LOCAL EXCLUSIVE: Blindsided by George Burch
“[George Burch] had called me up and said that he had just gotten out of jail because his wife had him arrested while they were going through a divorce,” Ed Jackson told Action 2 News about their 2016 conversation. Had no place to go— no money, no nothing.”
Ed Jackson considered Burch a decades-long friend and fishing buddy from his former life in upstate New York. Hearing his friend had fallen on hard times, he and wife Lynda bought Burch a ticket to Wisconsin from Virginia to re-start his life, as they'd done many times for friends and family.
In early 2016, the Jacksons gave Burch a room in the Green Bay house they share with Ed’s father, added a phone to give him to their plan and even let him use one of their cars. They made sure he had a job and food to eat, but the Jackson’s generosity turns to regret within months as Burch is arrested for murder.
“Since I've known him, you know, if you were kind of feeling down, he was the type to come up to you and say, 'aw do you need a hug?' and give you a hug, you know,” is how Ed Jackson describes his former friend. “So for it to take a flip sides that way it has, yeah. That's a shocker."
Last month, Burch was convicted for the first degree homicide of 31-year-old Nicole VanderHeyden in 2016. The two did not know each other, and prosecutors believe his motive for killing was rape after he met her outside a downtown bar.
Vanderheyden died of blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation. She leaves behind three young children.
"I thought we knew this person. And I thought Ed knew this person. And all the sudden we found out a bunch of stuff we didn't know,” said Lynda Jackson.
Burch was acquitted of murder in Virginia, had no driver’s license and facing criminal charges that prevented him from even being allowed to leave his home state. But the Jackson’s wouldn’t find any of this out until it was too late.
Months into living with the couple in Green Bay, the Jackson's say Burch used the vehicle they'd lent him in a hit and run, then lit it on fire-in the middle of the night. This would make more sense to them later after learning the vehicle was used to transport VanderHeyden's body.
But before anyone had associated Burch with that murder, the disrespect of a totaled vehicle with no apology was more than the generous couple could take. "That's when we bought him a bus ticket and sent him home,” said Lynda Jackson.
Burch would stay in Green Bay, though— and eventually drag the Jackson’s into the spotlight of his high-profile murder trial at which they both testified. The horror of knowing they took in a person who committed a brutal murder while he was staying with them has taken away their sense of security.
“We're not open at this time to helping anybody else start over. We need to take some time and just recover from all of this. And you know people are like, 'Well, how did you not know?' Well, we didn't know. Otherwise he wouldn't have been there,” said Lynda Jackson.
"I spent hours and hours and hours with him and I would've never thought he'd even be capable of that,” said Ed Jackson.
"It's serious when you know that someone who was capable of doing something like that was living under your roof and you trusted him with everything that was valuable: your house, your father in law, your dogs,” said Lynda Jackson. “I’m the one who sat there and said, 'you gotta go.' And i'm like well, what happens if he would've freaked out and killed one of us?"
”Once I know that he's no longer sitting in the jail and that he's going away for a very long time I'll feel better,” she said.
Burch will be sentenced May 4th.