VanderHeyden murder suspect says phone search evidence illegally obtained

Published: Jan. 26, 2018 at 8:51 AM CST
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A man set to stand trial for the murder of a Brown County woman is asking the court to suppress evidence taken from his phone.

Attorneys for George Burch filed a motion Thursday saying the state violated the Fourth Amendment by getting evidence through illegal search and seizure.

George Burch is charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in the May 2016 murder of Nicole VanderHeyden.

The motion filed Thursday says on June 8, Burch was being interviewed for another case, a possible hit-and-run. The motion states Burch allowed an officer to view his text messages and download data from his phone in order to prove he wasn't involved in the hit-and-run.

Burch was cleared in the hit-and-run investigation, but the motion states police kept the phone data and it ended up with the Brown County Sheriff's Office during the investigation into the murder of Nicole VanderHeyden.

The motion states "The implied scope of consent was limited to searching areas in his phone solely for investigating the alleged hit-and-run incident."

Burch's trial is set to begin on Feb. 16.

Burch's attorneys want to point the finger at VanderHeyden's boyfriend, Douglass Detrie. 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.

VanderHeyden's body was found about three miles from the home she shared with Detrie on May 21, 2016. The cause of death was determined to be severe blunt force trauma to her head and strangulation.

The prosecution says Detrie's Fitbit data shows he was sleeping at the time of the murder. The state wants that data to be included in the trial.

Burch's defense wants it thrown out. They claim the evidence is unreliable, calling the data inaccurate. The defense is citing lawsuits filed against the company for inaccuracy of sleep and heart rate data.

The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1.

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 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.

Action 2 News will continue to update this developing story.