FORT CAMPBELL, KY (WAVE) – Brent Burke has been found guilty of the murders of his estranged wife and her former mother-in-law. A military panel of seven returned its finding after deliberating for nearly three hours Tuesday at Fort Campbell.
Deliberations began around 8:30 a.m. Central time after the panel members heard several days of testimony that the U.S. Army sergeant murdered Tracy Burke and Karen Comer. The bodies of Burke and Comer were discovered inside Comer's Rineyville home on September 11, 2007.
In testimony that took place over the weekend, the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise reported that Burke's own son and stepson testified against him. The younger boy, who was just four years old at the time of the murders, said he saw his father in the house with a gun. The older boy, who was nine during the slayings, said he did not see the gunman's face but recognized his stepfather's voice.
During testimony by military prosecutors, forensic experts said there was no DNA evidence linking Burke to the murder scene, but prosecutors did say that Burke had glass fragments on his jacket which tied him to the crime scene at the Comer home.
The military trial was the fifth time Burke had faced charges in the murders. He was arrested in October 2007. Nearly two years later, in September 2009, the first of two mistrials came. The second one occurred in January 2010. In August 2010, Burke was tried for a third time. That trial ended with a hung jury. The fourth trial in March 2011 also ended in a hung jury.
After the fourth trial, Hardin Commonwealth Attorney Chris Shaw dropped the state charges against Burke. Although his enlistment ended while he was in the custody of civilian authorities, Burke was never processed out of the Army was still considered to be on active duty. He was taken into custody by military police and returned to Fort Campbell where the government filed the murder charges against him. He was held in the Christian County Jail while awaiting general court-martial.
In addition to the murder charges, Burke was found guilty on one count of breaking and entering, three counts of child endangerment, and one count of obstruction of justice/impeding an investigation.
On the two premeditated murder counts, Burke can be sentenced to life in prison with or without parole. The sentencing phase will begin around 1:30 p.m. Eastern time (12:30 p.m. Central).
WAVE 3 and wave3.com will continue to monitor developments in this story.