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Woman convicted of brutal slaying of West Side candy store owner

Brittany Nortmiddle exits with relatives after attending verdict trial Kerry Masters(who was charged with 2009 killing Norton's father Michael Norton)

Brittany Norton, middle, exits with relatives after attending the verdict in the trial of Kerry Masterson (who was charged with the 2009 killing Norton's father, Michael Norton), at Cook County Criminal Courts, 2650 S. California, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, in Chicago. Masterson was found guilty on murder in the first degree. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 22, 2011 8:32AM

Witnesses initially described the person they saw running out of Norton’s Sweet Shop the night its owner was hog tied and executed as a short Hispanic man with a long dark ponytail.

But a Cook County jury apparently believed three eyewitnesses who picked Kerry Masterson out of a lineup, each surprised to recognize a woman.

Jurors took about 2 1/2 hours Thursday afternoon to find Masterson guilty of the murder of Michael Norton in his store at North and Cicero on Chicago’s West Side on May 14, 2009. Masterson, 25, of West Humboldt Park, woman faces 20 to 60 years in prison.

She was accused with her friend and Norton’s tenant, Beatrice Rosado, 26, of plotting to rob and kill Norton as revenge for evicting Rosado and her boyfriend, Elvin Payton, 28.

Rosado pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a 22-year sentence for being the getaway driver after Norton’s murder. Payton also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 47 years in prison.

On the witness stand Monday, Payton and Rosado contradicted videotaped statements they had made to police in May 2009 implicating Masterson.

Payton insisted he acted alone, shooting Norton in the head as the shopkeeper begged for his life. Rosado said police wouldn’t let her see her kids until she accused Masterson.

Defense attorney Dan Coyne argued that Payton had help from Rosado’s long-haired cousin, and couldn’t name him because the cousin’s gang was protecting Payton from his old gang.

So Payton and Rosado picked Masterson, he said, because she had long curly hair. Why else, he asked, would the cousin cut his ponytail off?

Besides, Masterson’s DNA and fingerprints were excluded from evidence found on the wires binding Norton’s wrists and ankles.

“Somebody touched that wire that isn’t in this courtroom,” Coyne said.

And three separate witnesses described seeing a Hispanic man leaving the store, Coyne said. They only second-guessed the gender after police asked if they were sure they didn’t see a woman.

Those witnesses picked Masterson out of a lineup, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said, because they recognized her face.

“It’s not about description, it’s about recognition,” he said.

Masterson listened to the verdict without reacting. She turned to her family in the front row and mouthed, “Stop crying.”

Brittany Norton, 19, the victim’s only child, who lived with him in unincorporated Glen Ellyn, testified on Monday that her dad told her why he had evicted Rosado and Payton.

“He told me they were selling drugs out of the apartment,” she told jurors. “He didn’t want gangs around the building.”

After court, surrounded by many of her dad’s eight siblings and other relatives, she called the verdict bittersweet and read a handwritten statement.

“My dad was an amazing man, not just to me but to our family and the community,” she said. “There is a ripple effect on both families and no good has come from this tragic situation. Our family and the community have suffered a great loss.”

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