Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Christopher Burke to serve 25 years in father's murder

BROOKSVILLE — After her father disappeared last fall, a frantic Angie Kmiec rang his cellphone, over and over again.

As Kmiec's sense of dread grew, hearing her dad's voice on his voicemail message became a source of comfort.

Then one day she called and didn't even hear that.

"I knew it was over, that he was gone," a tearful Kmiec told Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. on Wednesday.

By the time Kmiec made that last call, 60-year-old Raymond Burke's body was lying in a grave in the yard behind his Istachatta mobile home. Detectives would eventually arrest his son, 41-year-old Christopher Burke, who admitted bludgeoning his dad with a flashlight, strangling him and burying him.

On Wednesday, Merritt sentenced Burke to 25 years in prison. The hearing was a formality after Burke last month accepted a plea deal and the prison term to avoid a trial conviction on a charge of second-degree murder. He faced a possible life sentence.

But the hearing gave family members, who agreed to the plea deal, a chance to address the court and, if they chose, Burke himself.

Kmiec and her uncle, James Burke, were the only two to speak. They opted to address Merritt and not their relative, who stood a few feet away, shackled in an orange jumpsuit and staring down at the lectern in front of him.

Raymond Burke was a good man who once coached youth football and softball, his daughter said.

At the time of his death, though, he was disabled. He weighed 120 pounds and could barely walk.

"He was defenseless," said Kmiec, who traveled with her husband from Texas to attend the hearing.

About four or five months before the murder, Christopher Burke, his girlfriend, Shannon Atkinson, and their young son moved into a one-bedroom shack next to Raymond Burke's mobile home. The couple told friends they couldn't find work and needed a place to stay. Their teenage son also lived there for a while.

On Oct. 13, 2011, the younger Burke hit his father with the flashlight and strangled him, authorities said. He then taped his father's feet and hands, wrapped him in a blanket and dragged him to the back yard.

About a week later, James Burke grew concerned that he hadn't heard from his brother. Christopher told James that his father had left the state. Figuring his brother would not leave behind his truck and five dogs, James called the Sheriff's Office and reported him missing.

He said he suspected his nephew and at least one accomplice were to blame.

"I told (a detective) I wouldn't be surprised if they killed him and buried him on his own property, and that's what they done," James Burke, of Valdosta, Ga., told Merritt. "I really don't think Christopher acted alone. I think he had help."

Investigators would discover that Christopher drained his father's bank accounts as he continued to lie about his whereabouts. In early December, the couple hosted a cookout on the property, not far from where Raymond's body was buried.

In an interview on Dec. 15, Atkinson told detectives what had happened. She was never charged and would have been called as a witness during the trial, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto said.

Soon after Atkinson's statement, Christopher admitted to the killing. He said his father had a tendency to get intoxicated and call his estranged wife, Chris' mother, and that they were arguing about that when Christopher "lost it."

But he also told investigators he had been angry at his father his entire life.

Kmiec has another theory. Prescription pill abuse, she said, changed her brother, the baby of three siblings.

"This was not about anger, because I know Chris loved our dad," she told Merritt. "This was drugs. I know drugs are terrible and make people do crazy things."

A few moments later, Merritt asked whether Christopher Burke had anything to say. He shook his head and mumbled, "No, sir."

Burke will get credit for a little more than year of time he already has served. If he serves the full sentence, he will be freed when he's about 65 — five years older than his father at the time he was murdered.

Before the hearing, Atkinson's mother, Jacquelyn West, said Christopher Burke and her daughter cared for Raymond Burke. He, in turn, abused alcohol and threatened them, West said.

"I know Chris didn't mean to kill his father," she said. "He was defending his family."

Why not call 911 right away?

"I don't know why they chose to cover it up," West said. "I think fear just set in."

After Merritt handed down the sentence, Kmiec kept her eyes on her brother as a bailiff fingerprinted him and led him through a side door.

He never looked back.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.

Comments
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

More than a year ago, Kevin Knox stepped across the stage at the Straz Center to receive his high school diploma.On Thursday, the former Tampa Catholic star was on basketball's biggest stage as he fulfilled his lifelong goal of making the NBA.Knox wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He already will miss the first three...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The Bucs will open the upcoming season without the face of their franchise, as quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.Winston, 24, was accused of groping a ...
Updated: 3 hours ago