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After a year, Stacey Burns' brother breaks the silence

STACEY BURNS hugs her brother Michael Keane on his wedding day, Oct. 12, 2003. Born 16 months apart, the family called them the “Irish twins.” (Photo courtesy of Michael Keane) (click for larger version)
May 13, 2010
WOLFEBORO — They say time heals all wounds, and a year after the brutal slaying of his sister, Stacey Burns, in the early morning hours on Mother's Day, May 10, 2009, Michael Keane says that his head is beginning to clear, "but it's been an excruciating year for our family, and for me, to see the effects on my absolutely, beloved mother and my dear sister [Kelly] is just devastating." Meanwhile, the case remains unresolved.

Michael and his sister Stacey, the family's "Irish twins," were just 16 months apart. "We went to college together and adored each other. She was always a bucket filler, a positive person," says the brother she called "my Keano."

Keane says he's just starting to come "out of a fog." It's been a year in which he couldn't think straight. He says he could function and fake it, and get through it, but admits that he was "really a zombie."

"I sometimes wake up and wonder, 'Is this really what happened to our lives, our family?' It's unconscionable!"

"To have your mother crying almost every day, the effect on the community, friends, and family just changes your life," he says as he wonders how anyone could "dare" affect their lives in that way, and how a person could take his "wonderful, loving sister's life," leaving her five children to grow up without her.

"Violent crime is different from losing someone in a more usual way, " says Keane, and though he sees himself as "pretty easy going – I tend to stuff things down, I'm not a crier – this just seems like something we shouldn't have to be dealing with."

He decries that "one person who was selfish created this whole mess, changed our lives forever…It's hard to encapsulate."

The reaction of the community, a place Stacey "locked into like you wouldn't believe," has been a source of comfort to the family. He recalls riding down the streets of Wolfeboro when he would come to visit from Texas, with Stacey continually leaning out the window waving to her many friends, her blonde hair blowing in the wind, a coffee mug in the holder at her side.

"When this tragedy happened, you could feel the anguish of the community," says Keane, who has been impressed with the care of Stacey's children in school and the support in general to the family, a lot it "behind the scenes."

When told that a walk was planned in downtown Wolfeboro for Mother's Day and that people would wear pink and green clothing and tie pink and green balloons along the street as a reminder of Stacey's ebullient personality, he said the family has appreciated the interest in the case and the organization of events throughout this past year.

Keane describes the idea of wearing bright pink, which was prevalent at her funeral and commemorative events, as "brilliant," for Stacey loved vibrant colors, as did their father. "She was a shockingly bad dresser at times over the years," laughs her brother, who admits to looking at pictures this year "more than I used to."

Though in some respects, the tragic event is not as painful as it was early on, and he is able to "file things away" and gain some perspective with time, Keane says that he will "never, ever forget that phone call" from his sister, Kelly, calling from her car as she and their mother were heading up to Wolfeboro from Massachusetts.

"There was mayhem going on in that car going up to Wolfeboro," he recalls. They reached him as he was locking up at the golf course maintenance shop where he works as the superintendent. "My sister was crying, my mother was hysterical, saying that one of the kids found Stacey lying on her bed, and that blood was everywhere, and something about yellow tape. I was wondering, 'Did she fall, or cut herself?'"

"I was hoping for best. They didn't say dead, so I didn't know at first. No one knew the final tally. I was thinking, 'It doesn't look good. Are they taking her to the hospital? No, she was dead."

Two weeks of "absolute craziness" followed. "In some respects," says Keane, tragedy can bring people closer, but though "good people coddle us as much as they can," providing some solace, the loss is deep.

While admitting to frustration that there has been no arrest and feeling tremendous anger toward the person who took so much from so many with a single violent act, Keane says, "We have to trust [law enforcement]. We can't solve this by ourselves."

Thinking about his sister's last weeks, Keane said that the family felt that Stacey "was at the cusp of turning her life around and in a new phase," following an acrimonious divorce in August 2008 from the children's father, Ed Burns, with whom they now reside.

Though usually a sunny person, Keane says, "It took her down a notch. We're the kind of people who want everyone to get along. It took its toll." Regrettably, that new direction was cut off forever with her death.

Keane says that though there was a lot of anger during the course of the divorce, the family has come to believe that the children's father, Ed Burns, with whom they reside, is not the killer.

The family hopes that someone in whom the murderer might have confided and who has thus far chosen to remain silent will come forward out of respect for all those affected and bring much needed closure. So far, there's been a failure of conscience.

Varney Smith
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