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San Jacinto News Times - Local News

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Megan Winfrey acquitted


COLDSPRING – The last of three family members charged with the 2004 murder of Murray Wayne Burr has been released from prison. Megan Winfrey, 25, was charged along with her father, Richard Winfrey and her brother, Richard Winfrey Jr., in the stabbing and beating death of Burr, 51, who worked as a janitor in the Coldspring- Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District where Megan and her brother attended classes. Incarcerated since 2007, Megan was acquitted in February by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In April, 2012, while serving a life sentence plus 45 years for Burr's murder, Megan asked the state's highest court to throw out her conviction, arguing that it was tainted by unreliable evidence from a dog-scent lineup. Burr's body was found in his home in the Willow Springs Community on Aug. 7, 2004. He had been stabbed 28 times in the head, neck and face. In 2010 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delivered a similar ruling for her father, acquitting Richard Winfrey Sr., in the same murder. He had been sentenced by a San Jacinto County jury to 75 years in prison. During the father's appeal, the court ruled that alone or as primary evidence, scent discrimination lineups are insufficient support for a conviction. Her brother was the only one of the three found not guilty by a San Jacinto County jury. He was the only one to aggressively attack the scientific validity of the dog-scent lineup. He was acquitted by jurors who deliberated only 13 minutes. There was no eyewitness and no physical evidence linking the Winfrey's to the crime scene. A bloody footprint, fingerprints, DNA and 73 hairs recovered from the crime scene did not match anybody in the Winfrey family, court records show. San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Richard Countiss, who inherited the case, said, "None of the forensic evidence implicated the Winfrey's, except the dog scent evidence, which is crime scene evidence. It puts both Megan and Winfrey Sr., at the scene. They took the clothes Murray had on when killed to get their scent samples of him. "The rest of the evidence was based on things Richard Sr., and Megan said to other people. The most damaging is her (Megan's) statements to prior boyfriend Jason King that Murray was an 'easy lick,'" Countiss said during an interview in April, 2012. Although Countiss argued the case before the court six or eight months ago, he said this week, "There was not enough evidence to affirm the conviction. Burr's murder remains unsolved since there is not enough evidence of who did it. I did my best to save the conviction but couldn't do it." Because Megan was acquitted and not declared "actually innocent" or pardoned, she is ineligible for compensation for the years she spent in prison and has indicated that she may decide to sue San Jacinto County for damages as her brother did in 2010 for the two and a half years he was jailed before his trial. That civil trial is expected to start within the year.


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