Burch trial: defense accuses Detrie; neighbors testify about blood

George Burch at jury selection for his trial on Feb 16, 2018 (WBAY photo)
George Burch at jury selection for his trial on Feb 16, 2018 (WBAY photo)(WBAY)
Published: Feb. 22, 2018 at 8:39 AM CST
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George Burch's legal team has accused the boyfriend of murder victim Nicole VanderHeyden of trying to hide evidence during the investigation.

Douglass Detrie returned to the stand Thursday where the defense continued with cross-examination.

George Burch is standing trial for 1st Degree Intentional Homicide for the death of VanderHeyden, a Ledgeview mother. VanderHeyden's body was found on Hoffman Road in Bellevue, about three miles from her Ledgeview home, on May 21, 2016. A medical examiner testified that VanderHeyden was strangled and beaten to death.

Burch's attorneys argue that Detrie killed Nicole VanderHeyden because he had motive, but Burch did not.

The prosecution says Burch's DNA was found on VanderHeyden's body, and Google dashboard data puts him at the location where her body was dumped and her bloody clothes were dumped.

On Thursday, the defense started by asking Detrie about drug use the night of Nicole's killing. Detrie admitted to taking a hit off a vape pen that may have contained marijuana. A friend initially told investigators that Detrie had snorted the prescription hyperactivity disorder drug Adderall.

Detrie and VanderHeyden had been out at a concert at the Watering Hole in Green Bay that night. VanderHeyden left for the Sardine Can and Detrie stayed behind. Texts messages show VanderHeyden was upset with Detrie because she feared he was cheating on her.

The defense accused Detrie of attempting to hide evidence by taking a shower before investigators arrived at his home. Detrie had reported Nicole as a missing person after she failed to return home.

DEFENSE: "And you made sure that before police arrived you took a shower?"

DETRIE: "Yeah, yep, I was feeling grubby, you know."

DEFENSE: "You wanted to hide any proof that you were involved in her murder, so you took a shower before the police came."

The prosecution objected to this line of questioning, but the judge allowed it.

The defense asked Detrie if he told his babysitter that Nicole had hit her head. Detrie says he doesn't remember saying this.

DETRIE: "I don't recall saying anything about her hitting her head at all."

DEFENSE: "You told Dallas: 'I don't know. She hit her head.'"

DETRIE: "I do not recall that, sir."

The jury saw a Snapchat that Detrie sent VanderHeyden the day after she went missing. It's a picture of Detrie and their child, Dylan. Detrie testified that he wanted to see when Nicole would open the message.

All of the witnesses who have testified so far in this trial have agreed that Detrie and VanderHeyden were both drunk and had a disagreement the night she went missing.

“I figured she slept at a friend's house…and probably felt the same way I did, hungover,” Detrie testified on Wednesday.

Following Detrie's testimony, the state called Green Bay Police Detective Lee Kingston to the stand. He interviewed Detrie after the killing. Kingston testified that he told Detrie that the body found in Bellevue might be his girlfriend. Kingston said Detrie cried and "acted appropriately" for the situation.

Kingston testified that Detrie was cooperative. The detective did not notice any injuries on Detrie's hands.

The next witness was Deputy Jason Katers of the Brown County Sheriff's Office. He visited the Watering Hole and Sardine Can to talk with people working the night VanderHeyden disappeared. She had visited both establishments. Katers says Detrie's black Nissan Maxima was found in the parking lot.

Katers testified that Detrie had no injuries on his hands or arms. He also testified that Detrie was upset and "hyperventilating" when he was told the body found in Bellevue could be Nicole.

The next witness was Baeleigh Larson, a forensic specialist for Green Bay Police. She swabbed the car of Detrie's friend, Gregg Mathu. Detrie was in Mathu's car the night of VanderHeyden's killing.

Larson also took photographs of the home Detrie and VanderHeyden shared. She testified that two tissues with a red substance were collected from a half bath.

The state called Matthew Petersen to the stand. He lives in a home next to the one on Berkley Road that was shared by Detrie and VanderHeyden prior to her death.

Petersen says he was mowing his lawn close to the curb when he heard a click and shut it off. He picked up a piece of cord that had jammed the mower. He says he found a significant amount of blood. He tossed the cord down. He says he assumed the blood was from an animal and didn't think about calling police.

"I decided that that blood was probably from an animal. It would not have been the first time. There's quite a bit of wildlife in our yard," Petersen testified. "It would not have been the first time that there was blood from an animal and I didn't even think about the possibility that it was a crime scene."

Days later, Petersen's wife informs him that VanderHeyden has been murdered. The couple decides to call police about the blood and cord found in their yard.

"I was wracking my brain to think of anything that had happened in the last 48 hours," Petersen says. He remembers a small car drove slowly past his home and the Detrie/VanderHeyden residence. He says the man in the car was on the phone and didn't get out of his car. He testified that he believed this to be unusual.

The next witness is Paul Neuenfeldt, a runner who lives in the neighborhood. He testified that he was jogging with another person on May 21 when he saw a large amount of what appeared to be blood. He says he almost ran through it. Neuenfeldt says he thought it was animal blood so he kept running.

After a lunch break, testimony continued with Michelle Willems. Willems lives in the same neighborhood. She testified that when she learned about the murder, she asked her son if he had seen anything. He reminds her that his car has a dash camera.

Willems says video shows a garage door open at the Detrie/VanderHeyden home. She cannot remember seeing it open before. There was a car in the garage. She didn't find it to be alarming, but thought it could be of use to someone. She called police and handed over the flash drive of the video. The joggers were also in the video, she testifies.

The state's next witness is Monica Janke, a retired detective with the Brown County Sheriff's Office. She responded to a call from Petersen about blood in his front yard and on the road in the Berkley neighborhood. She collected the evidence and took video of the scene.

Janke says she found hair stuck in a dried, brownish substance; clumps of hair in the grass near the road; bobby pins; and two pieces of wiring that looked like it had been "split in two."

Janke says she believes the wires belonged to the same piece, but were likely cut in half by Petersen's lawn mower.

Janke says on May 23, she was asked to help sweep Douglass Detrie's home so investigators could execute a search warrant. Janke testified that she smelled "strong cleaning solution." She said it didn't smell like bleach.

Janke testifies that she took a DNA mouth swab from Detrie after retaining a warrant. She says he cooperated. Janke says Detrie was crying. She described his face as red and his eyes as puffy.

The defense asked Janke about the chemical smell in the home. She said she smelled it on the first and second floor of the home. The defense asked her if she thought the odor to be suspicious. She testifies that it was "notable" but she doesn't know if it was "suspicious." She says the house was not tidy.

The court took a break as the defense, state, and judge discussed bringing up Detrie's alleged drug use the night of the murder. Judge John Zakowski says Detrie's possible use of marijuana has already been exposed to the jury so the court will allow the fact that marijuana was found at Detrie's home.

Court continued with the state calling Marc Shield to the stand. Shield is a Brown County narcotics investigator who assisted in the murder investigation, starting at the field where VanderHeyden's body was found.

Sheild was present as another sergeant interviewed Douglass Detrie. Shield says he listened to see if Detrie referred to Nicole in the past tense. Shield says Detrie did not. Shield testified that Detrie seemed concerned.

Shield says he assisted in the search warrant at Detrie's home where he found marijuana and a pipe with "black burn residue."

Shield also testified about photos taken of Detrie's garage during the search warrant. He says he swabbed an area that had been sprayed with luminol. Luminol is a chemical that can highlight certain evidence, including blood.

The defense took its turn cross-examining Shield about how the search warrant was carried out. They asked drain tracks from the sinks were collected. They were not, Shield said.

Shield also testified that investigators did not take any items from the home's washer or dryer.



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