Burroughs trial: Day 2

Defense attorney Tracy Klein points to tissue on the gun in a photo from the night of the fatal shooting but shows that it’s no longer on the gun that’s in evidence as Officer Stephen Graeser testifies. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

MEADVILLE — Officer Josh Freeman of the Laurel Police Department testified that Katherine Sinclair had “a rag draped over her face, just under her nose” and there was “only a small amount of blood on the rag” despite “profuse bleeding” from a gunshot wound to her head.

Freeman, who is also a volunteer fireman and medic, said he found those things “peculiar” based on his experience.

When Greg Burroughs’ defense attorney Tracy Klein got tough with him about those points on cross examination, Freeman stayed calm but held his ground.

Klein asked if he knew how much bleeding she had done before he arrived on the scene, and if the blood flow increased after he arrived at the scene.

“The blood flow was the result of the two large holes in her head,” Freeman said. 

When Klein rewinded the video to show that Freeman’s gloved hands didn’t have blood on them as he rendered aid, Freeman said, “My hands would not have been absorbing … the gloves are designed to repel blood. If a towel was there to stop the bleeding, it should have absorbed the blood. I was not using my gloves to put pressure on the wounds, I was trying to assess the wounds.”

Klein continued to question him about those points and DA Tony Buckley twice had to object to the defense attorney being “argumentative,” and Judge Dal Williamson agreed and sustained the objections.

Klein also questioned Freeman about a call he made from the hospital to Lt. Shannon Caraway about 30 minutes after he left and told her, “You might want to to watch (Burroughs) … stuff ain’t adding up,” Klein said, reading from a transcript.

“I didn’t believe things were adding up, else we wouldn’t be here,” Freeman said. “A towel was covering her airway as she was gasping for air. If was not with the intention of stopping bleeding … but some other means.”

Klein pointed out that one of the things Freeman believed was wrong in the beginning — he and the emergency room physician both thought the entry wound was the exit wound. That’s because, typically, the entry wound is smaller, but in this case, it wasn’t.

“That was just after a brief assessment, just glancing,” Freeman said. 

On redirect, Buckley asked Freeman if he thought there was anything wrong with a young officer calling a superior to tell that he had some suspicions.

“At the absolute worst, the hunch is wrong and nothing happens,” Freeman said, “but if the hunch is right, evidence gets protected. Something felt wrong. There were red flags.”

But Freeman, who is 24 and was testifying for the first time in circuit court, said he was not involved in the investigation of the case.

“My attention was devoted to saving her life,” he said.

Dr. Lisa Funte, the state pathologist who did the autopsy on Sinclair, testified, “The lack of (gunshot) residue indicates this is a distant gunshot wound.”

Funte, who is now working as a medical examiner in Maine, was flown in to testify in the trial and had to take the stand Tuesday afternoon, between LPD officers, so she could catch her flight home in the morning. Assistant District Attorney Kristen Martin handled her testimony for the state.

Funte said that there should be external and/or internal signs of residue for any gunshot wound closer than 3-1/2 feet or so. But she had to rule the cause of death as “gunshot wound to the head,” and the manner of death as “undetermined.” It could be accident, suicide or homicide, she said.

When Klein asked if Sinclair’s hair had been shaved and wounds cleaned at Forrest General Hospital, Funte said the hospital records indicated that they had.

On redirect, Martin asked Funte if she found any residue inside the wound. The pathologist said, “No.”

Martin asked, “Would a bullet wound look any different if Katherine Sinclair pulled the trigger or Greg Burroughs pulled the trigger?”

Funte said, “No.”

Jurors concluded the day by watching body-cam video from Sgt. Mark Brewer of the LPD. The veteran officer spent most of his time talking with Burroughs while the first two officers to testify, Stephen Graeser and Freeman, rendered aid to Sinclair.

Burroughs told Brewer that Sinclair “had a big falling out with her family” the previous week and that she had an appointment with a psychiatrist scheduled for the next week. Burroughs went on to say that she had been drinking and wanted to go riding in the country, but he told her they needed to stay at his house.

Sinclair tried to leave anyway, Burroughs told the officer, and backed into his garage door. He said he came out and yelled at her, saying, “You’re tearing up my garage door.” 

She responded, “I’ll fix your garage door, then bam,” he said, indicating that’s when she shot herself.

Brewer asked if they had been having any problems and specifically asked if either of them had said anything like “I’m going to kill you.”

Burroughs said no. In his opening statement, Buckley said that Burroughs sent a text message threatening to kill Sinclair six days before she died.

“No, I told her I didn’t appreciate her talking to her dad the way she did … I was raised in a good family,” he said.

When Caraway taped bags over his hands to preserve them for a gunshot-residue test, Burroughs said, “I’m nervous as hell … I mean, I know I didn’t (fire a weapon), but I’m still nervous.”

After the video was over, Judge Williamson said the trial would resume on Wednesday morning with Brewer on the stand to testify.

Laurel police Officer Stephen Graeser said, “It’s plausible, it’s very possible that she could’ve shot herself,” after a sometimes-intense cross examination by Greg Burroughs’ attorney Tracy Klein. Jurors saw a 20-minute body-cam video from Graeser trying to render aid to Katherine Sinclair, then he testified about what they saw.

Klein showed enlarged photos of the gun that fired the fatal shot thatshowed tissue and brain matter on it, called “blowback,” Graeser said. But when Klein took the Ruger .380-caliber handgun out of the evidence box, none of that was on the gun any more.

Klein questioned the handling of the evidence. He also asked why Graeser’s report said that Burroughs was being booked into the Jones County Adult Detention Center for murder, when she wasn’t pronounced dead until 14 hours later.

“Everything on my booking card came from my superior, Sgt. Michael Reaves,” he said. “It’s not my decision what he gets charged with.”

On redirect, DA Tony Buckley pointed out that Burroughs was being held on “investigative detention” while detectives tried to determine if Sinclair died of murder or suicide and, under the law at the time, could be held for 72 hours (including the weekend) while they worked the case.

Buckley noted that his office ordered Burroughs released pending a grand jury’s decision.

He also told the jury that the tissue on the gun was not an issue because there was no question whose it was.

“There were only two people in the garage, and only one had a bullet in the head,” he said.

Officer Josh Freeman’s body-cam video was shown to the jury and testimony with him will continue this afternoon. The state pathologist is also set to testify later this afternoon.

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