Judge orders some defense exhibits sealed in Brown County murder trial

Published: Nov. 20, 2017 at 4:17 PM CST
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A judge has ordered the court to seal certain records the defense wants to present during a Brown County murder trial.

The prosecution asked the judge to grant their motion to seal Exhibits 1-9, presented by the attorneys for George Burch. The judge granted the motion to seal eight of the nine exhibits.

Burch is charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide for the murder of Nicole VanderHeyden of Ledgeview. During trial, Burch's attorneys intend to point the finger at VanderHeyden's boyfriend, Douglass Detrie,

The judge's ruling says the sealed exhibits have no probative value. Lack of probative value means the evidence could mislead or prejudice a jury against Detrie.

Some of the evidence involves internet search records and text messages from Detrie's phone. The judge used the terms "highly prejudicial" and "speculation" when referring to some of the exhibits.

Text messages between Detrie and VanderHeyden in Exhibit 7 can be kept in the open file, according to the judge. However, messages before May 20 will be redacted. The judge ruled the messages between Detrie and VanderHeyden on May 20 and 21 are admissible because they are relevant to the events on the date of VanderHeyden's murder.

The prosecution argued that all the records should be sealed because Detrie is a crime victim, having lost his his girlfriend, VanderHeyden.

The defense argued that sealing the exhibits would violate Burch's right to a public trial.

The judge's order says the court has already ruled that most of the information in these exhibits have no probative value, so sealing them would not violate Burch's right to a fair trial.

Burch's trial for the killing of VanderHeyden is scheduled to begin in February of 2018.

On May 21, 2016, VanderHeyden's body was found about three miles from the home she shared with Douglass Detrie.

The cause of death was determined to be severe blunt force trauma to her head and strangulation.

Detrie was arrested after the murder, but released a little more than two weeks later because of a lack of evidence against him, and DNA evidence pointing to Burch. Prosecutors say Detrie was not a suspect in the murder.

Investigators say some DNA samples taken from VanderHeyden's body and clothing matched Burch.

Burch was arrested on Sept. 8 and charged with VanderHeyden's murder.

The defense claims Burch and VanderHeyden met at a Green Bay bar the night of the killing, and Detrie caught VanderHeyden and Burch having sex in a car, giving Detrie motive to kill her. Burch claims Detrie knocked him out, then beat VanderHeyden to death and forced Burch at gunpoint to move her body.

The state suggests Detrie couldn't knock out Burch, who is 6'7" tall and 250 pounds, and beat VanderHeyden to death without causing any visible injuries to himself.