Day 1: First witnesses testify in Burch murder trial

Published: Feb. 19, 2018 at 9:26 PM CST
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Two different narratives given in a Brown County courtroom as jurors hear opening statements in George Burch’s murder trial.

The 40-year-old is charged with killing 31-year-old Nicole VanderHeyden in May of 2016.

VanderHeyden’s body was found in a field three miles from her Ledgeview home.

Prosecutors decided to start with the beginning of the murder case, starting with key witnesses who found VanderHeyden’s body and called 911.

Richard VandeHey was the first of seven witnesses to take the stand Monday afternoon.

On May 21, 2016, VandeHey said he was picking rocks with two young boys in a Bellevue field when he noticed something in the brush.

“I said, is that a dead deer down there?” said VandeHey.

We are not identifying the boys, now ages 13 and 15, as ordered by Judge John Zakowski. However, one of them told the jury, "I just saw white, so I thought it was like the belly of a deer.”

The boy said he eventually realized it was a body because “it was on its stomach and I could see part of its face and hair.”

“I was kind of shocked, and I just said, ‘Get the hell out of here. You don’t need to be seeing that,'” said VandeHey.

VandeHey said he called police and Brown County Sgt. Carl Lau was first to arrive on scene.

“I observed what appeared to be a female body,” said Sgt. Lau. “She was laying naked, face was all bloody and hair was covered in blood.”

Within minutes, law enforcement blocked off the entire area. They also blocked off VanderHeyden’s home where authorities believed she was killed.

Brown County Deputy Charles Tassou was tasked with documenting evidence, including blood, hair and a piece of wire that was believed to be the murder weapon.

Tassou was the last one to testify Monday as the court day was shortened due to weather concerns.

Judge Zakowski said a new witness will take the stand Tuesday morning.