Attention turns to pizza-shop robbery in Burke murder trial

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Prosecutors turned their attention for part of the day Thursday in the Austin Burke aggravated-murder trial to a June 20 Cortland pizza-shop robbery, questioning a witness who said Burke “ran right up to me” with no mask on as Burke fled the pizza shop.

Shawn Marx of West Main Street said he was on the front stoop of his home smoking a cigarette and “someone ran out of Pizza Joe’s and ran right up to me.”

Marx said, “I could see his face. He looked at me, and I looked at him.”

Burke, 19, of Bristolville, is on trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court on charges of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated robbery in the June 12 death of Brandon Sample, 22, and the June 20 robbery of Pizza Joe’s on West Main Street.

The trial resumes this morning.

The male was only about 20 feet away from Marx “under a streetlight,” Marx testified. Marx later pointed to Burke in the courtroom and identified him as the male who ran up to him.

Prosecutors showed surveillance video showing the robber inside the restaurant for about a minute, pointing a gun at two female employees with his face covered by a ski mask, getting cash and leaving.

Chris Becker, assistant county prosecutor, questioned Cortland police Officer John Weston about a pair of Nike tennis shoes and gray sweatpants found inside an apartment across the street from the pizza shop where Burke was arrested a short time after the robbery.

Weston said he believed the shoes and pants were just like ones the robber was wearing in the surveillance video, and the sweatpants were found with the right pocket sticking out, just the way the pocket was sticking out in the surveillance video.

Police recovered a handgun and bag of ammunition from inside the apartment the next day.

The gun was registered to Burke’s mother, and $545 in cash was found in a box in the apartment the female living there said was not hers. The store reported $775 in cash was taken during the robbery.

In earlier testimony, Detective John Greaver of the Warren Police Department answered questions from defense attorney Bradley Olson Jr. for about 90 minutes.

One question was why Greaver didn’t have a tarp found near Sample’s body in the Grand River wildlife area in Bristol Township tested by a crime lab for evidence.

Greaver said he didn’t view the tarp as evidence. In later questioning by Becker, Greaver agreed he didn’t believe the tarp was involved in the case because his information was that Sample had been killed in the wildlife preserve, not that Sample’s body had been taken there and dumped.

Greaver said he didn’t have Sample’s clothing tested to determine whether it contained gunshot residue because Greaver believed it was “highly unlikely” it could contain evidence because of the number days Sample’s badly decomposed body had been in the refuge before being found.

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