Laytonville slaying victims all family members
A troubled teen who had been welcomed into the home of a Laytonville family and treated like a son turned suddenly on that family over the weekend in what authorities described Monday as an act of cold-blooded violence, with the young man using a large kitchen knife to repeatedly stab four people, killing two he knew well and critically wounding two others, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
Sunday’s violence stunned the tiny rural community as word spread that local doctor Cindy Norvell, 54, was critically wounded, her son Teo Palmieri, 17, and husband, Coleman Palmieri, 52, were killed in the attack. Norvell’s 52-year-old brother, who was visiting from Canada with his 15-year-old daughter, suffered life-threatening wounds.
Norvell and Palmieri’s 14-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old female cousin were also at home during the midnight attack on the sleeping family. They were not injured but were severely traumatized by the young man, who after the attacks still carried the bloody knife and ordered one of the girls to tie up Norvell’s injured brother and the other girl with phone cord yanked from the wall, according to authorities.
Sheriff’s detectives still are trying to determine what sparked the deadly bloody rampage on a family who had taken in suspect Talen Clark Barton, now 19, when he was a troubled 17-year-old junior at Laytonville High. Barton was close friends with Teo Palmieri, who had convinced his parents to give Barton a home.
“They took him in as if he were a family member,” sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said.
“That family wanted so much to help Talen get on his feet, get him through high school, get into college,” said Denise Shields, who for 10 years raised Barton and his older brother at her home in Laytonville. “They were beautiful, wonderful people who took him in. I’m in shock. Total shock.”
The violence ended with Barton giving himself up without incident to deputies who arrived at the house, on a wooded lot off South Meadow Lane, about two miles northwest of town.
The crime struck neighbors as otherworldly. Properties in the rural subdivision range from 8 to 12 acres and deer wander between the forested lots.
“I couldn’t believe that could happen here,” neighbor Darlene Lewis said.
“It’s just tragic,” said Kendra Dabney, who helps manage the local hardware store.
After the attacks, Barton, a routine marijuana user according to authorities, reportedly smoked marijuana and was calmed by the 15-year-old family cousin and a rookie 911 dispatcher who kept Barton on the line for almost 30 minutes, getting him to set down the knife and distracting him from the girls, Barney said.
The lieutenant credited both the 15-year-old and the dispatcher with possibly preventing further violence.
“It could have been the difference between them living and dying,” Barney said.
On Monday, Norvell was being treated at Redding’s Mercy Hospital. She was informed of the death of her husband and son by a sheriff’s sergeant who drove to the hospital to tell her in person. Norvell’s brother was being treated at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Barton remained in the Mendocino County Jail. He was due to be arraigned today in Mendocino County Court and charged with eight felonies, including special circumstances that could allow prosecutors to push for the death penalty. The charges include two counts of homicide, two of attempted homicide, use of a knife, killing multiple people and falsely imprisoning the girls.