Witness: Drug deals common


For The Tribune

Drugs were regularly bought and sold in the Waynesville home where four people were killed, the prosecution and a witness said during opening arguments and the first day of testimony in the Samuel E. Sallee murder trial.

Daniel Burton, the son of Katheryn M. Burton — one of three people killed the night of May 11, 2013 — shared this fact with investigators during a walk-through the morning after returning home from work, Deputy Prosecutor Kathleen Burns told the jury Tuesday morning.

When he took the stand Tuesday afternoon, Daniel Burton estimated that five or six people a day came through the house, mostly on drug-related business.

The house where the killings occurred, 2634 E. Main Cross St., is where Daniel Burton lived with his mother, and her companion, Thomas W. Smith, 39. The couple were found dead with Aaron T. Cross, 41, and Shawn L. Burton, 40, the day before Mother’s Day. All four victims were shot in the head, and Katheryn Burton, 53, also was stabbed.

Sallee, 57, of Columbus, is being tried on four counts of murder in connection with the deaths.

Several hours after the bodies were found, Daniel Burton walked through the house with investigators and told police about the methamphetamine-dealing at the house, Burns said.

Tommy Smith and Katheryn Burton made about $1,100 a month combined through disability and dealt drugs to supplement their income, Daniel Burton testified.

What was missing

After the bodies were found, investigators learned jewelry boxes were either missing or empty from both Daniel Burton’s room and his mother’s room, Burns said.

During her 40-minute opening statement to the jury, Burns said that when police arrived, they found an empty jewelry box thrown on Katheryn’s bed.

Jurors were shown a video recording showing the condition of Katheryn Burton’s bedroom, taken by an Indiana State Police trooper soon after the bodies were found.

In addition, Daniel Burton’s “stash box” that contained marijuana was missing, Burns said.

Daniel Burton had seen Sallee with a gun in his home as he left for work at 3:45 p.m. the day of the killings. At 10:30 p.m., Burton discovered the bodies of two of the victims when he returned from work, according to investigative records, just before notifying police.

During his 30-minute opening presentation, defense attorney David Nowak said Sallee was “horribly on drugs” at the time of the killings but was physically unable to kill three stronger and younger men.

While Nowak said his client was at the Burton home for several hours on the day of the killings, the defense attorney stressed that investigators have not found a murder weapon, fingerprints or DNA evidence that links Sam Sallee to the slayings.

The jury was told that surveillance video taken from Huckabee’s Electric showed Sallee’s pickup truck heading north on State Road 11 at 7:45 p.m. on the night of the killings.

But throughout the investigation, Nowak said his client has maintained that the victims were alive when he left the Waynesville house.

Tracking down Sallee

After Daniel Burton identified Sallee through a driver’s license photo, police found the defendant and his girlfriend, Sharon McElroy, at the home of Malcolm England on Parkway Drive in Columbus, Burns said.

Sallee had been living at England’s home at the time of the killings, police records show.

While England is expected to testify Sallee paid him back $50 he owed him, McElroy is expected to say she saw Sallee spend more than $100 at a local store on Mother’s Day, Burns said.

When England and McElroy asked where he got the money, Sallee replied he had just received it from a guy he worked for called “Gabby,” Burns said.

The man Sallee was referring to later told investigators he had not given Sallee any money for at least two weeks prior to the killings, the deputy prosecutor said.

The next day, Sallee shaved his beard off — something that his girlfriend would testify that he hadn’t done for two years, Burns said.

England and McElroy also are expected to testify that Sallee cleaned both his shoes and gloves in a washing machine the day after the killings, Burns said.

Stolen items discovered

While searching the rafters above England’s address, investigators found a coffee can containing jewelry and homemade compact discs that Daniel Burton said was owned by either his mother or himself, Burns said.

Police also found items from the Burton home in a garbage toter next to the Columbus home where Sallee was living. Police also found the wallets of all three male victims encased with foam insulation within a box left in the toter, Burns said.

While the prosecution will attempt to say Sallee was intelligent enough not to leave such evidence behind, they will “expect you to believe he is stupid to bring items of evidence into his home, and put them in the neighbors’ garbage tote,” Nowak said.

“This is not a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here,” Nowak said. “One man is not a genius at one time and stupid at another time.”

The last time any of the victims were seen alive was when Smith came out of the home at 6:06 p.m. May 11, 2013, to check out an ambulance that had been called to a neighbor’s house, Burns said.

A missed phone call from Smith’s parents placed at 7:45 p.m. was the first indication that there was something wrong in the house, the deputy prosecutor said.

A gun expert is expected to testify that .22 caliber casings found in Brown County at a home where Sallee had been living in 2012 were identical to the ones found at the murder scene, Burns said.

The jury was also told by Burns they will hear testimony from Sallee’s former cellmate who claims the defendant told him he destroyed the barrel of the rifle used in the quadruple murders.

The defense is expected to argue through the trial that the victims were killed between 7:30 p.m., when Sallee left the house, and 10:30 p.m., when the murder scene was discovered, Nowak said.

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With more than 25 spectators in attendance, Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann will switch courtrooms with Superior Court 1 Judge Jim Worton for the remainder of the Samuel Sallee trial, beginning today. Worton’s courtroom has more space for spectator seating.


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