35 years after man's shotgun murder, police arrest his wife

Vandana Ravikumar

An 84-year-old Texas woman was arrested this month and charged with murder – 35 years after her husband was found shot to death inside their home.

And law enforcement is crediting a television show for helping solve the cold case.

Norma Allbritton was arrested July 1 and transported to the Leon County Jail, where she stayed until posting a $50,000 bond on July 3. Her husband, Johnnie, 64, was found dead May 14, 1984, according to The Eagle in Texas. Authorities said he had been shot five times as he entered his home.

According to a May 16, 1984, article in The Eagle newspaper, Norma arrived at their home with a child around 4 p.m. and found the door locked. She reportedly became worried after seeing guns through the window and called the police to request that officers check the home. 

'It's never too late': DNA is cracking mysteries and cold cases. But is genome sleuthing the ‘unregulated wild west?’

The Palestine Herald-Press reported that Norma was scheduled to take a polygraph test two weeks after her husband's death but she claimed she had accidentally shot herself and couldn't keep the appointment.

Her polygraph was never rescheduled, according to the Herald-Press, and no other suspect took such a test.

The TV show "Cold Justice" played a key role in the investigation.

A girl vanished in Rome 36 years ago: Now the Vatican is opening tombs to investigate

In 2015, around the case's 30-year anniversary, Leon County Sheriff Kevin Ellis digitized files and evidence and sent them to the show's producers for investigation. When the producers accepted it, the case was effectively reopened.

After five weeks of preparatory work by the Leon County Sheriff's Office, deputies teamed with Johnny Bonds, a producer for the show and a retired homicide investigator for the Houston Police Department. Together, they interviewed witnesses and persons of interest from the past 35 years, the Herald-Press reported. 

“This truly was a team effort,” Ellis told the Herald-Press on Tuesday. “Without 'Cold Justice,' I don't think we could've progressed as we have – but they also couldn't have done it without the LCSO staff.” 

“The investigation was done at no cost to our county,” LCSO investigator Tommy Page told the Herald-Press. “'Cold Justice' brought not only their expertise, but also paid for the trips to meet and interview about 50 people.”

'Twists and turns': After 36 years, DNA evidence and genealogy help to ID a murder victim and her killer

The show also brought cutting-edge forensic technology not available to the LCSO, as well as its own lab, expediting the investigation.

By June 27, Ellis had enough evidence to take to the grand jury and secure an indictment against Norma Allbritton. 

Ellis told the Herald-Press that the case remains open, and that the LCSO has several additional leads.

“I won't rest,” Ellis said. “I don't think my investigators will rest, until everyone involved in this case, and with other possible crimes related to it, are brought to justice.”

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the sheriff's office at 903-536-2749. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 35 years after man's shotgun murder, police arrest his wife