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Second-degree murder plea tough to hear for Brant Burke’s family

His daughter, Melanie, was disgusted by the lack of emotion displayed by her uncle when he pleaded guilty to murdering his brother
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Brant Burke is seen with his daughter, Melanie, and his mother, Elva.

Watching her uncle plead guilty to second-degree murder for killing her father was a tough pill to swallow for Melanie Burke.

Kerry Burke was originally charged with first-degree murder after Brant Burke’s body was found on a trail in Wikwemikong First Nations unceded territory, near Killarney.

“It’s beyond infuriating that he has pleaded to a lesser charge,” Melanie told Sudbury.com following Kerry’s plea on Tuesday

Melanie is Brant Burke’s oldest daughter. Her sister, Lee-Ann, is also watching the court proceedings. 

There aren’t even words to describe how Melanie felt seeing her uncle for the first time since he was arrested, but she said she was disgusted by his lack of emotion as the assistant Crown attorney read out an agreed statement of facts. 

Those facts detailed an affair Kerry had with Melissa Sheridan, Brant’s wife, and the fact she asked him to get rid of his brother for her. She even provided the .30-06 rifle Kerry used to shoot his brother, the court heard.

Sheridan is also charged with first-degree murder. She was granted bail and has yet to enter a plea. Her matter returns to court June 7.

“I really didn’t think I wanted to watch (him plead), but I don’t regret it,” she said. “Did it ever start to fire me back up, though.”

Melanie said even though they have been kept informed by police about developments in the investigation, there were some shocking details they learned from Kerry’s guilty plea.

“We were told that he was shot, and we were told the trajectory of the bullet, but we were not told that he was shot twice,” she said. “We had a bit of a hard time with that one, because it sounds like he was shot in the shoulder, then the killshot happened. As bad as that is, we were under the impression that it happened instantly.”

Court was told Brant Burke was shot twice in the back. 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 a collapsed lung.

“I have to tell myself that he didn't suffer, because the idea of that, I just can’t handle it,” she said. “It's inhuman. It is evil. It is heartbreaking. It's infuriating.”

Melanie was also surprised to hear a firearm had been recovered from a river in the area. The rifle matched the description provided by Kerry, but it hasn’t been determined to be the murder weapon. It has not been ruled out as the murder weapon either though, the court heard.

Kerry said after he shot and killed his brother, Sheridan picked up that rifle.

Melanie said she has no doubt that her uncle was manipulated into killing his brother. Court heard Sheridan offered Kerry $10,000 and Brant and Sheridan’s $60,000 home in exchange for killing Brant. 

“And some sex on the side. Really? It just blows my mind,” she said, especially given the fact Kerry likely made that much money in two months at his job.

While disappointed in the downgraded charge, Melanie said she and her family are looking at the few positives, including the fact a second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence. The issue would be determining Kerry’s eligibility for parole.

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.

“We'll get through it,” said Melanie. “I don't know how, but we will.”