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Burns' husband denied restraining order against former boyfriend

Antagonism evident in courtroom hearing

June 18, 2009
OSSIPEE — Tensions from the unsolved murder of Stacey Burns on Monday, May 10, spilled over into the Carroll County Superior Court last Wednesday, June 10, when former husband Ed Burns, 47, petitioned for a restraining order against stalking by her former boyfriend James Vittum, 50, of Tuftonboro.

Burns wrote to the court, "I am in fear for my safety and that of my children."

Burns' lawyer, Stephen White, brought four incidents forward in a stalking petition to Superior Court Judge Steven M. Houran, which stated that on Monday, June 1, Vittum was parked across the street from Carpenter School, where Burns was dropping off three of his children. He said that in the afternoon, when he went to pick them up, Vittum was in his truck on Union Street even though he had no children attending Carpenter School, and followed them most of the way to their home at 146 North Main St. before turning right on Friend Street.

Burns also claimed that Vittum was stopped on Friend Street, across from his house, on June 2 and that on June 4, he saw Vittum was at Kingswood Regional High School at the time he was bringing his older children to school.

Burns, under questioning by White, said that his children were "scared because no one has been apprehended [for the murder of their mother]. There are a lot of unknowns, and I don't see why he should be following me around."

Vittum said that he has known Stacey Burns for about two and a half years, and was her boyfriend for about a year, and claimed that he was threatened by Ed Burns on two occasions during the course of their divorce. He said Ed Burns told him at one point, "If you get my kids, I get yours." Another time, according to Vittum, Ed Burns said, "How do you think this is going to end?" Vittum told the court, "I thought he was talking about money, but Ed Burns said, 'You're both going to be dead.'"

Ed Burns, in turn, said that he did not endanger Vittum, but "I think she could have done better. I don't like the fact that my children were subjected to his presence." When asked, "Did you threaten to kill him and your late wife?" he said "No."

Vittum, questioned by his lawyer, Peter Anderson, about his June 1 appearance outside of Carpenter Elementary School, said that in his opinion, Burns was bringing about the stalking charge because he was upset that the previous night, the evening of May 31– the first that his children were with him in the North Main Street home – Michael, age 15, and Shannon, age 12, had left the house in anger and Shannon went to the home of her best friend, Erin Vittum, the daughter of Jim and his ex wife Jamie (Michael went elsewhere).

Jamie Vittum testified that within half an hour of Shannon's arrival, after receiving a call that Burns had reported his children missing to the police, she called the police and brought Shannon to the police station.

Burns said that Jamie verbally accosted him at the station and called him " a piece of [expletive deleted]" at which point, he went to the dispatcher's window to call for a police officer. When questioned, Jamie Vittum said that when Ed walked in he was confrontational with a friend who he mistakenly thought had brought the children to Jamie's house. She testified that Burns had said, "Children have to learn that you can't do whatever you want" and that she had replied, "Neither can you, you piece of [expletive deleted]."

Her animosity toward Ed Burns was clear in questioning by White, who pressed her on why she had not called Ed Burns when Shannon came to her house rather than going to the police. She said, "I have no desire to talk to Mr. Burns… like he's going to tell me the truth?"

White pointed out that the children were returned home to their father and have remained there. She said, "Unfortunately, yes." and added, "They spend a lot of nights at their friends' houses." White scoffed at the idea, pointing out that those are school nights.

James Vittum said that he was at Carpenter School the morning of June 1 to talk to his long time family friend, Jeri McKinley, an instructional aide, who testified that she had walked back to her car to get something, and was approached by James Vittum, who expressed concern for the youngest Burns children and said that he hoped they could get some counseling.

James Vittum denied the second charge of being on Union Street in the afternoon when Ed Burns was picking his children up and following them before turning off onto Friend Street.

Anderson addressed Burn's third charge, that James Vittum had been observing the house from Friend Street in his truck, by establishing that James Vittum has been living in Wolfeboro with his ex-wife and children on King Street. He produced map showing the proximity of Jamie Vittum's home to the Burns'. Jim Vittum has a residence in Tuftonboro and works there as a logger. It was pointed out that driving up Friend Street is "a logical route to take to Tuftonboro."

James Vittum explained that he had been at Kingswood High School on June 4, Burns' fourth complaint, because his daughter had called home to ask for a t-shirt, and he was responding to her request. Jamie Vittum verified the call and response.

Houran said that the claim of stalking requires that a person knowingly or recklessly engages in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person such that a reasonable person would be concerned for his personal safety and placed in fear. "I can't get beyond course of conduct," said Houran, and noted that the first, third and fourth charges were met with innocent and credible explanations, leaving only the second charge in dispute.

He said that even if it was assumed that Burns was telling the truth, that in itself did not establish a course of action. He said to Burns that in the context of Stacey's death, he (Houran) understood where he was coming from, but noted that many of the events are typical of a small town and that a reasonable person would not be fearful.

He denied the petition, and closed with the remark that he could "offer no words of encouragement, but [could] offer hope that you find a way to avoid each other."

According to a report by Union Leader reporter Paula Tracy, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin, who is in charge of the Stacey Burns murder case, said he had people from his office at the hearing to listen to the testimony. Strelzin's office is continuing its investigation of the homicide and, as of press time, no new developments in the case had been reported.

Martin Lord Osman
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