“48 Hours: NCIS”: The Sting

Mervin “Sonny” Grotton left work at the Naval Education Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island, for his home in Belfast, Maine. As the Navy petty officer walked to the front door that day in 1983, he was shot dead.

Local police initially suspected his wife, Norma Small, but they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest her. Then the case went cold for nearly two decades until a team of NCIS agents took another look.

“I grew up in a military family,” says retired NCIS Special Agent Dave Truesdale, a tough, tattooed law enforcement professional with a black belt in martial arts. “Any time that I see a military member hurt by somebody, it does push me to resolve that incident.”

In this case, the agents had a hunch that Small was involved in some way. As they peeled back the layers, agents say they found out she had a much different life when her husband was away on duty, one that involved other men. But was that enough to want her current husband dead?

To get evidence, they had to risk their lives by going undercover. “Undercover operations can be very dangerous. Best case scenario you blow your line,” Truesdale explained. “Worst case scenario– you get killed.”

Family photo


The years have not diminished Rosalyn Grotton’s affection for her father, Mervin Sonny Grotton.

Rosalyn Grotton | Daughter of Sonny Grotton: He had the biggest heart and was so giving and so honest and so hard working and so loving.

Jeff Morrow | Retired NCIS Special Agent: Sonny Grotton was a machinist mate chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. At the time of his death, he had been in the service almost 25 years. 

Agent Jeff Morrow: He had been working in Newport, Rhode Island, at the Naval Education Training Center helping to train new officers on shipboard equipment and  other surface warfare-type skills. 

Mark Nickerson | Former trooper, Maine State Police: It’s been 33 years since I…

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