Iowa victim, DNA evidence leads to conviction in 21 year California cold case

A prosecutor in California says testimony of an Iowa woman was "powerful" in helping to convict a killer after 21 years.

Brian Eric Norton, 45, of Marion, was convicted of sexually assaulting the Iowa woman in 2009 and was serving a 10-year sentence in the Iowa State Penitentiary when a year later police in California got a DNA hit from the national database connecting him to a August 1991 brutal homicide.

Norton was convicted Sept. 13, in Shasta County District Court, Redding, Calif., of first-degree murder after a three week trial. He raped and strangled to death Despina Magioudis, 53, in August 1991. Norton faces life without parole.

"Her (Iowa victim) testimony was a great benefit," Shasta County Deputy District Attorney Eamon Fitzgerald said Thursday during a phone interview. "She was courageous to testify the first time and now in this one. Couldn't have done it without her and science on this one. I'm grateful to First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks for helping with arrangements to bring her to California to testify. It took a long time for this case but the DNA proved it."

California law allows information from a previous sex crime, such as victim testimony, to be entered into evidence in a current sex offense to show intent. In Iowa, previous sex convictions or charges cannot be entered into evidence.

Norton lived in Redding from 1991 to 1995 according trial testimony. Magioudis, a mother of five, arrived in Redding Aug. 2, 1991, after attending a spiritual observation of summer solstice in Mount Shasta. Her body was found in a field with her underwear around her ankles and her dress was above her shoulders.

Fitzgerald said evidence showed she had been repeatedly raped and strangled. Norton strangled her with his hands and he also beat her while raping her. He admitted to police he offered Magioudis $20 for sex and when she refused he starting beating her.

In addition to the police interview and the Iowa woman's testimony, another witness testified Norton told him he repeatedly raped Magioudis to "teach her a lesson" and then beat and strangled her with his hands, Fitzgerald said.

"He first denied it but when confronted with DNA match, he was at a loss to explain," Fitzgerald said.

Norton's DNA was found inside Magioudis and underneath her fingernails, Fitzgerald said.

The defense at trial conceded that Norton murdered Magioudis but said it wasn't premeditated and he didn't rape her, according to

Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler said Norton pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse and assault while displaying a dangerous weapon in 2009. He sexually assaulted his ex-girlfriend following an argument in 2007. The couple had a rocky relationship at the time and Norton initially claimed it was consensual.

Besler said Norton was originally charged with second-degree sexual abuse but there were some issues with the case and the plea to the lesser charge was more appropriate.

Norton was charged before 2007 with a sexual assault of a minor in 2003 but a Linn County jury acquitted him in 2006.

Sentencing for Norton is set Nov. 5, in Shasta County, Calif.