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Destiny found dead

Published July 25, 2006 1:41 am

Police arrest a man living next door
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Eight days after 5-year-old Destiny Norton disappeared from her front yard, police discovered her body in the basement of a man who lives next door.

Craig Roger Gregerson, 20, was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Monday night on suspicion of homicide.

After Salt Lake City police Chief Chris Burbank made the announcement, a crowd of about 200 gathered outside Destiny's home near 700 South and 500 East, where police were still present and yellow tape sealed off the yard and driveway. Some residents questioned how the search for the girl could have gone so wrong, and how investigators could have missed something so close.

Many in the crowd shouted profanity at police and reporters. They also wept and hugged each other.

"They told us they searched these buildings four f------ times," Norton family spokeswoman Jeannie Hill said of police. "They did not do their jobs."

"The police told me if I didn't stop going into buildings, I was going to be arrested," shouted Peter Brooks, who called himself Destiny's uncle. At one point, Brooks, who was in the parking lot of an LDS church across the street from the Nortons' home, fell to his knees weeping.

Around midnight, Burbank arrived to try calming the crowd.

The discovery, made about 8:30 p.m., capped a day of hope for Rickey and Rachael Norton, Destiny's parents. Early in the day, volunteer and law enforcement officials marched along the route of the Pioneer Day parade, passing out fliers with the girl's picture. Later, police and the FBI said they were investigating a possible sighting of Destiny at a Smith's Conoco gas station in Farmington. Investigators also released a composite sketch of a man reportedly driving a black Dodge pickup with a girl matching Destiny's description inside.

"I think most of us feel quite strongly that we're very close," Hill said Monday night, about two hours before Burbank's announcement.

Burbank answered few questions. He said police served a search warrant on the house Monday night. But it was unknown how detectives discovered the body or what lead them to Gregerson.

It also was unknown if the sketch released earlier in the day and the tip Destiny was seen in Farmington had any connection to Gregerson.

Destiny went missing July 16 from her home at 721 S. 500 East. Thousands of volunteers searched the city for her and distributed her photograph on fliers throughout the state. Meanwhile, police investigated the possibility she was abducted. Until the Farmington tip, there had been no sightings of Destiny deemed credible.

For Utah, the ordeal conjured images of previous searches - successful and unsuccessful. Those who searched or lent support included the families of Lori Hacking, Garrett Bardsley, Brennan Hawkins and Elizabeth Smart. Like those searches, this one gained national attention. Earlier Monday night, Rachael Norton appeared on the CNN Headline News show "Nancy Grace."

Gregerson's home in the 500 block of East Elwood Place was sealed with yellow police tape Monday night. Police towed away a gray Volkswagen Jetta parked nearby.

A search of Internet court records in Utah did not reveal any criminal convictions for Gregerson. Salt Lake County officials reported he was booked into jail in December 2004 on suspicion of domestic assault, but it was unknown Monday how that case was adjudicated.

In February, Gregerson sought a protective order against a woman with the same last name, court records show. The following month, a 3rd District judge granted the woman's motion to terminate the order.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com