Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville man, 40, accused of killing father and burying him in back yard

ISTACHATTA — Christopher Burke and his girlfriend hosted a cookout last weekend. They entertained friends, and he barbecued on what looked like a new black charcoal grill.

He, Shannon Atkinson and her first-grade son moved in with his father, Raymond, four or five months ago. The couple told friends they couldn't find work and needed a place to stay. They seemed, neighbors say, to have settled in. A basketball hoop, lowered to 8 feet high, stood in the driveway, and bright yellow toy dump trucks were strewn throughout the yard Friday afternoon. They had even decorated a Christmas tree for the one-bedroom shack the three lived in next to Raymond's double-wide mobile home. A red and green pouch, inscribed with the words "From Santa," hung from their doorknob.

From the outside, the horror is hard to see. But a few feet behind that shack and just beyond a picnic table littered with beer bottles, Hernando sheriff's deputies in black shirts and blue jeans stood knee-deep in a dirt hole just after 1 p.m. Friday. Somewhere beneath the ground, they say, Raymond's body has been buried for 64 days.

On Oct. 13, authorities say, he and his son got into a fight. Christopher, who outweighed his 60-year-old father by 150 pounds, bashed Raymond in the head with a flashlight and then strangled him. A report says he wrapped his father's body in a blanket, dragged him into the back yard and buried him.

Raymond and his brother, James, usually talked three or four times a week. When James noticed his brother's phone was dead, he became worried.

James soon contacted both Christopher and Atkinson. He said both of them lied to him. Christopher, 40, said his father had suddenly left the state with an unknown man. Atkinson told him she had helped Raymond pack for the trip.

But James didn't believe his brother would leave behind his truck or his five small dogs. He called the Sheriff's Office on Oct. 22 and reported his brother missing. He told detectives he believed Christopher and Atkinson had killed Raymond.

"I felt that something had happened to him and they harmed him," said James, standing on the road near the crime scene at 27047 Hiawatha Blvd. "I told them he was buried right here on this property."

Investigators soon learned that Raymond had not left a forwarding address for his disability checks. Christopher, investigators say, continued to lie about his father's whereabouts. He first told them Raymond had gone to North Carolina, and then later claimed he was traveling to Texas.

Detectives say they recently discovered that Christopher had drained his father's bank accounts. Investigators interviewed the couple again Thursday at the Sheriff's Office. There, a report says, Atkinson told deputies what had happened. Soon after, Christopher admitted to the killing, saying he had been angry at his father his entire life.

He was charged with second-degree murder and was held without bail. Atkinson, 42, has not been charged, but Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the investigation is ongoing.

James learned of his brother's death about 3 a.m. Friday. He was angry, but not surprised.

"He was a great brother. He was harmless," James said. "He wouldn't hurt nobody."

The couple, he said, had lived on the property off and on for years.

People who knew Atkinson said she would sometimes complain about her boyfriend and his father. Jeff Walker often spoke with her at the school bus stop when he dropped off his niece. Her behavior over the last two months, he said, never changed. "I could never think she would do something like that," he said. "She seemed normal walking up here every day."

The couple, James said, had stolen Raymond's prescription medications and, about two years ago, had gotten rid of his bird, two of his goats and his favorite dog, "Sammy."

"He tried to get them to move out, move out, move out," he said, "and they wouldn't go."

Both father and son have criminal histories. Christopher has previously been arrested on charges of fraud, aggravated stalking and battery. In 2003, Raymond was charged with shooting at an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after, neighbors say, he fired several rounds at a man who had accidentally driven onto his property.

James said his brother was once a painter, but had somehow become disabled. He wore a back brace and could barely care for himself.

He had two sons and a daughter but, James said, wasn't close to any of them. Other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond's dogs were his life. He sat on the bottom of his steps every evening and watched them play. At night, they curled up in bed with him.

"He thought more of the dogs," James said, "than his own kids."

Christopher buried his father next to the grave of one of Raymond's dogs. James couldn't remember its name, but he knew it was big and black and one of his brother's favorites. A simple white cross still poked from the ground Friday afternoon.

News researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Reach John Woodrow Cox at jcox@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Brooksville man, 40, accused of killing father and burying him in back yard 12/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Do you want Walmart in your home when you're not?

    Retail

    Delivery workers who drop off Walmart groceries may soon also bring them into your kitchen and unload them into your refrigerator, even if you're not home.

    Delivery workers who drop off Walmart groceries may soon also bring them into your kitchen and unload them into your refrigerator, even if you're not home.
[ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times file photo]

  2. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others

    Stage

    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  3. Bucs-Vikings: What could make Tampa Bay's defense elite again

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The last time the Bucs had a top-five defense also happens to be when they last appeared in the postseason.

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after recovering a fumble by Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Top 5 at noon: Detours, delays on I-75 in Pasco; last call for New World Brewery; and more

    News

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.

    Road crews clean up a mess of crash debris - and pumpkins - left behind after a fiery semitrailer truck crash on Interstate 75 in Pasco County on Sept. 22, 2017. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]