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By BOB WHITE
PADUCAH — Two dispatchers found guilty in March of lying to detectives by providing cover for an alleged killer were sentenced to two years probation Wednesday in federal court.
Michelle L. Lovelace, 37, and Lindsey A. Brooks, 23, both of Clarksville, Tenn., were found guilty March 28 of providing false information to federal agents assisting Kentucky State Police detectives during the investigation of the September 2007 shooting deaths of 53-year-old Karen Comer and 31-year-old Tracy Burke in Rineyville.
Lovelace and Brooks were employed as emergency service dispatchers at Fort Campbell when Burke’s estranged husband, Army military police Sgt. Brent Andrew Burke, reportedly asked them to provide an alibi for the times when police believe he drove to Rineyville to commit the crimes.
According to testimony during a preliminary hearing for Burke in Hardin District Court, the dispatchers told Department of Defense investigators they were with Burke until late the evening of Sept. 10, when the killings reportedly occurred. They later retracted their stories.
According to KSP Post 4 Detective Larry Walker, Burke called one of the dispatchers during a break in his September interview with police. Walker testified he heard Burke tell the dispatcher his need for an alibi and at what times the dispatchers would need to tell police he’d been in their company at Fort Campbell.
Burke, being an MP at Fort Campbell at the time, knew the dispatchers through his work at the post.
Burke is the only suspect in the killings. He was arrested five weeks after the investigation began and is being held at the Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of $2 million full cash bond while awaiting a Jan. 7 trial.
The dispatchers’ sentencings took place in U.S. District Court in Paducah before Judge Thomas B. Russell. They faced a maximum of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release.
David Barber, Comer’s son-in-law, said he was surprised with the light sentences.
“It’s seems a little odd,” Barber said. “But I don’t know the totality of the situation. They could be helping with the murder investigation.”
Since the killings, Tracy Burke’s three children have been placed in the care of family members. Her eldest child is living with his father, while her two younger children, whom Brent fathered, are with one of their maternal aunts.
Burke, and friends and family of his who have spoken to The News-Enterprise, maintain his innocence.
A dog also was shot and killed when the women were slain.
While much circumstantial evidence has been made public, including a bitter divorce between the Burkes and his alleged psychological troubles after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, a detailed list of evidence retrieved from the crime scene and Burke’s vehicle, which is included in the court record, reflects murder weapon.
One of the three children, all of whom were at the La Vista subdivision home at the time of the killings, told investigators that “Daddy shot Mommy and Grandma,” according to court testimony.
Burke’s attorney, during a previous interview, said the court should not put much emphasis on the statement of a toddler.
Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.