Kerry Burke told the court in pleading guility to second-degree murder on Tuesday that he was sleeping with his brother’s wife when she promised him $10,000 and a home if he would “get rid of the problem.”
That “problem” happened to be Kerry’s own brother, Brant Burke, and on Oct. 19, 2020, Kerry fatally shot Brant in the back while they were moose hunting near Killarney.
Kerry pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on May 10 via Zoom from the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene. He was originally charged with first-degree murder.
Brant Burke’s wife, Melissa Sheridan of Sudbury, is charged with first-degree murder in the case. Sheridan was released on bail in December 2020. Her matter returns to court June 7 to be spoken to.
Kerry is being represented by Sudbury lawyer Glenn Sandberg. Sheridan is represented by Toronto lawyer Michael Lacy.
As part of the plea, assistant Crown attorney Stephanie Baker read an agreed statement of facts into the record on Tuesday.
Provincial police were called when a body was found on a trail in Wikwemikong First Nations unceded territory, near Killarney. At the scene, officers found Brant’s body lying face down on top of a .308-calibre rifle, which contained a live round in the chamber, the court heard. A post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death was two gunshot wounds, one to the upper left back, the second to the posterior left shoulder. The gunshot to the upper left back caused “massive damage” to the lower lobe of the left lung and multiple ribs, leading to exsanguination, or severe blood loss, as well as pneumothorax, a collapsed lung.
For a month, detectives continued to investigate.
Brant’s family was beside themselves with grief and disbelief. His daughter, Mel Burke, told Sudbury.com recently she spent that month trying to console her uncle, unaware it was him who had killed her father. She said her father and her uncle were best friends.
On Nov. 24, 2020, police officers visited Kerry’s home after family members reported him missing. Officers went to check on his mental well-being. They found him in the garage, and he was visibly upset, the court heard. He told officers he missed his brother.
Officers convinced Kerry to turn over a firearm that was in his vehicle and to attend treatment voluntarily the following morning.
Brant and Kerry’s family were also there that day, and they alerted the officers to the fact Kerry was hiding letters in a book. Officers seized those letters. In those letters, Kerry admits to planning with Sheridan to kill Brant.
The plan to kill Brant started in June 2020, the letters stated. Sheridan did not want her husband to get half the company, CRCS Recreation, that she owned. They were separated at the time Brant was murdered.
Kerry and Sheridan started a sexual relationship. They had sex twice before Sheridan asked Kerry to “get rid of the problem,” promising him ownership of the home she owned with her husband and $10,000 in return.
In the statement of fact, Kerry said he was “blown away” by the request.
About a month later, Kerry and Sheridan had sex again, and that’s when he agreed to kill his brother, court heard.
When he was arrested, Kerry told police he used a .30-06-calibre rifle that Sheridan gave him.
Kerry said after he shot and killed his brother, Sheridan picked up that rifle, and that he no longer has it.
For months, Kerry contemplated killing his brother, court heard, and the decision to do so came on Oct. 19, 2020, when they were moose hunting. At about 9 a.m., while they were walking along a trail, with Brant ahead of Kerry, Kerry shot his brother from behind. The first shot was from the hip, and then he fired a second shot to “finish him off,” court heard.
Following Kerry’s arrest, police seized several firearms from his home, but they were excluded as the gun that fired the bullet casing found at the scene.
A provincial police dive team searched waterways below bridges along Highway 637 close to the murder scene on May 24, 2021. Divers found a .308-calbre bolt-action rifle with an attached scope that matched the description provided by Kerry. It was sent to the Centre for Forensic Science for analysis. It could not be eliminated as a rifle used to fire the bullet jacket seized by police at the scene, but it couldn’t be confirmed to be the murder weapon categorically.
Kerry will return to assignment court on June 7 to discuss sentencing dates. A Gladue report has been ordered to assist in sentencing, and it will take six to eight weeks for that report to be finalized.