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Sep 4, 2008 3:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Neighbors worry after murder of elderly woman

Sep 4, 2008 3:15 PM

On Monday morning, Mr. Vorhaus said that Ms. Burke, a former corrections officer who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of North Haven in 1994, was not in handcuffs when she was taken into police custody the day before. “She looked pretty shook up,” he added.

Mr. Vorhaus said police had placed Ms. Burke in an unmarked police car at about 8 p.m. on Sunday. When a detective became momentarily distracted, she stepped from the car and told onlookers that she was “in a daze.” Moments afterward, she was returned to the car and was driven away.

Mr. Vorhaus said he did not know the Burkes well and that they kept to themselves. “I don’t think anyone can remember anything like this in North Haven,” he added.

Det. Lt. Fitzpatrick said the murder is “out of character” for the area and on Tuesday he added that he could not recall another murder in North Haven in recent history. He said the victim turned 100 on August 7 and was not known to be ill. She often did The New York Times crossword puzzle and could feed herself and get around well on her own.

“Ms. Burke was quite spry for her age,” Det. Lt. Fitzpatrick said.

Jean Burke has been described as a “tough” woman by community members and officials in the case, including Mr. Astarita. Recalling Ms. Burke’s opposition to a village plan to thin the deer herd through a special hunt in the 1990s, former North Haven Mayor Bob Ratcliffe said she was “one of the most difficult people I’ve dealt with in my life.”

Mr. Ratcliffe said that she was part of an animal-rights coalition and was ejected from village meetings for rude behavior. “She didn’t respect our authority,” he said. “No one was free of Jean’s wrath.”

Since her crusade to stop the hunt, Mr. Ratcliffe said Ms. Burke “kind of like dropped out of sight” and he had heard and seen little from her over the last decade.

After her bid for mayor, Ms. Burke was charged by Southampton Town Police in North Haven on August 6, 1994, after she was involved in a hit-and-run with a pedestrian. The victim was Bruce T. Davis, an attorney who operates the widely advertised 1-800-LAWYERS personal injury service advertised on television. Mr. Davis, who was walking his dog along the shoulder of Route 114, suffered a fractured ankle. Witnesses followed her over the bridge to Sag Harbor, stopped her car, confiscated her keys, and brought her back to the scene, where she was arrested.

Ms. Burke told police that she did not know she had hit someone. In an interview, she said: “My plea is not guilty. I have a code that guides me more than the 10 commandments. If I had any indication that anything was amiss, I would have stopped.”

By Thursday morning, the police tape around the Burke home had been removed and the parade of media on Payne Avenue was gone, according to Mr. Vorhaus. “It’s like everything has gone back to normal, except there’s an unsolved murder,” he said, adding that if no arrest is made by Sunday, then he questions whether one will be made. “There will be a dark haze that will forever shadow this neighborhood of whether or not police allowed a murderer to go free,” Mr. Vorhaus said.

The neighbor said the community is sympathetic toward the Burke family, but people are also concerned for their well being.

“There’s a lot of woods here. There’s a lot of places someone could sneak up on you,” he said. “Let’s solve the crime.”

Detectives are asking anyone with information regarding the murder case to contact the Suffolk County Homicide Squad at (631) 852-6392.

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In regards to North Haven residents worried, I think the SCPD Homicide statement in the media right after the murder, that area residents should not be too concerned about their safety, indicates who they are focusing on as a suspect. The daughter leaves the house for an hour and returns to find her 100 year old mother murdered? It does not make sense. There has to be a motive. Also I read that the Sag Harbor dump was closed on Labor Day for a search by police after the daughter stated she stopped ...more
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Sep 5, 08 10:20 PM
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