Ex-Fort Campbell soldier charged again in 2 slayings

FORT CAMPBELL — A Fort Campbell soldier was charged Friday in a military court with the 2007 slayings of his estranged wife and her former mother-in-law.

In a news release, Army officials said they had brought charges of premeditated murder against Sgt. Brent Burke.

The Army's action comes less than two weeks after a Kentucky judge dismissed murder charges against Burke in the shooting deaths but left the door open for charges to be brought back.

Burke has been tried four times in the September 2007 shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Tracy Burke, and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer, in Rineyville in Hardin County. There have been two mistrials and two hung juries in the case. The prosecutor then sought to drop the charges.

The news release said Burke was in pre-trial confinement in a civilian jail and would face an Article 32 investigation, which determines whether there is enough evidence for him to face a court martial or other disciplinary action.

In dismissing charges against Burke last month, Hardin County Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton did not order him released. Instead, Easton's order said Burke was to be turned over to the Judge Advocate General at Fort Campbell. Easton's order does not say why military authorities requested custody of Burke.

A Fort Campbell spokesman said late last month that the Army was treating Burke "like we would an AWOL soldier" who needs to go through the process of being discharged from the military.

After the prosecutor sought to drop the most recent charges, the families of the two women asked Easton not to dismiss the charges against Burke, complaining to the court that Hardin County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Shaw did not consult with them and was unavailable to talk about the case. Shaw, in affidavits, cited evidence problems with the case, primarily a lack of physical evidence tying Burke to the killings.

Both sides submitted affidavits to Easton to review. The judge concluded that 24 jurors heard the testimony and reviewed the evidence, with 14 thinking Burke was guilty and 10 not convinced.

Easton determined that Shaw's request to dismiss the case wasn't counter to the public interest. But the judge turned away Shaw's request to make the dismissal final, allowing prosecutors to bring charges in the future if new evidence emerges.