Attorney appointed for 81-year-old murder suspect

Sheila Gardner
Fish Springs resident Melvin Norlund, 81, has a video arraignment before Justice Court Judge Tom Perkins on Monday.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

On the web

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An 81-year-old Fish Springs man, charged with open murder in the shooting death of his caregiver, told a judge on Monday that he and the victim struggled with a shotgun that accidentally discharged.

“What happened was not deliberate,” Melvin Oneal Norlund told East Fork Judge Tom Perkins. “She was holding onto the gun, jerking on it.”

The victim, 51-year-old Catherine Mary Costanza, was found dead Nov. 21 on the kitchen floor at Norlund’s residence on the 1300 block of Homestead Road in Fish Springs.

According to court documents, Costanza had a gunshot wound to the chest.

Perkins cautioned Norlund against admitting anything during his arraignment, but the suspect volunteered the information.

He also reportedly confessed the shooting to a neighbor, and Douglas County sheriff’s deputies who took him into custody shortly after the incident.

He is in custody in Douglas County Jail on $1 million bail.

He was arraigned Monday in a video appearance from the jail. Deputies assisted him with adjusting his hearing aids and signing a document that he understood the proceedings.

“I’ve been deaf since I was 7 years old because of measles,” Norlund said.

He told the judge his glasses weren’t strong enough for the paperwork which the judge read to him.

Perkins appointed attorney Kris Brown to represent Norlund after he said he had no access to his money.

Norlund said he was 100 percent disabled, and his son handled his financial affairs.

“I’d like to see my son,” Norlund said. “I don’t know where he’s at.”

Norlund said his son worked in the solar power industry and lived in Orangevale, Calif.

“He does quite a lot of traveling,” Norlund said.

No family members attended Norlund’s hearing Monday. His next court appearance is today.

He is charged with open murder with the use of a deadly weapon. An open murder charge covers first- or second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Norlund reportedly told investigators he “grew tired of arguing” with Costanza and threatened to shoot her dog.

He said they struggled over the weapon, and it accidentally discharged.

Norlund directed authorities to the shotgun, which was behind a recliner in the living room.

He went next door to report the shooting, and told his neighbor to call the sheriff’s office.

The neighbor told officers that Norlund said he told Costanza “to shut up or he would shoot her dog … Somehow, she got shot.”

Should Norlund post bail, he would be under the supervision of the Department of Alternative Sentencing.

Perkins forbid him to have firearms, and he must abstain from drugs and alcohol, and obey all laws.

Costanza was a resident of Concord, Calif., prior to moving to Nevada to care for Norlund.

In an email to The Record-Courier on Monday, Henrietta Martinez of West Sacramento said Costanza had been a physical education teacher at a West Sacramento elementary school.

Martinez said Costanza was discharged in a dispute with the principal over how he reprimanded her students.

“She was an inspiration to her students,” Martinez said. “She was the epitome of what a PE teacher should be. She graded her students on their effort, not the outcome of it.”

Martinez said her son had been one of Costanza’s students and she helped him overcome struggles he’d had with motor skills since birth.

She said her son had Asperger syndrome, and Costanza helped him with social issues.

“I never got the chance to thank her for all her support to my children and her kindness to (my son),” Martinez said. “Up until the past two years, she devoted her life to helping keep children healthy and happy.”

Friends of Costanza have set up a page in her memory on

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