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Prosecutor asks judge not to allow murder suspect to blame victim's boyfriend

George Burch appears in Brown County Circuit Court on April 21, 2017. (Photo Credit: WLUK)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) – Brown County prosecutors call George Burch’s attempt to introduce evidence Nicole VanderHeyden’s boyfriend is the real killer a “fantastic tale” that should be denied, according to arguments filed with the court

Burch is charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the May 21, 2016 murder in Bellevue.

However, in a relatively rare maneuver, Burch’s attorneys have asked the court for permission to blame Douglass Detrie – VanderHeyden’s boyfriend and the man originally arrested, but never charged – for the murder.

According to Burch’s version of events: After VanderHeyden and Detrie quarreled, he and VanderHeryden met and eventually went back to her place. Detrie discovered them, and struck Burch in the back of the head. The motion states when Burch gathered himself, Detrie was holding a gun to his head and VanderHeyden was unconscious and beaten. The motion then states Detrie used his gun to order Burch to drive him and VanderHeyden's body to the Bellevue field where she was eventually found dead.

In order to have the theory be admitted and presented to the jury, the judge has to rule that Burch can show Detrie had motive, had the opportunity to commit the crime, and can provide evidence to directly connect Detrie to the murder.

In the 23-page motion, Brown County District Attorney David Lasee addresses all three prongs.

In terms of motive, Lasee argues Burch doesn’t provide one.

Apart from citing a litany of hearsay statements regarding alleged past acts of abuse towards VanderHeyden, the defendant does little more than extrapolate a motive to kill VanderHeyden from what was merely an intoxicated dispute between VanderHeyden and Detrie,” Lasee wrote. “It is a tremendous leap to suggest that because they had an argument that evening, Detrie was motivated to kill his girlfriend and the mother of his child.

In terms of opportunity, Lasee argues Detrie’s unaccounted for time isn’t proof of opportunity.

The defendant mostly argues that Detrie had opportunity to commit the crime because he happens to reside very near the crime scene. But the defendant also in effect, through his version of events, argues that Detrie was also at the location where VanderHeyden’s body was located. The defendant points to no evidence that would put Detrie at the scene of where VanderHeyden’s body was located. Moreover, if one were to believe the defendant’s fantastic tale, Detrie would have been left alone, at 4 a.m., with no transportation miles from his home. The defendant points to no evidence which would place Detrie in the vicinity of the location where VanderHeyden’s body was located on May 1, 2016, nor evidence as to how, and when he returned home from that location. If the court were to believe the defendant’s version of events there would be a significant period of time where Detrie left his residence, killed VanderHeyden, drove with Burch to the location where VanderHeyden’s body was discovered, and then, presuming that the defendant was able to get away and leave Detrie without transportation, time to walk back to his residence. That is not to mention that it would mean that Detrie would have had to leave his nine-month-old son home alone for hours in the morning of May 21, 2016. Rather than provide any evidence which would show Detrie had an opportunity to commit the crime, the defendant relies on mere speculation based on Detrie’s unaccounted-for period of time after 3 a.m. on May 21, 2016.

In terms of the direct connection, Lasee says there isn’t one.

The defendant appears to be grasping at straws to support his story that Doug Detrie was the perpetrator of Nicole VanderHeyden’s murder. None of the facts alleged by the defendant actually connects Douglass Detrie to VanderHeyden’s murder and therefore he fails to demonstrate a sufficient connection between Denny and the perpetration of the crime.

Prosecutors also argue that Detrie’s DNA was excluded from the ligature suspected of being the murder weapon, as well not being the source of male DNA found on parts of VanderHeyden’s body – including the neck where she was strangled. And, the motions recovered from Detrie’s FitBit show he was sleeping at the time of the murder, with no movements during the time she was killed and her body transported.

A June 16 motion hearing is planned.

According to the criminal complaint, VanderHeyden and Detrie were out at a bar, got into an argument and went in different directions. Investigators matched Burch’s cell phone records to place Burch near the bar VanderHeyden was last seen, as well as near her home, and near the field where she was found dead. The criminal complaint does not mention any witnesses seeing Burch with VanderHeyden, nor does it offer a motive for her death.

Burch pleaded not guilty. A conviction of the intentional homicide charge carries a mandatory life prison term.

Burch is set to go on trial Oct. 2.


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