Murder for Hire: The Sonny Grotton Case

It was after dinner on Friday night, December 16, 1983 and Michael Grotton was in his bedroom, plucking his guitar with a friend, repeating the riffs he’d been working on and hanging with his pal, typical 16-year old stuff. Michael’s mother Norma Grotton was in the kitchen on the phone with his sister, Rosalyn. It was a routine Friday evening, just waiting for Mervin “Sonny” Grotton to get home.

46-year old Sonny Grotton was a machinist mate chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy with 26 years of service. Though his wife Norma, his son Michael, and his daughters Rosalyn and Nena all lived in Maine, he commuted to his job training new officers on shipboard equipment at the Naval Education Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island each week. On Fridays he made the 4 and a half hour drive back to Maine, pulled into the driveway, hopped out of his truck, sauntered quietly up the walkway, and stepped through the front door of his home on Wight Street in Belfast to greet his family.

But on December 16, 1983, Sonny Grotton didn’t make it through the front door. He pulled into the driveway, hopped out of his truck, and began his quiet saunter up the walkway… And then three loud pops rang out over the guitar strumming in Michael’s bedroom, they pierced the sound of Norma’s phone call in the kitchen. Rosalyn asked on the other end of the line, “Is something wrong with the truck — backfiring or something like that?”

As Michael and his friend ran to the living room window to determine the source of the sound, Norma Grotton said dryly into the phone, “I gotta go.”

Sonny Grotton lay in his dooryard, blood pooling around him. A neighbor dialed 9-1-1 to report the sound of gunshots coming from next door. Norma dialed 9-1-1, too. Everything happened quickly. 

When first responders arrived at the scene, Sonny spoke only in gurgled noises, unable to communicate what happened, what or who he saw, who pulled the trigger that fired three gunshots into his hip, arm, and torso. They rushed Sonny to Waldo County General Hospital where attempts to save his life were unsuccessful. Sonny Grotton was pronounced dead at 8:36 p.m. on December 16, 1983.

“He had the biggest heart and was so giving and so honest and so hard working and so loving,” Rosalyn told 48 Hours: NCIS. The loss of Sonny Grotton was one felt by the whole community, and one that shocked and confused everyone who knew him. Sonny was a respected member of the Navy, he was known as the helpful guy around town, lending a hand to anyone who needed it.

A giving family man, a long career in the Navy. No known enemies, no suspicious dealings. Who would shoot and kill Sonny Grotton in his own front yard, with his wife and son just inside?

Tune in to Murder for Hire: The Sonny Grotton Case wherever you get your podcasts.

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