(NECN: Jack Thurston, St. Johnsbury, Vt.) - Michael Norrie, 23, denied charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and burglary of an occupied dwelling stemming from the 2010 shooting death of Pat O'Hagan of Sheffield, Vt.
The case was one of Vermont's highest-profile crimes in recent years.
O'Hagan was the popular 78-year-old mother of five and grandmother of nine who retired to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom from Chelmsford, Mass. with her late husband. Police say back in the fall of 2010, Norrie and two other men broke into her home looking for drugs or cash to buy them, then shot the widow in the back of her head when their plan went awry.
O'Hagan was last seen Sept. 10, 2010 in Sheffield. Her body was found by hunters in a remote part of nearby Wheelock the next month.
In March of this year, Norrie's cousins Keith Baird, 33, and Richard Fletcher, 27, faced the same charges, and as Norrie did Thursday, entered pleas of not guilty. Detectives said the men had told conflicting and misleading stories, slowing down the investigation.
The reason Norrie's arraignment came a month after Baird's and Fletcher's is because he has been locked up in a federal detention center in Pennsylvania, following a firearms conviction in an unrelated case. With the new state charges, the state of Vermont is now holding Norrie, explained Lisa Warren, the state's attorney for Caledonia County.
"I'm confident there will be a conviction," said Pat O'Hagan's son, Shawn, of Manchester, N.H. "It's been rough, but we're feeling good now that we're moving forward and charges are being brought."
Another of O'Hagan's sons, Terry, of Groton, Mass., also attended the arraignment. "I think there's still a long way to go. This is a good start," he said. "We're going to stick through it until it's complete."
Norrie, Baird and Fletcher each face 35 years to life in prison, if they're convicted.