Did Greg Burroughs shoot Katherine Sinclair or did she shoot herself?
That’s the only question that really matters in the case that has consumed us and much of the community for more than two months. And it’s really the only question that matters.
Answering that question is the only thing that any of us should care about when it comes to the tragedy that happened in Windermere on the night of June 1.
Several times per day, people ask me what I think happened. There are a few plausible theories out there, and I’ve come up with a couple of my own.
But instead of getting into those, let me fill you in on a few things that we are NOT trying to do with our stories:
• Go after any police officer or sheriff’s deputy;
• Go after anyone at the district attorney’s office;
• Go after any judge;
• Go after any particular person or family
However, we are NOT trying to avoid any of the above, either, if that’s the result of the pursuit of truth. That’s all we’re looking for. And that’s hard to come by in cases involving Burroughs, even if the incidents he was involved in happened more than a year ago.
In October 2014, police were reportedly dispatched to his home for a domestic assault. But the then-girlfriend who went to a nearby residence and called the police was the one who wound up being arrested for public drunkenness. She appeared on the jail website and on the “For The Record” page in the paper. But there is no incident report in the records division of municipal court.
In July 2016, a deputy was dispatched to Northgate Apartments off University Avenue, where Burroughs was in a fight with another girlfriend. He was drunk and belligerent with her and the deputy, according to the incident report, and he lied about driving there. That was discovered when his then-8-year-old daughter was found asleep in the passenger’s seat of his Burroughs Diesel company vehicle. In all, he faced five misdemeanor charges, but he received no punishment for any of them, either because then-Deputy Josh Welch didn’t show up for court or Judge Howell Beech let him walk (see Page 1). We report, you decide. That one is too confusing to call. There’s no doubt that the incident happened. He just got away with it.
On June 1 this year, police were dispatched to Burroughs’ home in Windermere after he called and reported that another girlfriend, Sinclair, had shot herself in the garage of his home. Police found her in the driver’s seat of her Honda, wearing only a T-shirt, bleeding from the head, clinging to life. Burroughs’ first phone calls weren’t to 911 or to any medical professionals, but to his close friend Kyle Robertson, who is also a Laurel Municipal Court judge and Katherine’s uncle.
Burroughs had time to change clothes and scrub himself before or after making the call … Not that he had to be sneaky about cleaning up. Burroughs’ family and friends told us that LPD Lt. Shannon Caraway said a few hours later that they could clean up the scene. He was released after being detained for questioning for four days (the weekend plus 48 hours on business days). The charge on his arrest sheet was “murder,” but LPD investigators and Burroughs’ attorney insisted that he had not been charged, only detained for questioning.
A legal source who has decades of experience — let’s call him Sherlock — pointed out that there is no magic amount of time someone can legally be imprisoned absent a criminal charge. The so-called 48-hour rule applies to arrested people to be taken before a judge, he said. So, either Burroughs should have been charged or he was kidnapped or falsely imprisoned. And if it was one of the latter two, why hasn’t his attorney sued?
Sherlock also pointed out some real problems with the child custody case in chancery court that involves Burroughs and his ex-wife. The basis there is always supposed to be what’s in the best interests of the child, and the proof standard is a “preponderance of the evidence,” not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as in a criminal case. Sherlock took issue with the ruling of special Judge Larry Buffington’s decision to leave the custody agreement as it is unless there is an indictment by a grand jury. That’s an abdication of responsibility of the chancellor, Sherlock said, because he should have made the decision based on the evidence produced under oath in front of him. “Instead, a serious decision on the welfare of a child has been outsourced to the grand jury,” he said, noting that Jones County doesn’t have grand jury terms, as Buffington wrote in his decision, and that grand jury testimony is supposed to be non-adversarial and secret. “The custody of this child has effectively been transferred to the DA’s office. To outsource your decision to a secret body is bizarre, stupid or both.”
That last part could be used to describe much of what’s been going on in this case.
In the days after his girlfriend’s death, Burroughs mourned by not going to her funeral, playing a lot of golf and drinking at the Laurel Country Club and going to the family resort on Ono Island. Maybe he could hang out with O.J. now.
I don’t know if Burroughs shot his girlfriend, but I do know that he is guilty of one thing: First-degree narcissism. When he saw Katherine with a gunshot to her head, his first thought was to try to save his lifestyle instead of her life. And that’s his best case scenario.
It reminds me of Teddy Kennedy, when he crashed off the bridge at Chappaquiddick and left his companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, to drown in the car. Think about that, if you are one of the people still defending him.
Mark Thornton is chief of the Leader-Call. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.