district attorney had shelved.
He reviewed the case for West and his staff, and they agreed to reopen the investigation.
“I’m just glad for the family,” Disponzio said Monday of McDonald’s arrest. “I’m sad her mother and father didn’t live to see it.”
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said McDonald’s arrest is the first made as the result of a newly formed cold case unit.