The son of a murder suspect and the son’s former girlfriend gave slightly differing accounts in court Wednesday of the moments before and after a fatal shooting outside the suspect’s home.
Leland Burns, 57, of Rockfield, is on trial for murder and tampering with physical evidence. He is charged in connection with the death of 20-year-old Casey Olmsted, who was shot outside Burns’ residence at 2514 Galloway Mill Road in the late hours of Oct. 26, 2009. Olmsted was pronounced dead the following day at The Medical Center.
Patrick Burns, Leland’s 19-year-old son, testified for the prosecution Wednesday in Warren Circuit Court, taking jurors through a series of hostile text messages he exchanged with Olmsted.
Texts from Olmsted alluded to a sexual relationship he had with Latasha Sampson, Patrick Burns’ former girlfriend who was living with the Burnses at the time.
Sampson and Patrick Burns shared a cellphone, and Sampson testified Wednesday during questioning from Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron that she accepted a friend request from Olmsted on Myspace about a week before the shooting.
On the night of Oct. 26, 2009, Olmsted sent a text to the cellphone shared by Sampson and Patrick Burns asking for Sampson. An hourlong texting exchange grew heated, with threats and obscenities traded back and forth.
Sampson typed the last text to come from Burns’ phone, he said, and it urged Olmsted to “drop it,” warning him not to come to the Burnses’ house or he would get shot. Olmsted replied with two messages - the first said he was coming over and the second, sent at 10:15 p.m. Oct. 26, 2009, said, “Shoot me.”
Olmsted arrives; argument resumes
Minutes after the last text message, Olmsted pulled into the Burnses’ driveway in a Honda Civic registered to his father, Ken Casey, then backed out and stopped in the middle of Galloway Mill Road in front of the home, according to testimony.
Patrick Burns, realizing that Olmsted might be outside, said he picked up a .40-caliber Glock handgun before setting off toward the front porch.
“I start walking toward the door. … My mom sees the gun in my hand and she stops me before I get to the door,” Patrick Burns said.
Moments later, Leland Burns took a .45-caliber handgun out of a drawer in the kitchen area and went outside. Patrick Burns said he heard three or four shots, then saw his father return inside and set the gun on the kitchen table.
Differences emerge in testimony
Patrick Burns said he did not recall his father speaking after the shots were fired, but Sampson gave a different account of the immediate aftermath during her testimony.
Sampson, who testified before Patrick Burns did, told jurors that after the shots were fired, Leland Burns came back inside, closed the door and talked to her.
“He asked me if I thought they would come back and I told him I didn’t think so,” Sampson said. “He kept asking me if they’d come back.”
Sampson said she was worried there were other people in the car with Olmsted. She testified that she spoke to Olmsted over the phone shortly before he arrived and that she heard voices in the background.
Another difference in their accounts concerned the sex Olmsted had with Sampson.
Sampson denied ever telling Patrick Burns that Olmsted raped her, but when Patrick Burns was questioned by Leland Burns’ attorney, Brad Coffman of Bowling Green, he said that Sampson claimed to him that she had been raped by Olmsted.
After Olmsted was struck by a bullet, the car he was in traveled 253 feet on Galloway Mill Road before coming to a stop off the shoulder.
Sampson and the Burns family were notified minutes later by Jerelyn Muth that a car had been involved in an accident. Muth, who was driving home from work in Simpson County that night, said she came upon the Honda Civic and saw a man inside slumped against the driver’s side window.
Sampson testified that she realized it was Olmsted in the car when his cellphone fell out of his pocket as they were leaning him back. Sampson also said she noticed two additional cellphones in the back of the car, adding to her belief there were other people with Olmsted earlier.
No other witnesses, including numerous law enforcement officials, testified seeing or collecting any cellphones from the car other than the one belonging to Olmsted.
Parade of law enforcement, expert witnesses testify
Four members of state police Post 3 in Bowling Green and a KSP firearms examiner were among the experts who testified about their actions during the investigation.
KSP Trooper Brad Bowles was the first law enforcement officer who arrived at the scene, having been called to respond to what he initially believed was a single-vehicle accident.
As paramedics treated Olmsted, Bowles said Leland Burns was peering over their shoulders to the point of interfering with their work, even after he was asked to stand back.
“I made a point to roughly address Mr. Burns and ordered him to back away at that point,” Bowles said.
A volunteer firefighter at the scene indicated to Bowles that Leland Burns was peering out at the scene from behind a tree in the woods about 50 feet from the vehicle. Bowles was informed a short time later by one of his supervisors that Olmsted had been shot, and detectives would be responding to the scene.
KSP Detectives Tim Adams, Chad Winn and Brad Stevenson also testified about their roles in the case.
Adams, the lead detective, interviewed Leland’s wife, Mary Burns, at the scene, assisted investigators in looking for bullets and shell casings at the scene and arranged for Olmsted’s car and cellphone to be processed as evidence.
During cross-examination from Coffman, Adams was asked how he could be sure there was no one in the car with Olmsted at the time of the shooting. Adams said he spoke with relatives and friends of Olmsted and saw several personal items in the passenger and back seats.
“There’s no evidence to support that anybody ran off,” Adams said.
Winn helped process the crime scene and allowed Leland Burns inside the house to assist in the search for the suspected murder weapon, which authorities had spent hours trying to find. At a suggestion from Burns, Winn found the .45-caliber handgun in a boot under the kitchen table around 11:15 a.m. Oct. 27, 2009, the detective said.
Winn said he did not know how the gun got into the boot when questioned by Coffman.
Stevenson spoke about recovering three bullets found in a tree across from the Burns’ front porch, along with three shell casings found in the front porch area. Stevenson did not recall at what angle the bullets entered the tree and did not recall them being examined by a ballistics expert.
Jeffrey Doyle, a firearms examiner for the KSP, determined through tests that the bullet recovered from Olmsted’s body was shot from the .45-caliber pistol discovered in the Burnses’ home.
Olmsted’s father testifies
A professor at Hopkinsville Community College, Ken Casey spent Oct. 26, 2009, celebrating his birthday and traveling to Louisville with his family.
Casey returned to the Bowling Green house where he lived with his wife and Olmsted. Casey said he went to bed and was unaware that his son had taken his Honda Civic to the Burnses’ residence that night.
Questioned by Cohron, Casey said he was en route to work on the morning of Oct. 27, 2009, when he was contacted by the KSP and notified of his son’s death.
Under cross-examination, Casey said that his son’s license was suspended, he did not ask to drive the Honda that night and Casey Olmsted had no keys to the car.
Testimony is scheduled to resume today.