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Suwanee man gets life in prison for killing girlfriend

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Gwinnett Superior Court jury rejected the notion Thursday that David Norton accidentally fired the sawed-off shotgun that killed his girlfriend of three years.

Jurors found Norton guilty of all five counts in his indictment, including murder, aggravated assault and first-degree arson, Assistant District Attorney Christa Kirk said Thursday evening.

Deliberations began Wednesday and lasted nearly as long as the trial.

Norton fatally shot Amy Ayer, 43, in the head, then set fire to her body and bedroom two years ago.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Hamil sentenced the 41-year-old Suwanee man to life in prison plus 30 years, Kirk said.

Ayer's twin, teenage sons returned from school on Oct. 30, 2007, to find the home on fire and called 911. Firefighters discovered the woman's burned body in her upstairs bedroom. Norton was arrested later that night, holed up in a Norcross hotel.

The killing concluded a rocky, three-year relationship tainted by Norton's jealousy and abusiveness, prosecutors maintained. He'd pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year's probation two months prior to the killing for battering Ayer and preventing her from calling police.

Norton's attorney, John Rutkowski, clung to the theory that Ayer had threatened Norton with the shotgun, and that the fatal shot was accidental.

Rutkowski didn't deny that his client set the home ablaze, but said his intentions were to prevent Ayer's sons from discovering her body.