Former foster mother: Laytonville slaying suspect ‘went so dark’

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Mendocino County slaying suspect Talen Clark Barton, 19, came to Laytonville at about age 7, when he and his older brother became the wards of a local woman.

That woman, Denise Shields, said that before the brothers came to live with her, they’d lived in a severely troubled home with their drug-addicted mother and were exposed to various forms of mental and physical abuse, including malnutrition.

Over the next 10 years as Shields raised the brothers, she said she discovered Talen Barton had a very high level of intelligence and deeply enjoyed aspects of engineering and art and playing his guitar. He flourished in some high school classes, including biology, and he enjoyed being in the school’s rock band.

But he also showed signs of rage, she said.

“At 17, he just got very defiant,” ignoring her house rules and refusing to come home when hanging out with friends. “He went so dark,” she said.

One morning, they got into a fight, she said, and he tried to hit her with a 15-pound hand weight, which hit a door and punched a hole in it. Deputies were called, and the teen was taken into custody. Mendocino County sheriff’s officials wouldn’t confirm details of the case because of Barton’s age at the time but confirmed he had been involved in a criminal incident at the time.

Shields said his court case eventually was reduced to misdemeanor vandalism due to the damaged door.

Because he didn’t want to move back with her and the only group homes available were out of the area, Barton’s good friend Teo Palmieri asked his parents if Barton could live with them in their home outside town, Shields said. It seemed an ideal fix.

“This beautiful family said they would take him in. At least he could finish his high school,” Shields said.

After Barton graduated from high school, Cindy Norvell, Teo Palmieri’s mother and a Laytonville doctor, told Shields she was excited about the prospect of helping him find a college.

“She and her whole family took Talen to several colleges, drove him all over the place,” Shields said.

He had enrolled at Humboldt State University but at some point stopped going, she said.

Shields said she had made her concerns about Barton’s potential for violence known, including telling his counselors. She said the concerns were dismissed.

The Norvell-Palmieri family wanted to help him and believed they could , she said.

“They tried everything in their power to help that boy. I thought they were my angels,” Shields said. “They knew he was a troubled kid. I think they had no idea…”

Barton is in custody in the Mendocino County Jail, suspected of fatally stabbing on Sunday Teo Palmieri, 17, and Coleman Parmieri, 52 — Norvell’s husband and Teo’s father — and attempting to kill Cindy Norvell and Norvell’s 52-year-old brother, who was visiting from Canada.

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