Judge rules it’s too soon to exclude evidence in Bristol murder case
By Ed Runyan
The judge in the Austin Burke aggravated- murder case has rejected attempts to have charges dismissed because of the possibility that the killing didn’t occur in Trumbull County or because the victim’s body was cremated.
Burke’s attorney, Bradley Olson Jr., argued that Burke’s aggravated-murder charge should be dismissed because the coroner’s report on the body of Brandon Sample, 22, indicated the place of death and place of injury were “unknown.”
Sample’s body was found in a rural area of Peck Leach Road in the Grand River wildlife refuge in Bristol Township on June 14, but Olson said no evidence shows he died there.
Judge Andrew Logan of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled this week that this type of request is more appropriate after all of the state’s evidence is presented at trial.
The judge also ruled against Olson’s request for charges to be dropped based on Sample’s body having been cremated and the clothes on his body destroyed.
Olson suggested that these steps prevented the defense from doing its own testing to show whether Sample died from a drug overdose instead of from being shot.
But Judge Logan ruled that Olson failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that Sample’s body or clothing would have contained evidence exonerating Burke, 22, of Bristolville.
Judge Logan also rejected Burke’s request to suppress cellphone data police obtained that led police to arrest Burke in Cortland in the killing and a pizza shop robbery.
Police said they learned Burke was in Cortland the night he was arrested by asking Burke’s cellphone company to track the phone’s location.
The judge said data retained by a cellphone service provider such as the location of a cellphone is similar to a person’s cellphone number – in that the phone’s owner has “no legitimate expectation” that this information will remain private.
The judge also said it’s premature to decide whether to exclude text messages and other information from Burke’s cellphone from being used at his trial.