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Senior Attorney General speaks to Police Commission about Burns case

Unsolved case is ongoing, Strelzin says, and public has nothing to fear

STACEY BURNS at her daughter’s preschool graduation. (Photo courtesy of family) (click for larger version)
February 17, 2011
WOLFEBORO — At the request of Police Chief Stuart Chase, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin, who oversees the New Hampshire homicide unit, interrupted his vacation time to attend the Feb. 10 Police Commission meeting in order to provide an overview of where the division stands today in regards to the Stacey Burns murder case.

In charge of the case since that ill-fated day in May 2009, Strelzin spoke candidly of why the case hasn't yet been solved and why the bureau believes the general public has nothing to fear.

"Unfortunately we did not get enough evidence to make an arrest and we don't have enough evidence yet to make an arrest," stated the prosecutor, who assured the investigation is ongoing.

Citing double Jeopardy as a reason why the division would be reluctant to make a speculative arrest, Strelzin explained how "it takes as long as it takes" to solve a case.

"Our job is to get it right. We obviously want to solve cases as quickly as we can,… [However] we only get one chance."

The justice system's double jeopardy precludes the retrial of a defendant on the same or similar charges if he or she has been found "not guilty," even if later down the line some great evidence is revealed.

"If the defendant is found 'not guilty' he or she walks out the door and we are done forever, which is why we have to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Until we have that much quality evidence we don't make an arrest."

Cases generally get harder to solve as time goes on, Strelzin explained, but at the same time, new opportunities to solve a case can evolve. People who were initially reluctant to talk may come forward as loyalties change and relationships break up.

In the Burns case, Strelzin said, "We have evidence, but not enough to make an arrest and that is what the state police are continuing to build on."

Regardless, Strelzin is still confidant Wolfeboro area residents have nothing to be afraid of. Given the specifics of the case and the history of murder cases in New Hampshire, he said, "There is nothing about this case that we've learned that leads us to believe that the general public is at risk because of what happened to Stacey."

Whether good or bad, murders in New Hampshire are typically committed by people who know each other and are more often then not domestic violence-related. Usually confined between two specific individuals with a history, most New Hampshire homicides are the result of something specific happening between the two, leaving one person disgruntled. It is for these reasons that Strelzin said he does not believe that there is any possible risk to the Burns children as well.

With so many speculations circulating around town as to why the case has yet to be solved, Commissioner Ron Goodgame saw this as a chance to put to bed some of the rumors.

"This has not become a cold case," Strelzin responded when asked by Goodgame. "Cases that do not have a quick arrest often have periods of activity and then dormancy, and then they are active again. This case has been active for the last couple of months."

Activity however, should not be confused necessarily with new leads. Though occasionally new information will come in, activity is usually generated by the division's own efforts to stir up new ideas and create more leads.

Goodgame brought up an editorial written in the Jan. 20 edition of the Granite State News by Tom Beeler just prior to the 20/20 episode in which Beeler questioned whether or not it was probable that the Stacey Burns and Bobbie Miller Cases were related. This, Strelzin said, was "extremely unlikely," and added that the possibility of there being another potential victim was highly improbable.

However, keeping in mind that each case is unique, he did agree that many of his comments were applicable to both cases.

Also the editorial had mentioned that, among other things, State police might lack sufficient resources. Whether or not this was critical of the division Strelzin responded that when it comes to homicide investigations, "because they're rare and the most devastating kind of case," resources are not an issue.

"…I don't have any issues with resources in this case. If something needs to get done, it gets done," he said of both in-State forensic testing and any out of state expertise that is needed. "Money and resources are not the issue. It's evidence. And that's what happens in every case."

In respect to evidence, Goodgame asked if there was any truth to the speculation that when Wolfeboro Police first arrived at the scene of the crime the first responders messed everything up.

"That isn't true at all," replied Strelzin. While mistakes do sometimes happen, coordinated efforts minimize errors, he explained. "No mistakes were made by the Wolfeboro Police Department in this case, absolutely none."

Later he added, "The Chief and the department have been great to work with. We don't have any concerns what so ever and we're very appreciative of all the cooperation we have received."

While it's unfortunate circumstances that brought the two divisions together, the local authorities will continue to aid the New Hampshire State Police throughout the ongoing investigation.

"The lack of evidence in a case, as in this case, is nothing to do with a lack of hard work and diligent work," said Strelzin. "It is just some cases are harder to solve than others."

This case is actively being investigated. Anyone with information that might be useful should call the N.H. State Police Department of Investigations' 24-hour tip line at 223-8566.

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