A 35-year-old mystery that split two sides of a family and left suspicion lingering in a small Texas community may have been solved last year.
Johnnie Allbritton was a 65-year-old, well-liked rancher and store owner in Leon County when he was brutally shot to death in his home on May 14, 1984. For 35 years, rumors flew about Johnnie's wife's possible involvement, but an arrest finally came after Kelly Siegler and Johnny Bonds, of “Cold Justice” on Oxygen, teamed up with county sheriff's investigators to give the case a closer look.
Norma Allbritton was Johnnie's second wife, and the couple's relationship was rocky. According to friends and family, for seven years, Norma told Johnnie and others that she had cancer. Johnnie also suffered under the belief that his family was close to broke, when in fact his store was pulling in decent money.
During the 2019 investigation, Siegler and Bonds, along with Leon County Investigators Wayne Sallee and Tommy Page, learned that not only was Norma likely faking her cancer diagnosis, but she also had been skimming money from the store.
Johnnie's murder at the time was presumed to have been an interrupted burglary gone wrong. When the team recreated his death, however, and reviewed the state the Allbrittons' Buffalo home was found in, it became clear that the scene had likely been staged.
Johnnie had been shot five times — three in the back and two in the chest — with his own shotgun.
“It seemed like overkill for a 65-year-old man who was unarmed,” said Bonds, a retired homicide investigator.
Siegler also noted that Johnnie's gun collection was partially on the floor, but not taken — and the bedroom had been ransacked, but nothing really stolen.
“If you're gonna burglarize, why not take everything you can?” she asked.
Two anonymous tips rolled into the sheriff's office over the years alleging that the murder was the work of a violent local man hired by a friend of Norma's. However, investigators crossed the man off as a suspect after speaking with relatives of Johnnie and Norma, as well as people who used to be friends with him.
Talk around Buffalo also consistently pointed to Norma, who in addition to allegedly cheating Johnnie out of money, was accused of having an affair and had allegedly been known to threaten people.
One local told “Cold Justice” and Leon County investigators that he once saw Norma menace a city marshal with a butcher knife because he gave her son, Randy Clinkscales, a traffic ticket.
Over the years, the Allbrittons’ children, from different sides of the marriage, became estranged over the accusations against Norma. Johnnie's daughter, Judy Robinson, pulled all along for a re-investigation and helped to bring them together to talk with the team. She also attested to Norma's violent temper.
The team confronted Norma in town to informally interview her about her husband's death. The woman, now 84, appeared frail and insisted that she had been placing flowers on her daughter's grave when the murder happened. Norma also claimed that she had Alzheimer's disease, although she did admit to skimming money from her husband's store and lying about having cancer.
After the interview with Norma and interviews with multiple other friends and locals, District Attorney Hope Knight presented the case to a local grand jury, along with the sheriff’s department, and secured an indictment against Norma.
She was arrested at her home in Palestine on July 1, 2019, according to the Palestine Herald-Press.
In footage of the arrest, captured by “Cold Justice,” Norma appears taken aback as sheriff's deputies gently take her in.
“My lord,” she says. “Why are you gonna go and do that?”
Leon County Sheriff Kevin Ellis told the Herald-Press that the collaboration between his office, Siegler, and Bonds was the key to closing the book on Johnnie's murder.
“This was truly a team effort,” he said. “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.”
For more on the Allbritton investigation, including footage of investigators questioning Norma and how the two sides of the family came together in the aftermath, watch “Cold Justice” at Oxygen.com and airing Saturdays at 6/5.
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