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Ex-School Official From Palisades Park Jumps To Death From Alpine Cliffs

John Norton
John Norton Photo Credit: MUGSHOT: Courtesy NJ STATE POLICE
Rappel team atop the cliffs
Rappel team atop the cliffs Photo Credit: COURTESY: PIP Police

ALPINE, N.J. -- A Bergen Catholic graduate from Palisades Park who admitted selling crystal meth and GHB jumped 325 feet to his death from the Palisades cliffs in Alpine over the weekend, authorities said.

Palisades Interstate Parkway Police Officer Richard Dey found a car belonging to John Norton, 35, parked after closing at the State Line Lookout Saturday night, PIP Police Chief Michael Coppola said.

Backups joined Dey, who'd spotted the car there earlier in the day, in searching area trails, he said.

Westchester County Police sent an aviation unit that scanned the cliffs with negative results, Coppola said. Weather and darkness postponed the search until morning.

Norton apparently was at the lookout earlier in the day, returned and "was unheard from again," the chief said.

Soon after the search resumed Sunday morning, Officer Jeffrey Lamboy and PIP Trail Crew Supervisor Christina Fehre found Norton's body below the cliffs "approximately mid-span in relation to the parking lot," Coppola said.

It was recovered by a Regional Rappel Response unit made up of Closter, Englewood Cliffs, and East Bergen responders. Lamboy sustained a minor knee injury, Coppola said.

"There were no suspicious circumstances involved with [Norton's] death," the chief said Sunday night. "At this time, it has been determined that [it] was caused by no actions other than his own."

State Police arrested Norton after they said he delivered meth and liquid GHB in a plastic bottle to someone outside a Somerset County home in late 2013.

Detectives said they rescued another man in the middle of a possible drug overdose when they raided the house a short time earlier.

Three weeks earlier, Norton was arrested in Hunterdon County on charges of meth possession after police said they stopped him for driving erratically on Route 202.

Norton resigned as vice-principal of an elementary school in Franklin Township, where he was living, after the first arrest.

He later pleaded guilty to combined charges and agreed to spend five years in Somerset’s intensively supervised drug court program, which requires ongoing treatment, regular court appearances, and constant random drug testing.

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