Winfrey found guilty
San Jacinto News Times - December 2007
COLDSPRING – Convicted of murder, Richard Lynn Winfrey, Sr. was sentenced to 75 years in prison Nov. 30 by District Judge David Wilson of Lufkin for killing Willow Springs resident Murray Wayne Burr.
Burr’s body was found by his sister on Aug. 7, 2004, “brutally and senselessly beaten and stabbed to death,” in his mobile home.
Evidence presented during four days of testimony showed that Burr had been stabbed a total of 28 times and severely beaten around his head, sustaining a broken eye socket and broken jaw.
In a statement to the press, San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Bill Burnett said, “I am pleased with the verdict of the jury and the 75-year sentence in this case. There are still two co-defendants awaiting trial, but I hope this conviction will help begin to bring some closure to the family of Murray Burr.”
Also charged in Burr’s death are co-defendants Richard Winfrey Jr. and Megan Winfrey, son and daughter of Richard Winfrey Sr.
Winfrey was charged with capital murder but since the missing guns were never recovered the jury had a reasonable doubt as to whether the murder occurred in the course of committing robbery and convicted Winfrey on the lesser included offense of murder.
“This trial has shown that canine scent evidence, which has been upheld by appellate courts as reliable scientific evidence is as powerful as DNA evidence to support a conviction,” Burnett said. “The FBI is comfortable using Fort Bend County Deputy Keith Pikett’s dogs and canine scent evidence and I, as a Texas prosecutor, support the use of canine scent evidence to help bring criminals before the bar of justice.”
Giving the court his qualifications as well as the qualifications of his four canines, Pikett said he conducted two scent lineups – one in August of 2004 in San Jacinto County and one in August of 2007 near Bellaire.
“Quincy and Jag, registered bloodhounds, were used in 2004,” Pikett said. “Quincy has ran 976 felony trails, participated in 107 lineups and done 1,480 scent pad cases and wrong only two times on the scent pad lineups.” Pikett blamed himself for the two errors. He said Jag has been on 356 trails, 413 scent lineups and never proven to be wrong.
He said he has two other dogs, James Bond and Clue. James Bond has been on 279 trails and 964 scent pad lineups and never wrong, while Clue has been on 92 trails and 406 scent pad lineups and never wrong.
During the 2004 scent lineup, two of Pikett’s dogs alerted on scents from Richard Winfrey Jr. and Megan Winfrey.
The second scent lineup was conducted in August 2007, three years after the first, using scent pads from Burr’s clothing and Richard Winfrey Sr. At that time, Quincy and Clue both alerted on Richard Winfrey Sr., Pikett said.
Concluding a series of witnesses called by Burnett was David Wayne Campbell, 44, who is currently completing his sentence in the Federal Detention Center, Houston.
Testifying last Thursday, Campbell said he knew Richard Winfrey Sr. while they were incarcerated in the Montgomery County Jail. Campbell said he overheard Winfrey describe a murder in San Jacinto County and how it occurred.
“After that I wanted to get moved because I was concerned about my safety,” he said. “They moved us both.”
Campbell said Winfrey was concerned about his kids and didn’t understand why they (law enforcement) were going after his kids. He said a gun and knife collection was taken from Burr’s home, something that law enforcement investigators knew nothing of until Campbell’s interview years after Burr’s murder.
Defense attorney Steven Taylor questioned Campbell about an earlier decision to not testify before the court, asking if Burnett had promised him something if he agreed to come forward.
Campbell said he had not been promised anything from anyone. “I am here voluntarily,” he said. Campbell said he has been diagnosed with cancer and is coming face to face with his own mortality. “I still am concerned for my safety and my mothers,” he said.
Taylor showed a copy of a letter written by Burnett on Campbell’s behalf requesting leniency for his testimony.
Campbell said it didn’t matter because he will be released from prison January 28 anyhow.
Campbell said Richard Winfrey’s sister, Vicki, started sending him letters and tried to visit him in prison after she found out he was going to be a witness.
“She knows I have a son and daughter and where they live. That bothers me because I am locked up,” Campbell said.
“I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder worrying about somebody doing something to my family,” Campbell said.
When asked if he wanted to testify on his own behalf, Winfrey declined.
“What you saw and heard in this courtroom will stay with you always,” Taylor told the jury as he opened his final arguments.
“Capital murder is something bad and something special at the same time. You must find that he (Winfrey) caused the death intentionally during an attempted commission of robbery. You’ve heard information about a crime that took place but no evidence. The medical examiner told you about wounds but no evidence to tell you who caused those wounds. Texas Rangers said there were no signs of forced entry. Burr’s house was cleaner than my house and nothing out of place. Nothing was in disarray. Nothing to indicate a struggle or robbery. There was no evidence of guns being stolen or nothing else taken. If you don’t find robbery you can’t find capital murder. There was no evidence of a robbery at all and you can’t find capital murder,” Taylor told the jury.
“Inside the house there were no prints, no one else’s blood at all and none outside. There is nothing at all to tie Richard Winfrey Sr. to Burr’s trailer – no eye witness, no DNA, no woman to match pubic hair, died red hair found. There was nothing found to tie any of the three Winfrey’s to the scene. And there was nothing found that could be traced back to Burr in the Winfrey’s possession,” Taylor said.
“Winfrey told Campbell of things he had heard two years after Burr’s death. Winfrey didn’t admit to the crime. There is absolutely no evidence of a robbery. Nothing missing except a Bible and we’re not sure of that. Dogs and Campbell’s testimony are the only things you got. You have a tough task ahead of you,” Taylor said.
Addressing the jury in final arguments, Burnett said we were all brought here (trial) by a tragedy that has changed us all by what we heard.
Showing the jury a photo of Burr, Burnett said, “This is how you should remember Murray Burr.”
Showing the jury photos of the crime scene, Burnett said, “This is Murray Burr when Richard Winfrey Sr. got through with him. There were no offensive or defensive wounds on Burr. He didn’t have a chance to defend himself.
“We’re here today to answer questions of whether Richard Winfrey Sr. murdered Murray Burr in the process of robbery. Was this intentional? The medical examiner testified it was.”
Showing more pictures of the crime scene, Burnett said, “Would you call this intentional or this?
“I submit to you that Megan and Richard Winfrey Jr. went to visit Burr. At some point they let Richard Winfrey Sr. into the trailer. The attack was so sudden and quick Burr didn’t have time to respond. Burr’s body is speaking to us and telling us who did this crime through scientific evidence of canine scent. We are all diminished by the death of Murray Wayne Burr. It’s time to bring Richard Winfrey Sr. before the bar of justice and say guilty.
During the reading of the verdict, Winfrey remained expressionless while family members of both families could be heard weeping in the courtroom.
Following the sentencing, Burr’s niece, Tracy Brown, read a Victim Impact Statement for her family in which she explained the devastating effects the murder has had on them during the past three years.
“We have now tried one of the actors and we still have two more to bring to the bar of justice,” Burnett said.
He anticipates that Richard Jr. and Meagan will each face separate trials in the spring of 2008.
Richard Winfrey Sr. will be eligible for parole in 30 years or after his 83rd birthday.
“Winfrey had excellent legal representation during this trial. Steve Taylor is the most experienced, and in my opinion, the best capital murder defense attorney in southeast Texas. I have been involved in capital murder cases in the past where Mr. Taylor represented defendants and we have gone up against each other many times in the appellate courts. I always know he is going to be prepared, professional, passionate and skilled defending his clients,” Burnett said after the trial.