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Former U.S. Army Sgt. Brent Burke is behind bars again while Army officials pursue an Article 32 investigation that could lead to a general court martial.
The Army charged Burke with two counts of premeditated murder. The former Fort Campbell military police officer is accused of killing his estranged wife, Tracy Burke, and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer, at Comer’s Rineyville residence Sept. 11, 2007.
Spc. Andrew McIntyre of Fort Campbell’s public affairs office described an Article 32 hearing as an “impartial investigation into the charges.”
Fort Campbell has seen “cases that required Article 32 investigations, but not within the last couple years,” McIntyre said.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice requires an Article 32 investigation to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a judicial proceeding. Essentially, it is the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.
Although the Army has not made a decision as to what penalties to pursue, McIntyre said the death penalty is possible in the case against Burke.
Both Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Shaw and Judge Kelly Mark Easton cited a lack of physical evidence as one of the reasons civilian charges against Burke were dismissed.
“Insufficiency of the evidence ... is a valid reason for a prosecutor to seek dismissal, even though the victims or others might disagree with his assessment,” Easton wrote in his ruling.
By dismissing the charges against Burke without prejudice, Easton said the prosecution could be reopened in the future if new evidence surfaced.
McIntyre said an Article 32 investigation could last anywhere from two weeks to a month.
“Then it may proceed to a court martial,” he said.
As with civilian criminal prosecution, the court martial must find Burke guilty beyond reasonable doubt, McIntyre said.
If the Army pursues a general court martial, the proceedings will be held at Fort Campbell, he said.
Burke is being held without bond at the Christian County jail, and a court date will not be determined until the Article 32 investigation has concluded.
From June 29 when Burke was released to Army officials to Friday when he was charged, Burke was at Fort Campbell “going through the process of re-integration,” said Bob Jenkins of Fort Campbell’s public affairs office. He compared the process to the re-integration soldiers go through after returning from a tour overseas.
Jenkins said he did not know if Burke was confined to the post or allowed to leave during that time period.
Burke spent three-and-a-half years in the Hardin County Detention Center and faced four trials. Two ended in mistrials and two in hung juries.
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or email@example.com.