Judge explains life sentence for George Burch

Published: May. 4, 2018 at 9:55 PM CDT
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“The answer is yes, Mr. Burch. This is a crime that would, I believe, merit the death penalty and for that, you have to die in prison.”

Wisconsin doesn’t have the death penalty, but Brown County Judge John Zakowski gave convicted murderer George Burch the toughest sentence he could on Friday, life in prison without parole.

Earlier this year, a jury found Burch guilty of first-degree intentional homicide of Nicole VanderHeyden in May of 2016.

After inviting VanderHeyden’s family to speak on her behalf, her mom, dad, sister and boyfriend’s mother looked Burch in the eyes and told him what he took from them.

“I have a hard time driving down Hoffman Road without thinking of Burch throwing her away like trash like she didn't matter. She did matter! We loved her and we miss her,” said Diane Detrie, Doug Detrie’s mom.

Judge Zakowski offered the same opportunity to friends and family of Burch, but now on talked on his behalf.

“Which in some ways is sad and also maybe telling,” said Judge Zakowski.

Judge Zakowski talked about Burch’s activities the day after the murder, calling into question his humanity.

“Drop the body off in the field, and then 12 hours go on a boat and then smile like nothing happened, like you didn't have a care in the world? How do we explain that? That is not human. That is not normal,” said Judge Zakowski.

Judge Zakowski sentenced Burch to life behind bars without parole, with one more condition.

“Mr. Burch, you are not to profit at all from anything that might somehow come about because of this case. It's already got all kinds of national publicity. Write a book, have a movie, whatever, any monies goes to the Detrie and VanderHeyden families,” said Judge Zakowski.

“Nobody profits because of this kind of brutality.”