Burwell found guilty
Nov 09, 2012 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
One year and six months after the death of a prominent Odessa couple, the man accused in their horrific stabbing deaths was convicted and sentenced to three terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
James Doyle Burwell, 28, was convicted Thursday by an Ector County jury of three counts of capital murder in connection with the stabbing deaths of Dick and Peggy Glover, with the life in prison sentence being automatic after District Attorney Bobby Bland waived the death penalty in August.
As the verdict was read in Judge Denn Whalen's 70th District Court, the entire courtroom was still and silent, eventually giving way to the quiet sobs of Burwell's grandmother and an unidentified woman who sat with her in support of Burwell.
Both the Burwell family and the Glover families declined comment after the verdict was read.
Bland said he was happy with how quickly the jury returned its verdict, in a little more than 30 minutes, and that the evidence dictated it.
"The person that committed this crime will die in prison, where he should die," Bland said.
Defense attorneys Ray Keith and Dennis Reeves declined to comment in keeping with the policy of the West Texas Regional Public Defender's Office in Lubbock.
A juror in the case, who requested her name not be published, said despite the quick verdict, jurors wanted to make sure they got it right and did not vote right away.
The juror said everyone first discussed the case, the problems with the case and their general thoughts before voting on a verdict.
"I just wanted to make sure that Mr. Burwell got as much of a fair trial as he deserved, but also make sure justice was served," she said. "Even though nothing really put him right there with the murder weapon, I felt comfortable with the decision we all came to."
After the vote, the juror said the room was emotional, and some shock set in.
"We all sat there for about 30 seconds in silence," she said. "And then there were some tears."
The jurors said a couple of the jurors began crying, at which point other jurors asked several times if they were sure about their decision and whether they wanted to revote or delve further into the evidence.
But she said both were confident and one was crying for the families, not the decision.
The verdict capped off nearly a week of trial in which almost 400 pieces of evidence were submitted to the court, and a violent picture was painted on the final day with the autopsy report.
Dr. Marc Krouse, who performed the autopsies of Dick and Peggy Glover at the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office, said Peggy Glover died of a cut to her neck and Dick Glover died of between two and four stab wounds to his chest and back.
Peggy Glover's autopsy revealed that a cut to her neck, which in pictures looked about an inch deep, severed her carotid arteries and larynx, both of which would have been fatal within a minute, Krouse said.
"You might as well be decapitated," he said.
Peggy Glover also had several defensive injuries on her arm, Krouse said, with about 11 areas of blunt trauma on her body, none of which were "more than trivial" when compared to the neck wound.
Dick Glover was stabbed three times in the chest, Krouse said, with two of those wounds cutting his aorta and perforating the pulmonary artery, both of which would prove quickly fatal on their own.
But Krouse said there were five other stab wounds, some more serious than others, that would have contributed to his death, even when not taking into account rapidly progressing heart disease.
Dick Glover also had numerous defensive wounds, Krouse said, including deep cuts on his right hand where he tried to grab the knife or ward it off.
Throughout the trial, Bland set about proving Burwell's involvement in the deaths of the couple, much of which was documented on paper, video or eyewitness statements, save for the two-hour window when the deaths are suspected to have occurred.
Crystal Williams, who said she was a former girlfriend of Burwell's, said she last saw him at about 4:30 a.m. May 22, 2011, after having spent part of the night at his apartment before he told her he was going to meet with his grandmother in the early morning.
She said he then went the opposite way of his grandmother's house, but she didn't see him after that.
Several witnesses claimed to have seen the Glovers on May 21, 2011, the day before their deaths. But on May 22, 2011, only one witness could claim to have seen the couple.
Neighbor Melvin Kelly said he last saw them just before 4 p.m. May 22, 2011, when they were coming back to their home.
Although it was not stated during the trial, Burwell's family was accused in a search warrant affidavit of concealing his bloody clothes shortly after the couple's death and washing the clothes.
His stepmother, Tisha Burwell, has been charged with tampering with physical evidence.
The next point on the timeline in the couple's death is 6:13 p.m., when James Burwell purchased several items at the Murphy's USA convenience store, 2400 W. Loop 338, and then purchased several more items at the Wal-Mart, 2450 W. Loop 338, according to receipts entered into evidence.
Bland put the sales associate and security officer from Wal-Mart on the stand to testify that James Burwell purchased a laptop and several other items at the store with Peggy Glover's credit card.
James Burwell then showed up again at a Sonic, with a receipt time stamped at 8:43 p.m. May 22, 2011.
Not much is clear about what happened during this period, but a GPS signal from a cell tower to the Glover's Lincoln Navigator, which James Burwell was driving, placed him still in Odessa as late as 9:17 p.m. May 22, 2011.
The owner of a Howard Johnson motel in Lubbock testified that James Burwell then checked in at his motel about 10:53 p.m. May 22, 2011.
The next morning, at about 8:45 a.m. May 23, 2011, remodelers Israel Martinez and Caleb Bryant found the couple dead in their home and immediately called the police.
Crime scene photographs showed Dick Glover lying facedown with a knife sticking out of his back and Peggy Glover lying at the end of a trail of blood.
Investigators soon discovered that Dick Glover's family placed a GPS tracking device on the Lincoln Navigator missing from their garage because the man was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
The Navigator was then tracked to the Howard Johnson motel where James Burwell was staying, and he was arrested after walking out of the motel room and placing a back pack in the vehicle.
James Burwell declined to be questioned by police after being read his Miranda Warning.
James Burwell was convicted on three counts of capital murder. The first count is for the killing of two people in the same criminal act. The second and third counts are for the individual murders of Dick and Peggy Glover during the course of a robbery or burglary.
Bland waived the death penalty in August after more than a year with it on the table. He said family members requested and approved the waiver of the death penalty.
Contact Jon Vanderlaan on twitter at @OAcourts, on Facebook at OA Jon Vanderlaan or call 432-333-7763.
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