Cellmate: Sallee bragged about Waynesville slayings


For The Tribune


A former cellmate of Samuel E. Sallee told a Bartholomew County jury that the defendant described how he committed a quadruple murder in Waynesville.

Sallee, 57, faces life without parole if convicted of the May 11, 2013, deaths of Katheryn M. Burton, 53; Thomas W. Smith, 39; Aaron T. Cross, 41; and Shawn L. Burton, 40.

Because the witness is still being held in jail in Indianapolis, court officials requested that his name not be released because it could endanger the man’s life.

The witness said Sallee admitted the slayings in the Marion County Jail shortly after the Columbus man was placed into federal custody Aug. 5, 2013, for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

At the time, Sallee appeared convinced that investigators didn’t have evidence to charge him with the Waynesville slayings, claiming they were using the “trumped up” federal charge just to keep him behind bars, the witness said in his testimony.

According to the cellmate, Sallee said he had been to the home of Katheryn Burton quite a few times to buy drugs prior to May 11, 2013.

But on the day of the killings, Sallee didn’t have any money, so he was going to attempt to trade a .22-caliber rifle to Smith in exchange for methamphetamine, the cellmate said.

However, Sallee eventually lost his patience and raised the gun, announcing that he intended to rob everyone in the house, the cellmate said.

“One of the guys didn’t take him seriously, so he shot him,” the witness said. “Then he shot the others. He said he aimed for the heart and head to make sure they were dead.”

Sallee said it wasn’t difficult to kill four people because “some were sleeping after being high for the past few days,” the cellmate said.

During their conversations about the shootings, Sallee talked mostly about Katheryn Burton, whom he had known for several years.

“He said he wished she wasn’t there,” the witness said. “But he also said there wouldn’t be much concern for the victims because they were dealing drugs.”

According to the cellmate, the admission of guilt was intended as jailhouse “bragging” rather than as a confession.

“He was always saying things like how he could shoot two cans with one bullet,” the cellmate said. “He claimed to be a great shot, calling himself ‘Yosemite Sam.’”

After the killings, Sallee said he ransacked the house, making off with drugs as well as up to $200 in cash, the witness said.

Sallee also talked about planting a .22-caliber rifle in the house that would be used as a “bait gun” to throw investigators off his trail, the cellmate said.

According to the witness, Sallee told him how he had taken the murder weapon to a friend’s house, sawed it into pieces, and then buried it along with clothes he was wearing.

The cellmate said he didn’t believe Sallee’s story until he talked to his fiancee, who used the Internet to confirm that an incident like Sallee described had taken place somewhere in Indiana three months earlier.

When defense attorney David Nowak inquired whether the witness had made any deals to cut his time short in exchange for his testimony, the cellmate said he was facing federal charges and didn’t believe his cooperation in a state case would help him.

He said that an Indianapolis officer had offered to release him if he cooperated in a federal case, but he refused to do it.

“I’ve only got about 18 months left to serve, and I don’t want anyone in jail to think I’m a snitch,” he said.

When asked why he was testifying against Sallee, he replied that his fiancee — who had a close family member murdered — convinced him it would be the right thing to do.

Nowak suggested the witness might have received his information from televised and published accounts. The witness said he received only a few details from his fiancee that she had learned from media reports.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Coming Sunday” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Daniel Burton recounts the scene he walked into nearly 2 years ago at his Waynesville home.

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The prosecution in the Samuel Sallee murder trial resumes with more witness testimony at 8:30 a.m. Monday in Bartholomew Circuit Court.

Judge Stephen Heimann anticipates the jury will begin deliberations on a verdict by the end of next week.


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