Week 1: Recap of George Burch's 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. 23, 2018 at 9:08 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The first week of the George Burch murder trial wrapped up Friday night after dozens of witnesses took the stand.

Witnesses are being asked to remember details from nearly two years ago, trying to give jurors a firsthand account of what happened the night Nicole VanderHeyden was murdered in May of 2016.

Starting with Friday, May 20, when Nicole VanderHeyden and boyfriend Douglass Detrie went out drinking with friends at a concert.

When the concert finished, the group moved to a new bar where Detrie and Vanderheyden got separated.

Text messages read out loud in the courtroom show VanderHeyden wasn’t happy about Detrie staying behind at the bar. One friend said it made her storm off.

"I got in front of her to try to you know console her a little bit and she just became combative,” said Aaron Kulinksi.

At the end of the night, Detrie said a friend drove him home but VanderHeyden wasn’t there.

"I figured she slept at a friend's house,” said Detrie. “Probably felt the same way I did, hungover and needed to sleep it off.”

By mid-afternoon the next day, Saturday, May 21, Detrie started calling friends and family, including her sister, trying to find her.

“I just mentioned, you know, call the hospitals, the jails, maybe go to the bars, look for her around that area. Just anything we could do,” said Heather Meyer, VanderHeyden’s sister.

Meyer told Detrie to file a missing person's report.

Meanwhile, police were already investigating a body found in a Bellevue field. News spread to friends and family.

“I didn't know what to think,” said Detrie. “Trying to stay positive but thinking, ‘Oh God that could be her.'"

It wasn't until investigators brought Detrie in for questioning that he realized the body was his girlfriend.

“I lost it at that point, just wanted to go,” said Detrie. “Just a wreck, a blur after that.”

About a day later, neighbors were telling police they found blood, hair and a cord in their yards.

“Two different pieces that appeared to be the same kind of wire that maybe had been split in two,” said Sgt. Monica Janke, a retired detective with Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities arrested Detrie after finding blood in his garage and on his shoe.

“I didn't get it. I think I said to them, “This was wrong,’” said Detrie.

Detrie was released from jail due to lack of evidence because both samples came back negative for VanderHeyden’s DNA. The blood in the garage was from a turkey.

"All these pieces of evidence we thought we had turned out to have answers for them,” said Detective Sergeant Brian Slinger, Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

A few months later, a DNA match from one of VanderHeyden's socks led investigators to George Burch.

“I assisted on a search warrant at the residence Burch came out of,” said Lt. James Valley, Brown County Sheriff’s Office. "Located a football jersey which appeared to have a red stain on it and was collected as evidence.”

At this point in the trial, the jury hasn’t heard much about Burch or how he is linked to VanderHeyden’s murder other than DNA evidence.

The jury also hasn’t heard the defense give Burch’s timeline of events for the night he's accused of murdering VanderHeyden.

Action 2 News is following the trial closely and will be back in court at 8:30 a.m. when it resumes on Monday.

Action 2 News is providing real time coverage of the trial on Twitter. Follow @AndreaHayNews for morning coverage and @BritSchmidtNews for afternoon coverage.