DNA evidence is focus of fifth day of Burch trial testimony

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. 23, 2018 at 8:35 AM CST
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The state continued to call witnesses to the stand Friday on the fifth day of the George Burch murder trial.

Burch is standing trial for 1st Degree Intentional Homicide for the death of Nicole 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.

The trial is scheduled for two weeks.

DNA evidence and Douglass Detrie

DNA analyst Kevin Scott with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab in Madison testified Friday afternoon about evidence prosecutors say tied the murder to Burch and exonerated VanderHeyden's boyfriend, Douglass Detrie.

First, Scott gave the jury a brief explanation about how DNA and Y-chromosomal testing works, and how it can implicate or eliminate suspects.

The state crime lab started receiving evidence from the VanderHeyden murder. Up to 10 of the first pieces submitted in a new case are given high priority, he said. After testing some pieces, Scott said he verbally communicated some results to investigators before the written report was done because they were "time sensitive."

Scott said Burch's DNA profile matched swabs taken from the victim's ankles, right wrist, right forearm, right-hand fingernail clippings, left arm, left palm, and "non-sperm" vaginal and cervical swabs.

Under cross-examination, Scott said VanderHeyden's bra, underwear and left-hand fingernail clippings found DNA from multiple male contributors, but Detrie and their baby son were the major contributors (VanderHeyden was breastfeeding).

The defense also asked if it's possible to miss DNA with a swab, and Scott acknowledged it's possible some DNA is left behind.

Earlier he testified a blood sample from the garage of VanderHeyden and Detrie's home was animal blood. He tested Detrie's sneakers and found no blood on the right shoe, while a swab on the left shoe was inconclusive. "If the 'inconclusive' test on the left Air Jordan was blood, wouldn't it have enough DNA to test?" District Attorney David Lasee asked.

"Typically it would," Scott answered.

Scott said a cable, which investigators believe was used to strangle the victim, had DNA from VanderHeyden and a male -- but that male wasn't Detrie, a friend of Detrie's who was with him the night of the murder, or other known males.

Looking for Evidence

The first witness to take the state Friday was Madison Kniskern from the Wisconsin State Crime Lab. Kniskern testifies about looking for DNA or blood in a car. The car was driven by Gregg Mathu on the night of the murder. Detrie was his passenger. Mathu testified that they drove around looking for Nicole after she left a bar on the night she was murdered.

Kniskern says she used the chemical luminol to detect trace amounts of blood. She testifies that there was a trace amount of blood found in the third row of seats in Mathu's SUV, but there's been no testimony as to whose blood it is.

The state calls Detective Sgt. Brian Slinger of the Brown County Sheriff's Office to the stand. He arrived at the crime scene after Nicole VanderHeyden's body was moved. Slinger said he looked for items that could've caused blunt force trauma to the head but found nothing.

Slinger also discussed a pair of Air Jordan shoes taken from Detrie's garage. He said there was a herringbone-type pattern on VanderHeyden's back. Air Jordan shoes have that pattern.

Slinger testified that there was blood in Detrie's garage. There were smudges and stains consistent with blood in VanderHeyden's car. Slinger says there was blood in a bathtub, blood on a sweatshirt, and blood on some tissues found in a bathroom.

Detrie arrested and released

Based on on this evidence, Slinger decides to arrest Detrie, he testified. He arrested Detrie at his home.

Slinger said that no evidence was found in Detrie's car, which Detrie earlier testified he left at the Watering Hole in Green Bay because he was too drunk to drive.

Slinger testified there was possible blood on the Air Jordans, but the shoes did not have VanderHeyden's DNA.

Slinger said insurance company information shows VanderHeyden's vehicle never left the garage on the night of the murder. However, the judge instructed the jury to disregard this testimony because it involves a device called trustSnapshot from Progressive. The defense said their team was not given time to research the Snapshot device. Also, neither side has an expert from Progressive scheduled to testify about the device's accuracy.

Ultimately, lab tests came back to show the blood in the garage was from a turkey. (Detrie has testified that he's a hunter). Other blood found belonged to VanderHeyden's children.

Detrie was released from custody "based on a lot of facts found in the 18-19 days of the investigation," Slinger testified.

DNA fingers someone else

George Burch was arrested for VanderHeyden's murder on Sept. 8.

Det. Slinger testifies that George Burch's DNA was found on VanderHeyden's body. A hit came back from a national database.

Slinger says he learned Burch had a prior contact with Green Bay Police. Police investigated him in a hit-and-run case. During the investigation, Burch gave police consent to search his phone as a way of clearing his name for the hit-and-run.

Slinger says the data from Burch's phone contains Google dashboard information that tracks a person's whereabouts through GPS.

Slinger says officers ran surveillance on Burch, who was living in Green Bay.

The detective testified that hundreds of items were submitted to the State Crime Lab for the VanderHeyden case to confirm as much DNA as possible.

After a break, it was time for the defense to question Slinger. They asked the detective who was arrested first based on evidence and search warrants. Slinger said that was Douglass Detrie.

DEFENSE: Eventually all signs pointed to Douglass Detrie?

SLINGER: In the beginning, yes.

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