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Jurors to judge in Burke case: We can't reach a verdict

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Closing arguments conducted Monday morning

By Kelly Cantrall

Jurors considering the fate of accused killer Brent Burke were unable to come to a unanimous decison Monday night, and for the second time in the last nine months, a mistrial has been issued in the case against the former U.S. Army sergeant.

Burke is accused of killing his estranged wife, Tracy Burke, and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer, in 2007 in Rineyville.

The jury reported just before 8 p.m. Monday to Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton that they could not come to an agreement. 

Easton told the jury earlier in the day that their primary purpose was to seek out and agree upon a single opinion. He then ordered that deliberations continue. After hearing evidence again after the first impasse, the jurors convened again and emerged to tell Easton once again that they couldn't reach consensus.

A pre-trial hearing is now scheduled for April 26 in the case.

The jury received the case at about 11:15 a.m. today. The day started with closing arguments from both sides.

The prosecution would not comment on the case since it is ongoing and the families of Tracy Burke and Comer left the courtroom without commenting.

The defense offered closing statements first, with attorney John Shaughnessy emphasizing that there is no physical evidence linking Brent Burke to the crime. Shaughnessy said Burke seemed to be the only suspect investigated.

He mentioned that neighbor DeShawn White, who made claims to two people that he committed the murders, was talked to by Kentucky State Police two days after the killings. He also said that neighbor Mark Gilmartin, who told police that he heard shots earlier in the evening than investigators believe the murders were committed, was interviewed months afterward.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Shaw told jurors that Burke had a motive, which was to gain custody of his children and end child support payments to Tracy. The prosecutor also emphasized that the Army sergeant's only alibi was that he was truck shopping in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2007. He was also caught in a lie, when he asked Fort Campbell military police dispatchers to lie about his whereabouts that night, Shaw said. He also discussed how the two boys in the house that night both identified Burke as the person who broke into the house.

This is the fourth time Burke has faced the murder charges. Mistrials were declared twice because of the unavailability of witnesses. A jury hearing the evidence last year was unable to come to a verdict.

This trial started three weeks ago today with jury selection.

The News-Enterprise will update this story throughout the night and full coverage will appear in Tuesday's edition.