Burch's friends and former girlfriend testify at murder trial

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. 26, 2018 at 8:44 AM CST
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Friends, a former girlfriend, and a couple who rented a room to George Burch took the stand Monday during day six of Burch's murder trial.

Burch is charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide for the 2016 murder of Nicole VanderHeyden of Ledgeview.

VanderHeyden's body was found on Hoffman Road in Bellevue, about three miles from her Ledgeview home, on May 21, 2016. A medical examiner has testified that VanderHeyden was strangled and beaten to death.

The first witness to take the stand Monday was Ed Jackson. Burch lived with Jackson and Ed's wife, Lynda, between January 2016 and June 2016.

The Jacksons arranged for George Burch to travel from Virginia to Green Bay. The couple allowed Burch to stay in an upstairs bedroom of their home for $100 per month in rent. Jackson said Burch was "on the outs with no place to go."

Ed Jackson says he allowed Burch to use his Chevy Blazer to go from home and work. Burch quits a job at a local diner and gets a landscaping job. Jackson says Burch struggled to pay rent and his share of the phone bill.

Jackson said Burch went out on May 20. The next day, Burch and Jackson go on a fishing trip to Racine. The duo leaves at 1:30 or 2 p.m.

VanderHeyden was murdered in the early morning hours of May 21.

Jackson says Burch slept on the drive to Racine. He says Burch had no unusual stories to tell during their trip or during the drive home to Green Bay.

Jackson testified that he and Burch watched television news coverage of the VanderHeyden murder.

STATE: "Do you recall remarking when you learned about this murder, anything about the case itself?"


STATE: "What did you say?"

ED JACKSON: "I said the scumbag that did it ought to be taken down!"

STATE: "Did the defendant have any response to that comment?"

ED JACKSON: "Not at all."

STATE: "Did you notice his attention or demeanor when these reports would come on?"

ED JACKSON: "He was pretty intensely looking at the TV."

Jackson is asked about Burch's alleged misuse of their Chevy Blazer. This appears to be the last straw for the Jacksons. They buy him a bus ticket to go back to Virginia. However, Burch chooses to stay in the Green Bay area and crash on couches.

The next witness is Lynda Jackson. She testifies that Burch fell behind on rent payments and phone payments. She says Burch liked to hang out at a downtown bar called Richard Craniums. That bar is located a few miles down the street from the Sardine Can, the last known whereabouts of Nicole VanderHeyden.

Prosecutors ask Lynda Jackson about a photo Ed Jackson took during the fishing trip of Burch holding up a fish. Lynda says she noticed "dark areas" on Burch's hand. Jackson was asked about injuries on Burch's head. She testifies that she saw no injuries to the head.

Lynda Jackson testifies that Burch never mentions any "startling events" from the weekend.

In September 2016, Lynda goes to the Brown County Sheriff's Office because she wants to know about Burch's possible role in VanderHeyden's death. It is made public that Burch's DNA was found on VanderHeyden's body. She describes being questioned about a murder. "It was pretty shocking," Lynda says.

The next witness is Green Bay Police Officer Robert Bourdelias. Bourdelais was called to the Jackson home in June for a report of a stolen vehicle. Burch had been the last person to drive it. Linda said Burch told her that he must have left the car unlocked with the keys in it. Burch drove the Chevy Blazer to Richard Craniums the night before the car was reported stolen.

"That vehicle had been involved in a vehicle fire," Bourdelias testified. The Blazer was also involved in a hit-and-run.

Bourdelias questioned Burch about this. During this investigation, the officer asked Burch to permission to download phone data. Burch completes a consent form. (The defense wanted this phone data tossed because it ended up in the hands of the Brown County Sheriff's Office during the VanderHeyden murder investigation. Judge John Zakowski ruled that the evidence is admissible because Burch gave consent for the initial search.)

Burch is eventually cleared in the case because Bourdelias cannot prove Burch was involved in the vehicle fire or hit-and-run.

After a lunch break the state calls some friends of George Burch to the stand. The friends know Burch from Richard Craniums.

Matthew Wassenberg says Burch was staying with him in September 2016. Burch was arrested Sept. 8 for VanderHeyden's murder.

Shoes are taken from Wassenberg's home. Wassenberg testifies that Burch bought a new pair of Air Jordans while he was living there.

A detective testified last week that there was a herringbone-type pattern on VanderHeyden's back, similar to the bottom of Air Jordan shoes.

A pair of Air Jordans was also taken from the home VanderHeyden shared with boyfriend, Douglass Detrie. Detrie's shoes did not have VanderHeyden's DNA, according to the detective's testimony.

The defense has accused Detrie of committing the murder.

The next person to testify was Laura Matson, a forensic fingerprint and footprint expert with the State Crime Lab. Matson says she was given shoes to compare to the impression found on VanderHeyden's body, but she was not able to positively make a match.

The next witness was John Ertl, a forensic scientist with the State Crime Lab. He was called to the field off Hoffman Road where VanderHeyden's body was found.

Ertl testifies that there was not much evidence found in the field.

Ertl was called May 24 to the Ledgeview home shared by Detrie and VanderHeyden. He testifies about using the chemical luminol to look for blood in the home. He also took video and photographs for evidence.

The next witness is Jordan Schuyler. The 22-year-old was dating George Burch in May 2016. Schulyer testifies that Burch never spoke about a homicide near Hoffman Road. She says she was in constant contact with him until he was arrested in September 2016. She testifies that she never noticed injuries on Burch.

The judge dismissed the jury after brief testimony from Detective Sergeant Brian Slinger of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

The judge, prosecution, and defense stayed after to discuss a potential witness: an expert on Progressive's Snapshot device that tracks driving habits for insurance discounts.

Last week, the judge told the jury to disregard testimony about VanderHeyden's vehicle not moving from her garage during the time of the murder. That evidence was based on Snapshot. The defense said Snapshot evidence should not be allowed because there was no one to testify to its accuracy.

On Monday, the state told Judge Zakowski that they have someone willing to testify from Progressive about the Snapshot device.

On Tuesday, the state plans to present evidence from Douglass Detrie's Fitbit while calling its last two witnesses. The defense asked for all Fitbit evidence to be barred due to questions about the device's accuracy, but

The judge, however, prohibited the state from presenting Fitbit sleep data.

Fitbit data is a new frontier in murder trial evidence, and it has drawn national news outlets to Green Bay to cover the trial.

Action 2 News reporters Andrea Hay and Brittany Schmidt are on Twitter providing real time updates from the courtroom. Follow


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