People closest to Burch leading up to his arrest testify at his murder trial

George Burch listens to his defense attorneys on day six of his murder trial on February 26, 2018. (Photo credit: pool)

BROWN COUNTY (WLUK) -- The people closest to George Burch leading up to his September 7, 2016 arrest took turns testifying on day six of his murder trial.

Burch, 40, is charged with the May 21, 2016 murder of 31-year-old Nicole VanderHeyden.

Ed and Lynda Jackson were the first two witnesses called to testify. Burch moved from Virginia in February 2016 to live in the Jacksons' home. Ed Jackson says Burch lived with him and his wife from February 2016 through June 2016.

Jackson says he went on a two-day fishing trip to Racine with Burch and two others on the day after VanderHeyden was murdered. He says Burch did not mention anything that he did the previous night.

Jackson says he did watch news stories about VanderHeyden's murder on FOX 11 in his living room with Burch.

"I said the scumbag that did it ought to be taken down," said Jackson.

Jackson testified that Burch had no response to that comment, but "he was pretty intensely looking at the TV."

Jackson also said Burch did not appear to have any marks or injuries to his head on the days after VanderHeyden's murder. In the defense's scenario of what happened, Douglass Detrie, VanderHeyden's boyfriend, knocked Burch out after finding him with VanderHeyden in a vehicle, in the driveway of the Ledgeview home Detrie and VanderHeyden shared.

Jackson testified to loaning Burch a '99 Chevy Blazer to drive to and from work at NEW Landscaping. On June 9th, Jackson says he learned the vehicle had been stolen and was part of a hit-and-run crash the previous day, which resulted in the vehicle starting on fire.

Brown County Sheriff's deputies testified last week that by the time they linked Burch to the VanderHeyden case, the Blazer Burch had been driving was junked, as a result of the hit-and-run crash. Investigators say the vehicle could not be searched for possible DNA or blood. Investigators have said they believe Burch used the vehicle to transport VanderHeyden's body from outside her Ledgeview home to the Bellevue field where her body was discovered.

Officer Robert Bourdelais of the Green Bay Police Department was the third person to testify on the day. Bourdelais is the officer who investigated the Blazer being stolen and being part of a hit-and-run crash.

Bourdelais testified that Burch provided written consent for a full download of his cellphone. Geolocation information from Burch's phone eventually linked him to the key locations in the VanderHeyden murder, investigators have said.

Bourdelais also said the hit-and-run investigation was closed without a conclusion for whether the vehicle was actually stolen or who was driving it during the hit-and-run incident.

Kendayl Danelski of the Green Bay Police Department testified fourth on the day. Danelski testified to downloading the information from Burch's cellphone for the hit-and-run case.

Raymond Lenz, a forensic scientist for the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, followed Danelski. Lenz specalizes in trace evidence.

Lenz says he was asked to analyze pieces of wire found in VanderHeyden's tank top to see if it came from two larger pieces of cord. Lenz says it is possible the smaller pieces of wire came from the larger pieces.

Investigators found the larger pieces of cord in the yard across the street from the home VanderHeyden and Detrie shared. Investigators have said they believe the cord was used to strangle VanderHeyden to death.

DNA analyst Kevin Scott, with the state crime lab, testified last week that VanderHeyden and Burch's DNA were both found on one of the pieces of cord.

To start the afternoon session of the trial, Jeffrey Hemmen and Matthew Wassenberg testified. Both said they were regulars at Richard Crainums, a bar Burch frequented. Wassenberg says Burch would try to pick up women at the bar, despite having a girlfriend.

Hemmen says he let Burch stay on his couch a few times in June 2016.

After staying with Hemmen, Wassenberg says Burch stayed on his couch for about two months. Wassenberg testified that Burch was living with him at the time of his arrest in September 2016.

"He seemed okay, polite to everyone," said Wassenberg.

Laura Matson, with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, was the eighth person to testify on day six. Matson analyzes fingerprints and footprints for the state crime lab.

Matson says she was unable to identify fingerprints found on a Samsung phone. The testimony did not indicate the owner of that phone.

Matson also testified that she was unable to make any conclusive matches between a handful of pairs of shoes and two foot impressions, one found on the back of VanderHeyden's neck and on her tank top.

John Ertl, a forensic scientist with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, testified after Matson. Ertl was the state crime lab's lead team member at the Bellevue field where VanderHeyden's body was found. He says there was not much in the field for evidence besides the body and a few "disturbed vegetation patterns."

Jordan Schuyler, 22, was the tenth person to testify on Monday. Schuyler dated Burch in 2016. They met when they were both working at Blackstone Family Restaurant in Green Bay.

Schuyler says she dated Burch throughout the summer of 2016. He was arrested September 7, 2016.

Schuyler says she never noticed any injuries on Burch's body in the days after the VanderHeyden murder. She says he also never mentioned anything about the crime throughout their relationship.

Sgt. Brian Slinger, the lead investigator on the case, was briefly recalled as a witness to end the day. Slinger talked about his familiarity with the area between the Detrie/VanderHeyden home and the Bellevue farm field where VanderHeyden's body was discovered. As Slinger testified to on Friday, he reiterated that the drive between the two locations is 3.2 miles.

Before excusing the jury, Judge John Zakowski said the state plans to call two more witnesses on Tuesday morning. Zakowski says the defense will then take its turn with calling witnesses.

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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