Panel convicts Ft. Campbell soldier in double slaying

FORT CAMPBELL — A Fort Campbell military panel has convicted a Fort Campbell soldier of killing his estranged wife and another woman in Hardin County.

The Army charged Brent Burke with murder in the shooting deaths of Tracy Burke and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer, after civilian authorities in Hardin County dismissed charges against him due to four mistrials.

The women were found fatally shot at Comer's Rineyville home in 2007 after young children in the home called authorities.

Two children testified during the court-martial that Brent Burke shot the women, but defense attorneys pointed to inconsistencies in their stories and questioned their credibility.

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday morning and WAVE TV in Louisville reported they returned with a verdict later in the day.

The station reported Burke was found guilty of premeditated murder, breaking and entering, child endangerment and obstruction of justice in the case.

The Kentucky New Era reported that defense attorneys for Burke rested their case Monday after calling one witness — a state police detective who testified about inconsistencies in what the two children, Burke's stepson and son, said they saw the night of the slayings. Both boys testified Saturday that Burke was the shooter.

The younger boy, who was 4 at the time of the slayings, testified that he awoke to see his father standing in the doorway of the bedroom with a gun. The older boy, who was 9 at the time of the slayings, testified that he didn't see the shooter's face, but recognized his stepfather's voice.

One of Burke's attorneys, William Carter, questioned detective Mark Gillingham about differences between the boys' initial statements and their testimony. Carter said their stories changed and weren't credible.

During closing arguments, the defense said the children's testimony was the only direct evidence linking Burke to the crime scene.

"I believe we just heard a lot of theory and not a lot of fact," John Shaughnessy, another attorney for Burke, said during his closing argument.

The prosecuting attorney, Capt. Janae M. Lepir, noted in her closings that shortly before the killings Brent Burke had told others he was going to kill his estranged wife.