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Resident mourns loss of husband and son



Published: Sun, June 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A few days after her husband's funeral, the son of the village woman was killed in a car accident.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

MCDONALD -- A small rosebush blooms with bright pink blossoms in front of the Ohio Avenue home.

Carole Burt, 53, and some members of her family and friends planted the bush in memory of her husband, James, 56.

Burt was killed May 23 in Newark, N.J., after stopping to help when he saw a Pennsylvania State Police cruiser crashed against a guardrail.

Another loss: A few days after her husband's funeral, Mrs. Burt's son, Brian Zegelnieks, 32, of Utah, was killed in a car accident in Arizona.

He was a passenger in a car when the driver fell asleep, lost control and crashed, she said. Zegelnieks spent three days with his mother in McDonald after his stepfather's death.

The rosebush bears a blossom called "Heartbreaker."

Head chef at a Utah resort, Zegelnieks, a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, was working with youth groups, warning them of the dangers of alcohol and drugs.

Mrs. Burt described her only son as artistic and creative.

"One person shouldn't have that much talent," she said. "There wasn't a musical instrument he couldn't pick up and play and he could put any stand-up comedian to shame."

2 arrested: About two weeks after her husband's killing, police arrested a 31-year-old with a long criminal record and a 14-year-old boy, both of Newark. No court dates have been set.

Authorities have accused the two of assaulting a Pennsylvania State Police trooper who stopped when she saw a disabled motorcycle, taking her gun and radio and driving off in her cruiser.

Burt, a trucker, saw the cruiser crashed into a guardrail in the Poconos and stopped to help.

Officials believe the two men carjacked Burt, forcing him to drive them to Newark, where they shot and killed him.

Helping others was typical of Burt.

"He would stop to help anybody who needed it, but especially someone in law enforcement because he felt a kinship with them," his wife said.

Several years ago, Burt, a Vietnam War veteran, served as an Andover police officer.

Mrs. Burt last saw her husband May 21 when she drove him to the Pilot Gas Station on Salt Springs Road to pick up his truck. He planned to drive to Cleveland before taking a load to Massachusetts.

Their habits: Burt, who worked for Boncosky Services Inc. of Illinois, usually drove during the week, spending weekends at home.

"He never left without each of us saying 'I love you' or without me telling him to be careful," Mrs. Burt said. "There was nothing left unsaid."

She wondered about her husband when she didn't hear from him the next day, but she didn't start to worry until the trucking company called to tell her he hadn't delivered his load May 23 as scheduled.

A a representative from the company phoned to tell her there was a problem, and a McDonald police officer and a pastor knocked on her door later that day.

Because the caller was vague, Mrs. Burt thought her husband had a heart attack and was in the hospital. Burt's father died of a heart attack at 51, and he expected to meet a similar fate.

She learned about her husband's death from a McDonald officer, who got the news by calling New Jersey police.

"McDonald police have been absolutely fantastic," she said. "They kept me better informed than the New Jersey police and the FBI did."

Mrs. Burt isn't clear on some of the details leading up to her husband's death.

She's heard one report that he was with the suspects for only a short time before they killed him. Another report said he was with them for 15 hours.

"That's the part that keeps me from sleeping at night," she said, starting to cry. "The thought of him knowing for all that time that they were going to kill him really bothers me."

Mrs. Burt hasn't decided whether she'll attend the New Jersey court proceedings, but she wants to be at any sentencing to make a victim-witness statement.

"They robbed me of not only my husband, but they robbed me of my best friend," she said. "They are vile individuals -- I won't even call them human beings. ... I don't think they even deserve to live."

Flower planting: Mrs. Burt spent the last weekend with her husband, planting flowers in the yard. That was one of his passions.

The day before his funeral, her daughter, Kim of Virginia, Kim's boyfriend and other friends finished the planting and added the memorial rosebush.

"I wanted to be able to go to his funeral and let him know that the work was done -- that he didn't have to worry about it," she said.

dick@vindy.com




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