Guilty: ‘Head in a handbag’ grandmother who murdered husband, chopped him up and moved remains from house to house for six years
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
- Loretta Burroughs, 63, from Mays Landing NJ stabbed her husband Daniel to death and dismembered his corpse but claimed he had run off to Florida
- Grandmother concealed body parts in two large boxes and when they were opened his skull and jawbone were in an olive-colored handbag
- Police swooped on her home as she was about to move for a fourth time after his brother reported her husband missing
- Pathologist determined she had stabbed him to death and sawn his body into pieces
By DONNA ANDERSEN
Originally published by the Daily Mail on November 21, 2014. Reposted by permission.
A 63-year-old grandmother has been found guilty of murdering her husband, chopping up his corpse then moving it from house to house for six years.
Loretta Burroughs pretended her husband Daniel had run off to Florida with a younger woman from the home they shared in Mays Landing, NJ.
She was found guilty yesterday of first degree murder for stabbing her husband to death, chopping up his body with a knife and a saw, packing it into two plastic totes, and dragging it with her as she moved three times in six years.
Loretta was about to move for a fourth time on May 17, 2013, from Ventnor, NJ to Villas, NJ, 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.
‘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.
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, NJ, 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.’
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, NJ, 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.
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.’
After two hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Loretta Burroughs of murder and hindering her apprehension.
For Danny’s grieving half-brother, Raymond Wantorck, of Glenolden, PA, the conviction was bittersweet.
‘Since they found my brother in May of 2013, I was kicking and fighting that I wanted it to go trial,’ he said. ‘I wanted my brother’s remains to be shown to the jurors.
‘I have to think to myself, it is my brother that brought justice to this case. He brought justice to himself. Pictures of his dismembered, horribly mutilated body, won the case.’
‘My brother won this case for himself,’ Ray said, ‘and maybe for me.’