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Crime News Mastermind Of Murder

‘He Was Like A Messiah’: How A Man Manipulated A Friend Into Killing His Wife And Unborn Baby

Investigators were shocked when Norman Daniels quickly confessed to killing Carole Garton. But the story he then told of hit men and conspiracies shocked them even more.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

A mother-to-be’s murder mirrored spy novels stuffed with covert killers and contract hits, but it was all tragically real — and the conspirators were people she trusted with her life.

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On the evening of May 16, 1998, Todd Garton and his friend Dale Gordon arrived at the house they shared in Cottonwood, California. They found Todd’s 28-year-old wife, Carole, who was eight months pregnant, bleeding and unresponsive. 

Todd attempted CPR, while Dale called 911. But Carole had been shot several times, and when help arrived, she and her unborn baby were declared deceased.

“The image of Mrs. Garton lying there dead in her very pronounced pregnant state is an image that I will have in my mind for the rest of my days,” McGregor Scott, former District Attorney, Shasta County, told “Mastermind of Murder,” airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.

An autopsy revealed that Carole was shot five times by a .44 caliber firearm – three times in the head, once in the side, and once in the leg.

Detectives learned that Todd and Carole met via the indie music scene in Oregon, where he had visions of rock stardom that went nowhere. They moved to California and married, and he enlisted in the military. After his discharge, Todd ran a fencing company. Carole worked in the insurance field and was eager to start a family. 

Todd, Carole, Gordon, and another friend, Norman Daniels, had attended a gun show the day of the murder. The three men shared military backgrounds. Carole left early because she felt tired and Daniels offered to drive her home in her Jeep. So, where was her vehicle? Where was Daniels?

Detectives stationed at Daniels’ home brought him in for questioning when he arrived there in a cab.

Daniels said he and Carole had watched a movie. He used her Jeep to return the film. But why did he leave her vehicle in a parking lot and take a taxi home? Investigators got a warrant to search his home.

At his residence they found bloody clothing, ammunition, spent shells, and a .44 revolver. When detectives confronted Daniels with what they found, he spilled all. 

“He started giving information that he was responsible for Carole's shooting,” said Steven Berg, a retired Shasta County Sheriff’s Department detective. “It came out so quickly it was a surprise.”

He admitted he shot Carole, but when pressed why he did it, he alleged it was on behalf of someone else.

“I was a killer for hire,” he said.

Daniels claimed that he had been contacted by The Company, a group of covert assassins with ties to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to kill Carole. The kill orders came in an envelope on March 28, two months before Carole’s murder. Once Daniels broke the wax seal on the envelope, he said he couldn't turn back.

“He mentioned that Carol was also a member of this organization,” investigators said, adding that Daniels believed she was being targeted for a hit she’d carried out.

“There are very few things after a career of over 20 years in law enforcement that shock you,” said Bill Blair, a retired deputy with the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department. “But this whole story of ex-CIA and IRA, this was much more than just a simple local homicide.”

Before he was arrested for Carole’s murder, Daniels revealed that Todd Garton introduced him to The Company. Alongside Todd and Dale Gordon, Daniels had previously participated in a botched mission in Oregon.

When questioned by police, Gordon corroborated Daniels’ account, saying Todd enlisted their help to kill Dean Noyes, a supposed embezzler. Although he had second thoughts, Gordon couldn’t get out of the plot.

Armed with guns and Todd’s homemade silencer, the three men trekked to Oregon. Lynn, a handler there for The Company, gave Todd a key to the target’s house. The key didn’t fit, and the mission was aborted. Todd tossed the silencer near the target’s home.

Gordan said he was relieved to be out, but Daniels still wanted to be part of The Company.

“He needed money for him and his son,” Dr. Michelle Roberts, a psychotherapist, told producers.

Todd connected Daniels with Colonel Sean, a high-ranking Company player. Colonel Sean’s target for Daniels, tucked into that wax-sealed envelope, was Carole. If Daniels didn’t kill her, he believed, he and his son would die.

While in lockup, Daniels’ phone conversation with Todd gave investigators the strong impression Todd was deeply involved in this plot.

“The whole thing was just like, what are we going to learn next?" said McGregor Scott, former District Attorney, Shasta County. “This is crazy.”

At Carole’s funeral, investigators observed Todd being too close to be just friends with a woman identified as Lynn Noyes — the wife of the Oregon target. She had known Todd for many years. 

When questioned by officials, Lynn denied being romantically involved with Todd as well as knowing anything about a murder-for-hire. But her emails told another story. 

Todd’s computer, meanwhile, was determined to be the same one used by Colonel Sean. Todd “was orchestrating all of this,” explained Berg.

Lynn admitted Todd had her “under a spell,” and he knew that. Each of their spouses had hefty life insurance policies. Todd knew that to collect, Carole had to die. Acknowledging that “he’s the devil himself,” Lynn told detectives that Todd said he wanted Carole “gone before the baby was born.”

Lynn was taken into custody.

Todd was brought in for questioning, and he immediately lawyered up. So, investigators looked for evidence to bolster their case against Todd. His silencer was found in Oregon, and the wax impression on Daniels’ envelope matched one of Todd’s rings.

Following his arrest for his role in the attempt to kill Dean Noyes, Dale Gordon pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for leniency.

Gordon revealed that Todd preyed on his military values to manipulate him, according to “Mastermind of Murder.”

In their case against Todd, prosecutors emphasized that Carole had married “this crazy man and was the most immediate and direct victim of his wanting to live a bigger, grander, faster life than he was capable of,” said Scott.

“The people who he manipulated thought he was a messiah,” added Richards.

They paid a price for that: Norman Daniels received a 50-year sentence. Lynn Noyes pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to 25 years. Dale Gordon, meanwhile, served eight years and seven months of his 10-year sentence.

“If I could say one thing to Carole, I would say I miss you,” he told producers. “I’m sorry I wasn’t your protector at the time.”

Todd Garton was convicted for masterminding the murder of his wife and unborn baby. He was sentenced to death and is currently on death row. 

To learn more about the case, watch “Mastermind of Murder,” which you can stream here.

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