Norwood writes letter warning ex-wife not to testify against him in trial

Mark Norwood's ex-wife, Judy Norwood, takes the stand on Sept. 15, 2016. (KXAN PHoto)
Mark Norwood's ex-wife, Judy Norwood, takes the stand on Sept. 15, 2016. (KXAN PHoto)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jurors heard emotional testimony Thursday from an ex-wife of Mark Alan Norwood, the man on trial in the capital murder of Debra Masters Baker.

Judy Norwood was subpoenaed to testify about their relationship in the late ’80s, when the two lived and worked in Austin.

She said her then-husband “had a habit” of leaving their home on Justin Lane late at night.

“He’d go on nightly walks… Three, four times a week, maybe,” said Judy Norwood. “I didn’t know where he was at. I didn’t ask,” she continued.

Judy testified that when she woke up after her husband’s “late nights” she would find new things in their home. These items were later found to be stolen.

Gary Cobb, a Travis Co. District Attorney, asked the witness: “Did you know where any of this stuff came from?” Judy responded, “No.”

According to prosecutors, Norwood pleaded guilty to three felony offenses of theft in the late 1980s, corresponding to the 1987 burglaries reported by witnesses who testified Wednesday in court.

The defense attributed those “late nights” to necessary therapy for Norwood, following a knee surgery around the time of the burglaries.

Judy was 15 years old when she ran away from home to be with Mark. She was 17 when the couple got married. They had one son together.

Prosecutors asked Judy about an incident involving their then-toddler. Judy reportedly went to work around 10:30 p.m. one night and left their son with Mark. She returned home soon thereafter and said their son was home alone. Mark was not there.

When asked if she asked her husband where he was at the time, Judy replied, “He didn’t want me to question him.”

Judy also testified about a letter, meant for her, that Mark sent to their son, Thomas. In it, Judy testified that her ex-husband said she shouldn’t testify in his capital murder trial.

“He [Mark Norwood] advised me not to come down here… That things could get pretty nasty,” Judy said.

After emotional testimony, she was excused as a witness.

When leaving the courtroom, Judy hugged a sister of the murder victim in this case, Debra Baker.

DNA Expert Testimony

Forensic science experts were called to the stand Thursday in the third full day of testimony in the trial for Mark Alan Norwood.

Norwood, 62, is charged with capital murder in the 1988 beating death of Debra Masters Baker. He has entered a formal not guilty plea and proclaims his innocence.

Melissa Valadez, a hair analyst with the Department for Public Safety lab in Austin was the first witness of the day. Valadez testified about three questioned hairs found at the 1988 crime scene.

Valadez completed visual examinations of the hairs when she retrieved them in 2005. At that time, she found that all three hairs appeared to be from a Caucasian individual, they were possibly pubic hairs, and all were “visually different” from the victim’s known pubic hair sample.

Debra Baker
Debra Baker

Baker, 34, was beaten to death in her home in January 1988. The case went unsolved until August 2011 when prosecutors say DNA evidence found in Baker’s home was a match to evidence found in the 1986 murder of another woman, Christine Morton.

Two forensic science experts took the stand at the end of the day Wednesday to begin the DNA expert witness testimony.

“You can still look at the hair under the microscope, but you can’t say that the hair came from one particular person, to the exclusion of all others,” said Irma Rios, an expert witness from the former Department for Public Safety, or DPS Lab. Rios is currently working for the Houston Forensic Science Center.

On Thursday, jurors heard from forensic scientists who gave them a basic lesson about DNA and a brief explanation about its compilation process.

General DNA Analysis Procedure:

  • Screening
  • Extract DNA
  • Quant DNA
  • Amplify DNA
  • Analyze DNA

“DNA testing took hold in the late 1990’s with STR Testing,” testified Theresa Francis, a former forensic scientist for Austin’s DPS Lab. Francis is now employed with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

Francis also gave a history of the types of DNA testing and its progression. It included the types of DNA testing, which are comprised of:

  • ABO blood typing (before DNA)
  • STR testing
  • Mini-STR
  • Y-STR
  • Mitochondrial

The jury heard from Dr. Roberto Bayardo, the former Travis Co. medical examiner, Wednesday who performed the autopsy on Debra Baker’s body.

MORE: KXAN Investigates: Body of Evidence provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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