Metropolis: Wednesday, February 20, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Troubling Portrait

A search warrant turns up a strange collectionat Norris’ house.

By DAN MALONE AND SARAH CHACKO

Little about the old man who emerged from the Tarrant County jail last week appeared menacing. His sagging flesh, thinning gray hair, and feeble manner, coupled with a red plaid shirt and unstylish glasses, telegraphed a grandfatherly image.

But the public records released by law enforcement after Wirt Malcolm Norris’ arrest on Feb. 13 paint a darker portrait of a man with a hidden life. In a detailed affidavit filed with the courts, investigators said Norris’ behavior and lifestyle closely parallel those of a child molester. Norris’ attorney called the comparison “junk science.’’

The prominent real estate broker and former diving coach was arrested following a seven-week investigation by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. The investigation began the day after Christmas when the troubled son of a prominent lawyer gave police a statement accusing Norris of molesting him in 1995 — when the boy would have been 12 and Norris 67.

Norris, now 75, was briefly jailed, then released on $25,000 bond, on a charge of “indecency with a child — sexual contact.’’ After his release, Norris told reporters he was an old man in poor health who has been falsely accused. He has refused Fort Worth Weekly’s request to hear his side of the story.

“I’m sure you would (like to hear it) but I don’t think you’d give me a fair shot,’’ he said. The accusations against Norris, the subject of rumors for years, were first published Jan. 4 on the Weekly’s web site.

The sheriff’s department interviewed nine men, some now in their 40s, who claim Norris molested them years ago. Chief investigator R.C. Thompson compared what the men told him to an authoritative work on sex crimes against children, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis for Law Enforcement Officers Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children by Acquaintance Molesters by former FBI agent Kenneth V. Lanning. In court records filed in the case, Thompson said Norris exhibited “patterns of behavior similar’’ to the 11 distinct characteristics of a child molester identified by Lanning.

Lanning, who is now a consultant in Virginia, said in an interview that he’s not familiar with the details of the accusations against Norris. However, he said, “There is a type of child molester who, for lack of a better term, I sometimes call a ‘nice guy’ molester. He seems to be nice for a very simple reason. He is nice. If you get your victims by being nice to them, seducing them, and grooming them, you pretty much need to be nice or you’re not going to get very far.’’

In a summary of his interviews with Norris’ accusers, Thompson wrote: “Norris acted as a sounding board for the victims’ problems that they would not ordinarily be able to talk to their parents about. Problems with parents, girls, and school.’’

“These guys,” Lanning continued, “what they tend to do is seduce children exactly the same way men and women have been seducing each other since the dawn of mankind. You would learn something about them, shower them with affection, listen to them, laugh at their jokes, listen to their problems, gradually lower their inhibitions.’’

There’s nothing, he says, “on the face of the earth easier to seduce than an adolescent boy. The only thing you have to overcome is the stigma of homosexuality.’’

Accuser after accuser told police that Norris showed them heterosexually explicit videos and magazines, instructed them to masturbate, then moved on to fondling, playing with vibrators, and oral or anal sex.

Norris, Thompson wrote in his summary, “engaged the victims in coarse and crude language and discussion not usually allowed by other authority figures. He would discuss penis size, ‘pussy,’ and ‘jacking off’.’’

Fitting a profile, of course, proves nothing. Norris’ attorney, Michael Ware, said his client denies the accusations against him. Ware also challenged the validity of the comparisons as well as Thompson’s credentials.

“Kenneth Lanning is the purported expert and, evidentially, he was never asked about this case,’’ Ware said. “Instead, he [Thompson] picks and chooses certain portions of Lanning’s book and purports to apply them to this case, and he is simply not qualified to do that — at least nothing in the affidavit indicates that he is. It’s the sort of thing that gives junk science a bad name.’’

Sheriff Dee Anderson said Thompson’s work was reviewed by supervisors in his and the district attorney’s office, and both approved his work.

Police used the comparison of Norris’ life and Lanning’s studies in their request to obtain the search warrant of his two-story home on Eagle Mountain Lake.

According to the warrant, officials were searching for pornography, sex toys, vibrators, and a breast-shaped mug that several of his accusers have mentioned.

The cops struck out on the vibrators, but records released Tuesday show police found not one but a pair of breast-shaped mugs, 159 Playboy magazines, assorted photographs, films, tapes, camera, and array of “novelties.” Among the latter: a “dirty words game,” a deck of cards, paper towels, “fish bait” underwear, a doorknob cover, “boob-tube,’’ “plastic fanny pinchers,’’ and “slippers with breasts.’’

Ware said he wouldn’t comment on the seized items until he has had a chance to inspect them. But he added, “it has never been a crime in Texas to have a Playboy magazine collection or to possess novelty coffee mugs that can be bought at every novelty store and truck stop between here and Oklahoma.’’

Ware said he had offered to surrender Norris if police obtained a warrant for his arrest — and also offered to let officers search the house without a warrant. But the sheriff’s department decided to arrest him and search his house without notice. They used a ladder to scale a wall surrounding his home, then broke down his front door when he did not respond to calls.

“We didn’t want to give him any chance to destroy any evidence,’’ Sheriff Anderson said. If indicted and convicted, Norris could be fined up to $10,000 and placed on probation or sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Ware said the early morning raid was a “ridiculous and unnecessary’’ tactic to employ on a “75-year-old man who’s had two serious heart surgeries.’’

Some of Norris’ accusers are still battling demons of drug and alcohol abuse, failed relationships, and crushing self-doubt and shame. Although Lanning’s forte is law enforcement, not psychology, he’s followed enough cases through to know that victims of molestation can recover.

“To have any hope that you are going to go on with your life, you have to come to the realization that you are a true victim and it wasn’t your fault,’’ Lanning said. “You cannot sit there blaming yourself. What really destroys their lives is shame and embarrassment.’’




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