Published: Jun 26, 2012 09:46 PM
Modified: Jun 26, 2012 09:48 PM
DURHAM - The family members who found Altaree Norris’s lifeless body in the garage of her North Durham home thought she had fallen and hit her head, but police say someone fatally shot the elderly woman.
A copy of a 911 recording made public Tuesday afternoon by the Durham Police Department indicated it was 3:08 p.m. Sunday when a young man and his parents went to Norris’ home at 4603 David St.
“She’s fallen and hit her head,” the young man told the 911 dispatcher. “There’s blood everywhere.”
Thinking there was a chance that Norris, 81, was still alive, the emergency dispatcher told him to use his shirt to try and staunch the flow of blood from her head. But while the young man was pulling off his shirt, his mother took the phone and advised the dispatcher that Norris was beyond help.
“There’s lots of dried blood here, too,” the woman said. “I think this happened a while ago. I don’t believe she’s breathing and she’s cold to the touch.”
She told the dispatcher that she had last seen Norris the day before, during the afternoon.
But her death wasn’t caused by a fall. The state medical examiner’s office in Chapel Hill determined that she died from a gunshot wound, according to police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.
Police have not named a suspect or motive, but detectives have been working around the clock, searching for clues that may link them to the woman’s killer.
On Tuesday, investigators borrowed seven trash cans from Norris’ neighbors to help collect evidence from her home. Most of their search focused on the right side of the double-door garage where she was found.
Neighbors described Norris as a strong, independent woman. She lived alone. Her husband, Dallas Norris, died a little more than a decade ago after struggling with a respiratory condition. The Norris family were members of First Baptist Church in Durham.
On the day that Bob and Bev Rush moved into their David Street home next door to Norris 28 years ago, she gave their 13-year-old son a bicycle as a gift.
“She didn’t even know us,” Bev Rush said on Tuesday. “That’s the type of woman she was.”
The Rush family and other residents of the quiet, tree-shaded neighborhood near Duke Street were shocked when they learned she had been killed by a gunman.
“She would drive. She was still able to get around,” neighbor John Brozek said. “I’m telling you she was a strong woman.”
Brozek, 66, said he had arrived home Sunday around 2:30 p.m. after attending church and going to dinner. He just happened to look out of his window and saw a parade of police squad cars at the Norris home and yellow caution tape encircling the residence.
“It makes you wonder what in the world is going on,” he said. “There are a lot of older people in the neighborhood to prey on. Maybe they think (an elderly person) won’t get up if they break in the house. I really hope they get who did this.”
Brozek said Norris hardly used the front door of her home.
“She used the garage,” he said. “I do know that she sometimes she left it open. She liked to go in and out.”
Neighbors said they did not hear gunfire over the weekend. The described their neighborhood as a quiet place and take pride in their neighborhood watch program.
“There aren’t enough words to say all the good things about her,” Bev Rush said about her friend and next-door neighbor. “God is still counting.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Durham police at 919-560-4440, ext. 29350, or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases, and callers never have to identify themselves.