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Douglass Detrie testifies on day 3 of Burch murder trial

Douglass Detrie talks on the witness stand during George Burch's murder trial on February 21, 2018. (Photo credit: WLUK)

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Douglass Detrie took the witness stand for day three of George Burch's murder trial.

Burch is charged with the May 2016 murder of 31-year-old Nicole VanderHeyden. Investigators say Burch's DNA and geolocation data from his phone tie him to the crime.

Detrie was VanderHeyden's boyfriend, and is the man Burch's attorneys have called the killer in this case.

Detrie first explained that he met VanderHeyden in January 2015 at Jimmy Seas, a bar in Allouez. He said they weren't separated much after that first night.

"We hit it off right away," said Detrie.

Detrie testified that VanderHeyden became pregnant not long after they first met. He also said they had eventually talked about marriage, but wanted to wait until their son was older.

While being asked about the night VanderHeyden was murdered, Detrie said he had between six and ten alcoholic drinks at the Watering Hole, including a "handful of shots."

Detrie says the last he saw VanderHeyden on the night of her murder was at the Watering Hole concert, where they became separated after he went to the bathroom.

Detrie says he stayed at Watering Hole with a friend, Gregg Mathu, despite receiving a call that VanderHeyden was headed to Sardine Can with his group of friends. Detrie testified to VanderHeyden sending him a series of profane text messages while he was still at the Watering Hole, accusing him of being with another woman.

"I was kind of puzzled," said Detrie. "I didn't know why she was text messaging me that way."

Detrie says he did talk on the phone with VanderHeyden when he was traveling from the Watering Hole to try to meet with her at the Sardine Can. Detrie says she was ecstatic and wasn't able to tell what she was saying. He says he handed the phone to Mathu, but says her phone disconnected shortly after.

Detrie says he was worried that VanderHeyden was upset with him, but was not concerned at that point for her safety.

Detrie says he left the Sardine Can after bar close and returned to his home with Mathu. Detrie says when he arrive home he asked babysitter Dallas Kennedy if she knew where VanderHeyden was. Detrie says she told him she did not.

"I was starting to get a little more concerned where she is," said Detrie.

When asked whether he smoked marijuana while talking to Kennedy, Detrie said he was not sure. Kennedy testified on Tuesday that Detrie did smoke marijuana.

Detrie says he went to bed just after 3 a.m. and woke the next day at about 6:30 a.m. That morning, Detrie testified to contacting Kennedy, Mathu, and VanderHeyden's sister, Heather Meyer, to see if any of them knew where his girlfriend was. He says later that afternoon he checked jail records and contacted more people about her whereabouts.

Detrie says he didn't initially contact police because he believed VanderHeyden was still mad at him and didn't want to come home. Detrie testified that he did not know a body had been discovered three miles from his home when he decided to call police about VanderHeyden being missing.

Detrie says he talked with investigators for a few hours at his home about where VanderHeyden could be. Later in the night, with his family and VanderHeyden's family present at his house, Detrie testified that Meyer received a message about a body being found in a Belleuve field.

"Everybody just started freaking out," said Detrie.

Detrie testified to agreeing to a search of his home, and giving investigators the clothes he wore the night VanderHeyden was murdered. Detrie also explained initially declining to provide a DNA swab on advice he received from his parents and an attorney. Detrie says he provided a DNA sample after a search warrant was provided.

Before being arrested, two days after VanderHeyden's body was discovered, Detrie told the court that Mathu warned him that investigators were talking to him as if Detrie was a prime suspect.

District Attorney David Lasee asked Detrie what was going through his head when he was arrested. Detrie says he was advised to not say anything to investigators, but wanted to say things like "why am I in this position" and "I had nothing to do with this."

The defense spent time asking Detrie about text messages VanderHeyden sent him accusing him of being abusive and being with another woman. The defense asked Detrie if he had ever cheated on VanderHeyden. Detrie said no, while District Attorney David Lasee objected. Judge Zakowski sustained the objection. Detrie also testified to never phsyically hurting VanderHeyden.

Judge Zakowski dismissed jurors for the day just after 5 p.m. The defense is expected to continue its cross examination of Detrie when the trial resumes Thursday morning at 8:30.

Earlier Testimony from Day 3

Aaron Kulinski, a friend of Detrie's, was the first witness called to testify.

Kulinski testified to never seeing VanderHeyden and Detrie fight. He also testified to being with the couple on the night investigators say she was murdered.

Kulinski testified to Detrie and VanderHeyden drinking with friends while at a concert at the Watering Hole. He says the group of friends, minus Detrie and a friend, went to the Sardine Can after the concert.

Kulinski says VanderHeyden became upset that her attempts to get a hold of Detrie were unsuccessful, but a friend was able to get a hold of him. Kulinski says VanderHeyden sprinted away from the group of friends while they were attempting to leave in an Uber. He says he sprinted after her, but she screamed at him to get away. The group then left in the Uber, after attempts to have VanderHeyden rejoin the group did not work.


During opening statements, prosecutors said VanderHeyden was last seen alive outside the Sardine Can.

Gregg Mathu was the second person to testify. Mathu is another friend of Detrie's and was also out on the night of VanderHeyden's murder,

"I thought everyone was having a great time," Mathu said of the night the group of friends went out for the concert.

Mathu testified that him and Detrie eventually became separated from their group of friends. They stayed longer at the Watering Hole, according to Mathu.

Mathu says Detrie was talking to VanderHeyden on the phone while she was outside the Sardine Can.

"He was telling her we're on our way, you know just go back to the Sardine Can, we'll be there in five minutes, where are you, we'll come get you, we'll come pick you up.," said Mathu of what Detrie was saying to VanderHeyden. "He kind of kept repeating that."

Mathu says he then took phone and tried to find out where she was. Mathu says it seemed her phone then shut off.

"With her phone dying and not having a great ability to contact her, we decided maybe she went back to the Sardine Can," said Mathu. "That is kind of what we hoped. Then we went to the Sardine Can."

Mathu testified that him and Detrie took shots at the Sardine Can.


Mathu also admitted to him and Detrie using Adderall before the concert. Mathu says he also took Adderrall after the Sardine Can, but was not positive if Detrie did. Mathu says Detrie had a perscription for the drug, which is typically perscribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Mathu says he returned to Detrie's home with him after the night out, but did not stay long.

"He said he was worried because no matter how mad Nikki was at him, she would never leave Dylan (six-month-old child) for that long," Mathu said of talking with Detrie on the following day.

Mathu testified to voluntarily providing his DNA, car, download of his phone to sheriff's officials in the days after VanderHeyden's body was discovered.

After day two, District Attorney David Lasee told FOX 11 that he could call Doug Detrie to testify on day three. Lasee said he has not made a decision for sure yet.

Case Background

Burch was arrested almost four months after VanderHeyden’s beaten body was discovered in a Bellevue farm field, three miles from her home.

Prosecutors say Burch’s DNA was found on VanderHeyden’s body, sock, and other murder evidence found near VanderHeyden’s home.

Burch’s defense attorneys have indicated they plan to have Burch testify at trial, so they can accuse VanderHeyden’s boyfriend, Doug Detrie, of the crime.

The 36-year-old Detrie, who lived with VanderHeyden and is the father of the youngest of her three children, was originally arrested for the murder.

Detrie was never charged and was released from jail after 18 days.

Investigators have said Detrie and VanderHeyden were out drinking with friends in the hours before her murder. The couple fought about infidelity issues, and became separated, according to investigators.

Burch, who moved to the Green Bay area from Virginia shortly before the murder, has claimed he met VanderHeyden for the first time on the night of her murder at a bar on Broadway in Green Bay.

Burch says he drove VanderHeyden home, where they became intimate in the backseat of his car. Burch says Detrie came outside, discovered the two together, and knocked Burch out. When Burch gathered himself, he says he discovered Detrie standing over VanderHeyden’s bloodied and unconscious body. Burch says Detrie forced him at gunpoint to help him dispose of the body in the Bellevue field.

Prosecutors say Detrie’s Fitbit clears him of Burch’s scenario of what happened. The Fitbit shows Detrie was sleeping and took very few steps during the time the murder allegedly took place, according to prosecutors.

Judge John Zakowski has ruled that prosecutors can introduce some Fitbit evidence at trial. Prosecutors can show how many steps Detrie took the night of the murder, however, they cannot introduce the sleep evidence. Zakowski made that stipulation, citing pending lawsuits that question the reliability of Fitbit’s sleep records.

Zakowski is also allowing evidence from Burch’s cellphone to be presented at trial, despite defense attempts to have it excluded.

Investigators say Burch provided Green Bay Police written consent to download information from his phone during a separate hit-and-run investigation, a few weeks after VanderHeyden’s murder. The Brown County Sheriff’s Department obtained that information from Green Bay Police three months later, after DNA on VanderHeyden’s body came back as a match for Burch.

Burch’s attorneys argued the sheriff’s department should have obtained a warrant for those cell phone records, and that the sheriff department’s request went beyond the scope of the investigation the data was originally acquired for.

Prosecutors have said the information from Burch’s cellphone is key because geolocation data pings Burch’s cellphone to the Broadway bar where VanderHeyden was last seen alive, outside her home, and the Bellevue Field.

Judge Zakowski also ruled the defense will not be able to bring up an open domestic abuse case involving Detrie and VanderHeyden’s younger sister.

Detrie is charged with second degree recklessly endangering safety, false imprisonment and disorderly conduct.

Prosecutors allege that Detrie and Heather Meyer were together in a car in Allouez in February. Meyer told police Detrie touched her leg in a sexual manner. When she objected, Detrie sped off and would not let her out of the car. She tried to get out of the moving vehicle, but could not, until he eventually stopped several miles down the road.

Detrie is due back in court on March 23.

As for Burch, he has faced a murder charge before in Virginia. In June 1998, a jury found a then-20-year-old Burch not guilty of a gang-related killing.

Burch’s trial in the death of VanderHeyden is scheduled to last two weeks.

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