– April 23 2015i
A New Jersey woman convicted of killing her husband and hiding his remains in storage containers wept in court Wednesday as a judge sentenced her to 55 years in prison after comparing the grisly murder to Al Capone’s St Valentine’s Day massacre.
Loretta Burroughs, 63, sobbed throughout her sentencing as relatives of her late husband, Danny, talked about the horror of losing him and finding out that she chopped up his body and took his remains with her when she moved.
Mrs Burroughs was arrested in May 2013 after Danny Burroughs’ body parts were found inside the guest bedroom closet of the Ventnor home she was moving out of.
Crocodile tears: Loretta Burroughs, 63, pictured in wiping away tears in New Jersey Superior Court in Mays Landing Wednesday, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the murder and dismemberment of her husband
Victim: Daniel Burroughs was missing for six years before his chopped up remains were found at his wife’s home in Ventnor, New Jersey, in 2013
Grief: Raymond Wantorcik, brother of murder victim Danny Burroughs, refers to a photo of the pair stating ‘This is my best friend… I won’t smile like that anymore’ during the sentencing of Loretta Burroughs
She had told family and friends that he had left her for another woman shortly before the couple was due to move to Florida in August 2007.
Investigators testified that the containers were each wrapped in nine trash bags, with air fresheners, dryer sheets and scented beads to mask the smell.
They began re-examining the case after a family member provided new information to the new cold-case unit of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in February 2013.
Loretta Burroughs said in addressing the court that the killing wasn’t planned. But friends had said she didn’t want to move to Florida, which was her husband’s idea, and that was her motive for killing him.
In sentencing her, Judge Michael Donlo said, ‘This court has not seen anything so brutal and heinous as this since Al Capone ordered the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.’
The notorious Prohibition-era gangster was believed to be behind the slayings of seven people in Chicago on February 14, 1929, by hired killers dressed as policemen.
Shaking his head at the defendant, Judge Donlo marveled that she had murdered her husband just so she wouldn’t have to relocate to the Sunshine State.
‘Wait until you see now where you’re going to go,’ he told her, according to Press of Atlantic City.
Loretta Burroughs was found guilty last month of first-degree murder for stabbing her husband to death, dismembering him with a knife and a saw, packing the body parts into plastic containers, and dragging them with her as she moved three times in six years.
Graphic: The jury was shown how the dead man’s remains had been systematically taken apart
Loretta was about to move for a fourth time on May 17, 2013, from Ventnor, New Jersey, to Villas, New Jersey, when authorities arrived at the door of her new home with a search warrant.
They were investigating her for fraud in relation to the disappearance of her husband, Daniel S. Burroughs, 63, who was reported missing on September 1, 2007.
Guilty: Loretta Burroughs, 63, murdered and cut up her husband then hid the body for six years
‘She asked if we were also searching the Ventnor house,’ testified Sgt. Lynn Dougherty of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. When told that they were, Loretta’s physical demeanor ‘changed completely. Her whole body sunk. She lost the color in her face, she was wringing her hands, very nervous.’
In the guest bedroom closet of Loretta’s Ventnor home, Detective Caroline MacDonald of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office discovered two large boxes wrapped in multiple plastic garbage bags.
As she started to open the bags, she smelled the distinct odor of decomposition and called the medical examiner. The boxes were transported to the morgue.
Dr Charles F Siebert Jr, a forensic pathologist, began opening the boxes. Both were surrounded by nine layers of plastic bags in alternating directions, Siebert testified.
He also found dryer sheets, air fresheners, and scented beads to mask the odor of death.
Inside the first container, Siebert testified, he found a woman’s handbag. ‘I described it as olive but I didn’t know the color, because it had been sitting in decomposition fluid,’ he said.
Inside the handbag were a ‘cranium and mandible’ — a skull and jawbone.
The second, larger plastic container contained more bones, including the left upper arm and lower legs.
Gruesome: A woman’s handbag, soaked in decomposition fluid, was found in one of the plastic totes. It contained the victim’s skull and jawbone.
Siebert testified that he saw cut marks on the ribs that were consistent with stab wounds. He determined that the person had died by homicide.
Dr Stuart Alexander, a forensic odontologist, or dentist, from Cranbury, testified that he positively identified the remains in the plastic tote as being Daniel Burroughs.
Alexander compared Burroughs’ dental records to the teeth in the skull.
Donna Fontana, a forensic anthropologist with the New Jersey State Police, testified about the condition of the bones in the boxes.
‘There was no gnawing from animals and no bleaching of the bones,’ she said. ‘That means the bones were in a protected environment, with no sun exposure, and not exposed to the environment where they were attacked by animals.’
Fontana then used a replica of a human skeleton and photographs to explain to the jury what had happened to the bones.
She said the right tibia, which is the large bone of the lower leg, had been cut with a knife and a saw. Because the cut edge was the same color of the bone, she said it had been sawed at the time of death.
Several vertebrae were missing, and others showed signs of trauma, including ‘linear cuts as if produced by a knife.’
Demonstration: Donna Fontana, forensic anthropologist with the New Jersey State Police, uses a replica skeleton to show the jury where the bones of the victim’s leg had been sawed.
Forensic anthropologist Donna Fontana testified that all the wounds to the victim’s ribs were made with a knife. The third rib on the left side was completely fractured.
Fontana testified that several of the body’s 24 ribs were also missing. Of the ribs that showed trauma, the injuries were consistent with knife wounds. One was completely fractured.
‘There is a pattern of dismemberment,’ Fontana testified.
Dismemberment, she explained, is usually done ‘to hinder identification and for ease of transport.’
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy argued that Loretta Burroughs murdered her husband, Danny Burroughs, for money.
Danny disappeared on August 3, 2007. A few days later, Loretta told friends and family that he had left her. She said he drove off with a younger woman in a yellow Hummer with Florida license plates.
In reality, the prosecutor said, Loretta had killed him, and her gruesome plot had begun months before the murder.
Loretta worked at the Mey House Assisted Living Facility in Egg Harbor Township, now called Somers Place.
In early June 2007, she asked attorney Enid Hyberg, whose mother was in Mey House, to draft a power of attorney. Loretta told the attorney that she and her husband were selling their home, but Danny was going out of town. With the power of attorney, Loretta could complete the sale.
Hyberg drafted the document. She did not charge Loretta, ‘in gratitude for the attention she was paying my mother,’ Hyberg testified.
A power of attorney needs to be notarized. In June 2007, Loretta asked Edward T. Dwyer, whose mother was also in the Mey House assisted living facility, if he knew anyone who could notarize it.
‘She said her husband had left her, the house was sold, but the deal wasn’t finished because he left,’ Dwyer testified.
‘I agreed to help her out,’ he said. ‘She was overly good and generous with my mother.’
In June 2007, Dwyer asked his sister-in-law to notarize the power of attorney.
Although Danny Burroughs was supposed to sign the document, he did not. Instead, the prosecutor said, Loretta signed Danny’s name to it.
Loss: Ray Wantorcik had to sit through the trial but said he believed the graphic images of his brother’s remains were what had convinced jurors of his sister-in-law’s guilt
Ray Wantorcik, right, was finally able to hold a memorial for Danny Burroughs on May 10, 2014, almost seven years after he reported his brother missing. ‘My brother won this case for himself,’ Ray said.
Nicole DiDomizio, Loretta’s daughter by another man, testified that her mother frequently signed Danny Burroughs’ name. In fact, she saw her do it between four and six times.
After Danny’s death, the prosecutor said, Loretta used the forged document to sell their home. The profit was $77,101.
But the money was locked up in escrow, and Danny was entitled to at least half of it.
‘She can’t get the money if she is married,’ Levy, the prosecutor, said. ‘But she can get it if she is divorced.’
Loretta filed for divorce on February 28, 2009, 18 months after she killed her husband.
She told her divorce attorney, Daniel Alsofrom of Northfield, NJ, that her husband had moved to Florida and did not give an address. Alsofrom published a notice of her divorce complaint in the Press of Atlantic City.
Loretta received half of the money when she filed for divorce, and the other half when the divorce was finalized, Alsofrom testified.
As a result, the prosecutor said, between the profit from the house, and selling Danny’s possessions, such as his tools and his collection of remote controlled model airplanes, Loretta received close to $100,000.
‘The defendant has gotten away with it for over eight years, with nothing left but the bones,’ Levy said in his closing statement.
‘The story ends with the defendant being $100,000 richer and Danny Burroughs in the defendant’s closet.’
– Snejana Farberov