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{mosimage}July 25--  A 1997 graduate of Vidalia High School is facing murder charges in Colorado, according to the following news report courtesy of the Longmount Times-Call newspaper. The fatal wreck noted in the article happened June 25.

Boulder County prosecutors charge Lisa Norton with first-degree murder
By Pierrette J. Shields | Longmont Times-Call
Longmont Times-Cal
BOULDER — Prosecutors on Thursday filed a first-degree murder charge against a Boulder woman accused of causing a drunken driving wreck Saturday that killed 33-year-old Gabriel Nielsen of Boulder.

Lisa Norton, 32, wept throughout the short hearing, fighting to hold back tears when either her public defenders or Boulder District Judge DD Mallard addressed her directly. She appeared in court wearing jail-issued clothing intended to prevent inmates from harming themselves and has been under suicide watch at the Boulder County Jail, where she is being held on a $1 million bond.

Norton was charged with first-degree murder showing extreme indifference, vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death, all felonies. She was also charged with driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both; DUI per se; driving under a restrained license because of a previous alcohol conviction; and failure to report or return to the scene of an accident, which are either misdemeanors or traffic offenses.

According to reports, Nielsen was driving his Nissan coupe west on Nelson when Norton lost control of her eastbound Ford pickup and struck the Nissan. Nielsen died at the scene, and his sister Cherish Francis, 35, and 2-year-old daughter, Avery, suffered serious injuries.

Norton fled the scene, jumped into Clover Basin Reservoir and tried to swim away to escape police, according to police reports. Boaters in the reservoir fished her out of the water and turned her over to police.

Norton's actions amounted to “an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to the court filing.

Court records show that Norton was sentenced to probation on a March DUI arrest just two days before the fatal wreck. Under the deal, she had an earlier deferred sentence for unlawful conduct on public property, a misdemeanor, revoked and was officially found guilty on the charge. She was also found guilty of driving while ability impaired, a common plea agreement for first-time DUI offenses, according to Boulder County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Catherine Olguin.

“In the 20th Judicial (District) we work every hard to try to find appropriate dispositions to help people with substance abuse problems get the treatment they need,” she said.

Under the terms of her probation, Norton was to submit to substance abuse monitoring, alcohol evaluation and probation supervision, and was ordered to not drink alcohol.

She is scheduled to return to court Sept. 8 for a preliminary hearing in the murder case.