Babe in the Woods: An innocent or naive person, especially one in a difficult or dangerous environment
The Watering Hole
On May 20th, 2016, Nicole Vanderheyden and her boyfriend Douglass Detrie as well as some of their friends, attended a Steel Panther concert at a bar called the Watering Hole located in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
By all accounts, Nikki and Doug enjoyed the concert and a selfie they took seemed to corroborate this fact.
As recent parents of a 6 month old boy called Dylan, they were in need of a night on the town, and had managed to get Nikki’s mother to babysit until a friend called Dallas Kennedy could take over the care of the little guy after the end of her shift.
Their friend Gregg Mathu had convinced Doug to join them by insisting that Nikki would appreciate some entertainment since she had mostly been in the house since the birth of their child. Nikki also had 2 children from a previous marriage and they were with their dad.
They arrived at the Watering Hole at around 8 p.m. and Detrie would later say that Nikki drank heavily.
He said ” She had two down and I was still on my first one, she was chugging them down.”
The Sardine Can
The concert ended at 11 p.m., and that is when their night out started to go south for Nikki.
Mathu and Detrie met up with some old friends from high school and separated from Vanderheyden and the rest of the group, mostly composed of Detrie’s friends.
When the larger group decided to go to the Sardine Can, Detrie and Mathu were not in the immediate vicinity, but agreed to join them shortly.
A lot of texting was going on to make arrangements, and Nikki went along with the group without her beau, while being none too happy about it.
Realizing that Doug had stayed at the Watering Hole and was not in a hurry to join them, she started texting him her discontent ways.
At around 11:12 p.m., Detrie started receiving angry texts. “So what bitch ya with?”
“Fuck u, abusive ass hole”
“Wow, what slut are u with, bc none of your friends know”
Doug did not seem to get why his girl was so upset and basically answered with texts like “LOL stop,” and “Be good. I’ll see you at the Sardine Can?”
He eventually realized that she was really pissed and sent this message “Hello? Tried calling 10 times.”
Not knowing the state of their relationship, one could have wondered why Nikki overreacted this way when it was obvious that Doug was simply enjoying the rest of the evening by catching up with people and drinking up a storm.
He would later say that they lost track of time.
The fact that they snorted some of Doug’s prescription for Adderall probably did not help matters.
It came out later that Doug and Nikki’s relationship had hit a few rough patches.
It was alleged that Doug had a difficult time adapting to life with 2 children and a new baby. And Nicole being a new mom was probably feeling neglected.
A Babe in the Woods
Aaron Kulinski, who was one of Doug’s very good friends and had met Nikki several times, basically led the pack to the Sardine Can.
When the girls were on the dancing floor, he basically was on purse surveillance duty. He was the epitome of a good guy.
According to him, Nikki was dancing, drinking and enjoying herself, but was getting more and more upset about Doug being a no show.
The cherry on top was when one of the girls in the group called Doug and he took the call. It infuriated Nikki because he had not answered hers earlier. And to top it all, after hanging up, the girl called Doug a loser.
That is when Nikki sprinted out of the bar fuming.
As the group was preparing to call a Uber to leave, Aaron decided to go after Nikki to convince her to join them.
When he caught up with her on Howard street, she was crying and he tried to comfort her by offering to take her home to her child. But Nikki was pushing him away and refusing to calm down.
She ended up falling on the ground kicking him and screaming at the top of her lungs. He backed out because people across the street were looking in their direction, but he still managed to get her back on her feet.
She kept walking away and in a desperate bid, Aaron yelled ”We can get you home faster to your child.” and ‘You’re a Babe in the Woods,” but she would not listen or turn around. When he last saw her, she was on her cell phone.
As his friends were calling him because the Uber had arrived, he walked back and got into the taxi. He had done his best.
While Nikki was wandering the streets quite intoxicated, Detrie and Mathu were still having shots at the Watering Hole. At around 12:20 a.m., they realized it was time to go and Mathu took the wheel in the direction of the Sardine Can.
Detrie called Nikki and said that she was slurring her words and not making any sense at all so he let his friend talk to her. It was at around 12:36 a.m.
He told her to go back to the Sardine Can and they would be there in 5 minutes.
According to Mathu, “Doug was telling her, ‘We’re on our way. Just go back to the Sardine Can. We’ll be back in five minutes. Where are you? We’ll pick you up.’
They eventually lost communication because her phone died so they drove around the bar to see if they could spot her.
The two friends entered the Sardine Can at around 1 a.m. and checked if anyone had seen Vanderheyden. In one of her texts, she had told Doug that she’d encountered a friend, so he thought she was fine and probably at someone’s place getting sober.
They had drinks at the Sardine Can and left at around 2:15 a.m. to go back to Detrie’s home. By then, he had managed to annoy the bartender and had declared that Nikki was being stupid about this.
No one from the group ever heard from Nikki again.
Nikki Go Home
Mathu drove Detrie home so they could relieve Dallas Kennedy who was a friend of Nikki who worked with her and babysat Dylan occasionally at her own house.
When they came home at 2:40 a.m., Dallas woke up but was surprised not to see Nikki because she hardly knew Doug and he was entering the home with a very loud friend while the baby was sleeping.
One really got the impression that Dallas knew about their shaky relationship and was not a fan of Doug.
She talked about wanting to leave right away, being scared and even went as far as asking Doug if Nikki was in the trunk of the car after he asked her if she had heard from her.
Dallas often sounded conflicted in her statements. She would say that Doug was concerned and kept asking her to try to contact Nikki but would throw a bomb by saying that she locked her door when she left at 3: a.m. because she was feeling scared; we never knew of what and why.
Doug who did not have her phone number, contacted her on Facebook to inquire more about Nikki. To relax, he had asked her for some pot and smoked it. The big question that kept popping over and over was:” Where is Nikki? With her sister, a friend, her parents?”
On the morning of May 21st at 3 a.m., Detrie went to bed, more or less drunk. Dylan woke him up at 6:30 a.m. and he gave him a bottle already prepared by Nicole with breast milk and went back to sleep. He got up again at 11 a.m.
He was still under the impression that Nikki had slept at a friend’s place because she was mad and hungover and would show up eventually.
He kept messaging Dallas, Gregg and Heather Meyer (Nikki’s sister), asking for some news.
He even sent a Snapchat of Dylan and dad to see if she would open it.
As they grew even more concerned, they started checking hospitals, the local jail and ended up filing a missing person report at 4:30 p.m.
In the meantime on Hoffman Road, the dead nude body of a female had been found by Richard Vandehey and two teen boys who were picking up rocks in a farm field. They had called 911 at 1:54 p.m.
2329 Berkley Road
Deputies arrived at Detrie’s house after 5 p.m at 2329 Berkley Road; a quiet residential area considered safe and friendly by neighbors. The house belonged to Detrie whose family had a development company. Mathu, Detrie’s parents, and VanderHeyden’s family were there with Doug.
Tracy Holschbach who was the sergeant assigned to the case, described Detrie as pale and hungover. She did not notice any scratches or marks on his arms and hands but he was wearing a Fitbit on his wrist. “This was not a typical missing person’s report, I knew there had been the ability for this to be something more.”
At the time, Detrie was not told that the body of a female found in a field bore similarities to Nikki.
Holschbach sat with Detrie in his kitchen and secretly recorded their conversation using a key fob camera.
He was cooperative and volunteered his phone for forensic analysis. She even asked him why Nikki called him “an abusive asshole” in a text message. “She gets that way sometimes if she’s drinking or gets something in her head.”
After the police departure, Heather received a text mentioning a body found in Bellevue and all the family members started feeling extremely anxious.
At midnight, cops asked Detrie to go to the sheriff’s office and he complied. He denied any kind of involvement in the disappearance and gave them permission to search his house.
At the Sheriff’s Office
Once he was told at the Brown County Sheriff’s office that the body they found wore a pink wristband like the one given at the Water Hole, Detrie lost it and started crying, sobbing and hyperventilating.
Detrie later said “I was trying to hold out any hope that that wasn’t Nikki,” “That pretty much confirmed it for me.”
After being picked up by his parents at 3 or 4 a.m. to go back to their house, Detrie realized that the cops suspected him of killing Nikki.
After talking to the family lawyer, he refused to give a DNA sample and waited for a warrant.
He was arrested later on while at his parents’ house on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide of Vanderheyden and held in Brown County Jail for 18 days while they investigated.
Doug and Nikki
When tragedy struck, Doug Detrie and Nikki Vanderheyden had known each other since January 2015.
A few weeks after they started dating, Nikki got pregnant and in March, Brown County Circuit Court records indicated that she filed a paternity suit naming Detrie as the father of her child.
Nikki had two children from a previous relationship and shared custody with her former husband.
Doug and Nikki eventually moved into Doug’s house. His parents’ professional activities involved business development and he had been working in many aspects of the company.
Even if Detrie and some witnesses described them as a good couple, there were many problems.
It was uncovered that in May 2016, Doug told his mom that he was not cut out for being a family man and was thinking of evicting Nicole and her children from his house.
Nikki’s friends and family were not too enthused by Doug who seemed to prefer sleeping in instead of going to work and appeared to miss his bachelor’s life.
On May 8th, Nikki had written to Detrie, ”Ne thing i even say u just snap at me, so i dont say much” Thanks for making me feel like a piece of shit everyday.” and on May 16, ”Yelling at Dylan this morning and talking about moving out. He is just a baby and feeling your hatred…it makes me want to cry all day,”
Detrie answered, ”I’m so sorry Nikki and Dylan!”
Cruel words that could have been said on bad days because Doug never had any children before and went from total freedom to instant family of three after a very short courtship.
Nicole had a university degree and worked as a part time substitute teacher and a waitress where she had met her friend Dallas Kennedy.
She was described by most as a light. A very bubbly personality and a responsible mother who loved teaching science to children.
Doug and Nikki probably had an instant attraction but it seems that the union had meshed mostly because of the arrival of little Dylan, and it was taking huge efforts on Doug’s part to put his old habits behind. He communicated with other women and sent sexually explicit content.
It was a huge change of lifestyle that he obviously tried to escape while being torn between working it out and separating.
Detrie wrote to his mom, ”Nikki is absolutely no help with trying to motivate me or get me going whatsoever, she’s nothing but negative and is just making my bad situation worse.” He sounded highly depressed.
He also added, ”This is going to be nothing but hell for 18 years”.
In spite of their disagreements, there was nothing to indicate that any violent act was in the making. Getting rid of Nikki would have made Doug a single father and it is the last thing he wanted.
After Vanderheyden nude body, except for her socks, was found on May 21, 2016, by a tree line in a farm field off Hoffman road in Bellevue, an autopsy revealed two causes of death: Strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head. The medical examiner could not determine which injuries came first.
Her body was covered with bruises and she had 240 injuries; facial injuries, a fractured jaw, injuries to genital area suggestive of sexual assault, ligature strangulation marks, blunt force trauma.
The bruising all over her body happened both antemortem and postmortem. The injuries to the head were so bad that blood pooled around the wounds which meant that she was alive for some time during the beating. There were signs she was hit with a blunt object which left irregular shapes and repetitive zigzag patterns on her skin.
Medical examiner describes Nicole’s injuries in court
DNA swabs were taken from Nikki’s body and sent for analysis to the state crime lab. But the dumping site itself did not hold many clues.
In the meantime, a neighbor of Doug and Nikki spotted blood on the street and found a wire while mowing his lawn. Thinking it was animal blood, he did not report it to authorities and threw the wire on the side of the road and forgot to pick it up.
After being informed of Nikki’s demise, he contacted the police who came to retrieve the wire and take samples of the blood. It turned out to be Nikki’s, and the wire contained her DNA as well as the one of an unknown male.
It meant that the murder had taken place near her home and her body transported to the field afterward which threw even more suspicion on Doug Detrie.
While searching the vicinity of the field where Nikki’s body was found, the investigators came across her bloody clothing, purse and other items by the guard rail of highway 172.
Their next step was to search Detries’ house, his car, Nikki’s car, Mathu’s car and take DNA swabs from him and all the individuals connected to Nicole who could have been considered as persons of interest.
Blood found in Doug’s garage turned out to be from hunting game and they could not find an iota of evidence on his shoes, clothing, body, in the home or in his car that had been left all night at the Watering Hole. The DNA analysis did not lead to any suspect and Detrie was released for lack of evidence.
After putting a DNA sample taken from Nikki’s sock in the system, it came back with a match: George Burch.
George Burch aka Big Country
George Burch was born on February 14, 1978 in Newport, Virginia and raised by a local couple after they adopted him when he was one week old.
They had a home, were working folks and gave him a decent basic education. He was involved in sports and by his own account, was very close to his father but not his mother.
By age 6, he was already nicknamed Big Country because he towered over the other kids.
George who went by his middle name Steven, grew up to be a strapping 6’7” adult who weighed 270 pounds at the time of Nicole’s murder.
Burch might have been a little bit Country but he was also a lot Rock N Roll.
In 1998, he was tried for murder but found not guilty on all five counts related to the shooting of Joey White who was a gang leader. Two jurors said that the commonwealth case was sloppy and that there was not enough evidence in the case. They demanded anonymity because they were afraid for their own safety.
Burch had been sentenced earlier that year for a burglary so they kept him in custody for his own safety, and he was facing a new felony charge for carrying a firearm after the burglary conviction.
In his defense, White hated Burch and he had enlisted his friends to beat him up twice before the shooting. It seems that Big Country was also threatened by Mob members.
Burch might not have been a gang member but he was not afraid to stare them down. Click to read the story of his trial.
Burch left the area and settled in New York state with his new wife and they raised two sons. They eventually returned to Newport, Virginia to take care of his ailing father. It did not keep him from his felon ways, but it was never high level crimes, at least that we know of.
In 2016, after the disintegration of his marriage and the passing of his father, George contacted his old fishing buddy, Ed Jackson, who lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin to ask if he could move in with him for a fresh start.
He omitted to mention that he was on probation for grand larceny and had heroine charges pending and that going to Wisconsin could land him in trouble. It was an indication of Burch’s lack of impulse control
Broke and facing an unpleasant trial, he irrationally headed to Green Bay on his friend’s dime, and left his boys behind. I do not know if he had lost visitation rights or if he paid any kind of alimony, but he seemed to remain in contact with them through texts and social media.
Beauty and the Beast
Big C landed in Green Bay and it did not take him long to find employment as a cook and for a landscaping business. He occupied a room at the home of Ed Jackson and his wife Linda where he was supposed to pay rent.
They let him borrow a truck to go to work and help with their business and he eventually drove their Chevy Blazer. Right before Nicole’s murder, Linda Jackson even added George to her cell phone package so he could get a plan and a new phone. Ed and George would go fishing and the trio would have dinner when he was not working.
George frequented a bar called Richard Craniums that was a few minutes from their house, had a 20 year-old girlfriend named Jordan Schuyler, and brought girls home occasionally. Superficially, things were going OK, but a storm was brewing in the horizon.
After the authorities got a match from the blood on Nikki’s socks, they zoomed in on George Burch.
They checked his background and realized that not long after Nikki’s murder, he had been involved in a hit & run and the torching of the Chevy Blazer he was driving.
They could never prove that he was the guilty party, but in the process, they had downloaded his cell phone data and found very interesting information about his whereabouts the night Nikki was killed.
Google board dashboard GPS data helped them realize that his phone had pinged in all the places involved in the murder of Vanderheyden and that he had incessantly researched the case on Google.
They now knew that he was at Richard Craniums, went to his home from 2:32 – 2:38, arrived on Berkley road at 3:01 a.m. and stayed there until 3:53 a.m., went on to the Bellevue field at 3:58 a.m. until 4:02 a.m. and returned home at 4:22 a.m. At 4:05, he was on highway 172 where her personal effects were found.
You add all the DNA matches found on her naked body, and his goose was cooked.
But Big C was not one to fold easily and had quite a few tricks up his sleeve.
He knew from following the case that Detrie had been arrested and that he was at he house with Dylan when he took Nikki on Berkley road. To save his butt, he concocted a story that pointed the finger at Doug, but in the process, he had to admit being with Nikki, driving her home to have sex, and dumping her body and her clothes.
It was not an easy feat but he came up with a scenario to explain their encounter and the hookup of Beauty & the Beast. It must have been very difficult for the cops and her family and friends to envision someone like Nikki socializing with Big C.
In spite of his efforts, the authorities did not buy his story and he was charged with 1st degree murder and arrested on September 7th, 2016.
He lawyered up with public defenders who got busy trying to throw Doug Detrie under the bus.
To this day, I wonder why they did not make him throw himself at the mercy of the court and cop a plea.
His team of public defenders included Jeffrey Cano, Lee Schubart and Scott Stebbins and their defense was basically that after Big C drove Nikki home, they had sex in the Chevy Blazer (the one that got torched not long after and crushed so it could not be inspected) and Detrie snapped when he discovered Nikki and Burch in the vehicle down the street and rendered Big C unconscious and proceeded to kill his girlfriend on their street by the neighbor’s home.
When Burch came to, Detrie, who was standing there waiting for him to wake up, ordered him at gun point to go dump the body at a specific spot. Once the deed was done, Burch managed to push Detrie and left in his truck without problems. And all that happened in 4 minutes. Detrie then had to walk back home with his gun while baby Dylan was allegedly left alone at home. End of tale.
Judge John Zakowski
I was surprised that judge Zakowski allowed the defense to implicate Doug Detrie, considering that the investigation did not lead in that direction, but the catch was that if he wanted to implicate Detrie, Burch had to testify.
Judge Zakowski was excellent and the epitome of fair, firm and friendly. It was a respectful and fair trial for both sides. He did not let either side badger witnesses and stopped argumentation to revert to questions during cross examination.
He did not allow prejudicial information to come in about Burch like his past trial for murder or some unflattering facts about Doug Detrie that could have influenced the jurors.
You can click to read the State’s response to the defendant’s motion to introduce evidence that Douglass Detrie murdered Vanderheyden.
I watched the trial with an open mind and gave Burch total presumption of innocence. After all, real life is sometimes crazier than fiction and I could not wait to hear his side of the story. That was obviously before I wrote this blog and any cynical comments about Big C’s defense.
The Defense – Doug Did It
Burch’s attorneys basically had no defense apart from Doug Detrie did it. During opening arguments, his attorney implored the jury to give Burch the benefit of the doubt and presumption of innocence, but did not extend the same courtesy to Detrie.
In fact, they went for the jugular and proceeded to attack him like a pack of hyenas during the entire course of the trial. They did not oppose any of the evidence but said that Doug did it. It would have been simpler to just play a tape that repeated Doug did it.
Even if Detrie’s house, his car and his garage were thoroughly inspected and searched, they tried to say that they might have missed something.
When the deputies said that Doug was broken and reacted very emotionally, they read silly emails of spats between Nikki and Doug. They came up with witnesses who said that Nikki’s car might not have been in the garage, in spite of an insurance gadget that proved otherwise and that the vehicle was thoroughly searched. They argued over the position of the front seats as if it had any importance.
They pointed out that the garage door was allegedly open all night and that they had found wires on top of the fridge. Unfortunately for them, after comparing the wires, the experts could not conclude that they were similar, and during deliberations, the jury came to the same conclusion.
When they brought up at trial that Detrie was wearing a Fitbit that recorded no activity at the time of the murder, they tried to say that the technology was not foolproof. The same with his cell phone.
Instead, they floated the theory that the man would have left a baby alone in the house to go explore a dark road to see if his girl was in an SUV with someone. And confronted with her having sex with the Green Bay giant, would have hit the giant on the head with a handgun he did not own, and brutalized his girl right then and there without leaving any DNA on her.
The defense kept repeating that Detrie had a conceal and carry permit, but he did not own a handgun so it meant nothing, but they tried to suggest that he had a secret one. It was all make believe and they really only had the fact that Nikki sent a few nasty texts to Doug as their big Ah ha moment.
It was pure character assassination with the emphasis on snorting his own prescribed Adderall once and smoking a joint.
Frankly, even if Detrie was not Mr. Wonderful, it had nothing to do with the facts and evidence of the case.
I must admit that when Big C took the stand, and started talking about his childhood, close relationship with his father, marriage and children, I found him to be quite personable. And I could then imagine Nikki talking to the man or accepting a ride from him.
It did not take away from the fact that he looked kind of scary even dressed up with a ponytail, and that, in my opinion, even drunk as a skunk, this attractive young mother still breastfeeding would have never had any physical contact with him, but Burch had scored some points.
He told the jury that he had met Nikki at Richard Craniums as she stood beside him at the bar and that they had a flirtatious conversation.
According to Burch, they had a few drinks until closing time.
My beef with this is that no witness ever came to testify that they had seen her there and when last seen or talked to, she was slurring her words and highly drunk so what are the odds of Nikki showing up at the bar looking normal and starting a conversation with a stranger?
She was known to be very friendly, but at that moment in time, she was very upset at her boyfriend and lost in the woods.
He proceeded to testify that after closing the bar, they stopped at his place, but did not stay because Jackson’s father was up; which never stopped him before from bringing girls in his room.
His first version was that he had stopped to get a condom. Maybe he was hoping for Nikki to go to his room and she refused or he really needed protection for what was to come (pun intended); they found his DNA on Nikki’s vaginal wall but not his sperm cells. During cross-examination, he did not recall if he wore one or not. Yeah right.
If as recounted, he had been knocked out during sex while his pants were around his ankle, you’d think that he would have noticed when he came to if he was wearing one when he finally pulled up his pants or at least, when he got home.
As they say, the devil is in the details.
Oddly enough, Ed Jackson’s father was never called to testify about seeing Nikki coming inside the house to use the washroom as recounted by Burch on the stand. Maybe she was simply passed out in the truck when he came in to get whatever he needed.
If Nikki had recovered and was not drunk, why did she not plug her cell phone at the bar? Burch testified that Richard Craniums had individual plugs for every patron wanting to charge their cell. She had to know that people would worry and try to call and that her little baby needed her.
More reasons to conclude that after closing time, he might have simply picked her up on the streets because she was drunk and disoriented and accepted a ride to get home.
According to Burch, Nikki gave him directions to go to her house on Berkley road but he did not know about her kid being home. OK.
According to the data, he remained parked on that road during 50 minutes.
The rest of his testimony was about having sex with Nikki in the Blazer while she laid on the back seat and he stood outside the door of the back passenger seat because he was too big to fit with her in the back.
Good save George because looking at the inside of the Chevy Blazer, you know that it would be physically impossible.
I wish the prosecution would have measured the height of the seat because I do not see a giant with his shorts around his ankles being able to have sex with a woman without having to spread his legs or go down on his knees. Without being graphic, it made no sense at all.
The only reason I can think of for Big C to describe himself having sex while standing outside an SUV with his butt in the air would be to explain how Detrie could have hit him from behind. If he was inside the Chevy, there is no way he coud have been attacked. If not so tragic, the imagery of it all would frankly be comical.
Because Nikki had injuries inside and around her vaginal area, Big C admitted having rough sex. Another difficult scenario to swallow when you think of a woman whose breast milk is probably starting to rise, wanting rough sex with a stranger on her street while her baby is a few feet away. She was a mother, not a hooker.
The only plausible explanation would be that she was half passed out.
Poor George followed suit by saying that he came to later with Detrie pointing a gun at him and that Nikki was on the ground behind the Blazer. Leading us to believe that he was hit on the head and went down to the ground; unconscious when the murder took place.
At the time, Burch had very short hair and he could not explain why he had no bump, redness or injuries on the back of his head afterwards. He went fishing with friends the next two days and saw his girlfriend and none of them observed any injury on his head.
He might have had injuries on his hands but because his work entitled that he was often scratched and bruised, they might not have remembered it months later, but who would forget seeing a head injury or not comment on it?
Linda Jackson, after reviewing an image she received the day after Nicole’s murder when her husband was fishing with Big Country, pointed out some marks on Burch’s hands that appeared on the photo.
What sounds more logical is that when she was being raped, Nikki fought hard and managed to get out of the SUV and ran into the road where he silenced her with a wire cord around the neck and she bled on the side of the street from the beating during their fight. He then carried her back to the Blazer and left blood on the road and the cord he used to strangle her with traces of his DNA on the ground in his haste to get out of Dodge.
If Detrie had found Nikki with a man, he would have been furious, but would have made sure to get her out of the car and home safely. His first thought would have been that she was being assaulted, not that she was having sex freely with a stranger. After all, he knew how drunk she was and that she could have never consented.
To add insult to injury, Big C wanted the jury to believe that as a former quarterback and a felon able to confront dangerous situations, he would not have fought back or push Detrie who was much smaller and weaker. It was getting more and more difficult to believe his story.
His language was also quite interesting, he had a real hard time repeating anything that Detrie told him. He kept saying that he was advised to do this or that which sounded too polite and business like. When asked for specifics, he did not have much to say. I took note of interesting sentences he was throwing around: Several times, instead of saying he, Burch said they when he was talking about his assailant. ”They said look what you made me do,” ”I didn’t know if it was in my own head trying to figure out what was going on.” ”I completely freaked out a little bit.”
He kept repeating that he was running out of options and wondering what his options could be. ”I didn’t know what to do, how to remove myself from this situation.” It sounded more like a man considering his options after committing a crime than someone facing an attacker. And the first thing that registered with Burch is when Detrie told him to pick up Nikki. Really? That would be the first thing you register? And he would revert to saying they instead of he. Like he was getting confused while trying to imagine the scene.
The very strange description of going to the field with Nikki and Detrie in the Blazer really stuck with me. Burch kept saying how small the SUV was and knowing his height, we know that the front seat was eating the space for the back seat. And Detrie would have been sitting there holding a gun with Nikki sitting beside him folded in two with her head towards the middle. Yikes! It is his girl and the mother of his child we are talking about.
When they allegedly arrived at the field, he described Detrie coming out of the truck leaving Burch free to flee with the dead body in the back. He said in court that he was not sure if Nikki was dead. So you would think that he would have tried to save her life if any of it was true.
Once again, he does as advised and delivers Nikki’s body on the ground and then finds the audacity to push Detrie who does not retaliate, go after him or shoot at the truck; according to this Home Alone scenario, Doug walked home while baby Dylan was fending for himself.
Burch gets into his car and does not go fast because if he said that he put the pedal to the metal, they would have realized that the absence of tire tracks contradicted his statement. He is a very practical guy.
The last whopper was about Nikki being naked during it all when her bloody clothes clearly indicated that she bled while wearing them. They were removed from her body so she would have less chance to be identified. As if Detrie could have ever done something of the kind.
Burch testified that he never told the cops about what happened to him because he was in violation of his parole in Virginia and was afraid to get caught. He also said that the disappearance of the Chevy Blazer that could have provided some clue was a fluke.
The defense closing argument was simple: Doug Did It
Contrary to what the defense tried to portray, Nikki and Doug had not exchanged angry texts. Nikki had sent them and Doug had tried to diffuse her anger with neutral replies like LOL and I will see you soon at the Sardine Can.
Dallas Kennedy testified that when she was at the sheriff’s office with Doug, she asked him what happened, and having not been informed yet of the details, he answered, “I don’t know, she hit her head and walked off.” Dallas admitted that at the time, they were both very upset and completely overwhelmed; Doug did not even remember saying anything of the sort.
The defense called this a fact and a CONFESSION. Give me a break.
She did not hit her head and walked off so it was not a fact. She was hit on the head and face with blunt force and atrociously disfigured and never walked off afterwards.
Who knows? Maybe the poor guy said I don’t know, maybe she lost her head and walked off.
You have to feel bad for Detrie who has to live with the fact that the mother of his child was assaulted and killed on their street while he was home and that she had walked off because she was upset at him. Being a jerk does not make you deserving of everything he went through in the course of this saga.
One witness said she saw Doug on the phone in front of his house and the other saw a blonde woman in the driveway who was obviously Dallas (or Nikki) who visited the morning before and drove a silver topaz SUV that looked bluish; as described by the so called retired eagle eye who had no reason to pay attention to these details.
Their investigator, April Reinerio, hurt their case more than anything by doing a silly experiment with a Fitbit she had received for free in 2015 when she signed on with Verizon for phone services. If hers was defective, it sure did not mean that the one Detrie wore was nothing but accurate.
She searched the image section in Detrie’s phone and tried to pass as evidence, a Google picture of an aerial image that included the field where Nikki was found; which was subsequently debunked because there were 1,800 cache images from Google maps on his cell.
She walked the East River Trail from the field where they found Nikki to Detrie’s house, and it was supposed to mean that Doug could have walked home. It was not evidence but more like the movie Field of Dreams; build it and they will come.
It all amounted to nothing. They speculated a great deal and came up empty in the evidence department.
Let’s just say that there was no big Perry Mason moment in their presentation.
If they had not pushed so hard on the accusations against Detrie, I might have felt sorry for the public defender who had to present this lightweight and seemingly ridiculous defense to a jury.
The prosecution simply underlined the DNA and other evidence pointing at Burch’s guilt and their job was done.
It took 3 hours for the jury to find him guilty. I am usually insulted when jurors do not take the time to review all the evidence, but in this case, it was slim pickings.
I always feel some pain for victims, but also for defendants who throw away their life and freedom and will have to live in a cage for the rest of their existence. Nobody ever plans for a future in prison.
Big C was willing to have an innocent man thrown in the slammer to avoid that ride to the big house. That is how desperate he was to keep his freedom and maybe not bring shame on his sons.
These types of actions usually stem from lack of impulse control and pent-up anger. It was not just another day at the beach for Burch, something had gone awry in his life and he felt the sword hanging over his head.
I have a hard time believing that he intended to kill Nikki Vanderheyden when he picked her up or met her at the bar. Something triggered his anger or he realized that he went too far and that there was no return ticket.
If how Nikki reacted to Aaron is any indication of her state of mind, she must have been hysterical if she came to or was conscious. No way Big C was removing himself from this situation without going to prison.
Looking at the autopsy report, we see that a lot of rage was involved in the crime, and we probably will never know what was unraveling in his life or what was said or done to send this Giant with a short fuse in the red zone.
His upcoming trial in Virginia, and his parole violation must have been gnawing at his Big Country Green Bay dream.
He will be sentenced on May 4th by Judge Zakowski whose only role will be to decide if he will eventually get parole eligibility. His conviction was first-degree intentional homicide that carries an automatic life sentence.
A farcical defense, a great judge, a fair trial, and a sad ending for so many.
Aaron Kulinski never imagined how prophetic his words would be when he told Nikki on that fateful night, ”You are a Babe in the woods.”
UPDATE: Click to read about Burch being sentenced to life without parole.