Honor and Dishonor

After four mistrials in a civilian court, the U.S. Army tries one of its own in the murder of soldier's wife and her ex-husband's mother

Produced by Marcelena Spencer
[This story first aired on Feb. 16, 2013. It was updated on July 26, 2014.]

Sergeant Brent Burke earned his stripes at Fort Campbell, Kentucky -- home base for his division, the legendary 101st Airborne. Once under the command of former General David Petraeus, the soldiers of the 101st have seen more action than most soldiers in the U.S. Army.

It is also where Sgt. Burke will learn if he will continue to serve in the Army, or if he will serve out his life in prison, because military prosecutors in the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps, known as JAG, will court martial Sgt. Brent Burke for double homicide.

"I would say that the tough part of any case like this is the fact that it was four years old ... and it was mostly circumstantial evidence and when you put all that together it certainly makes for a difficult case," JAG prosecutor Lt. Col Matthew Calarco told "48 Hours" correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

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Tracy Burke and Karen Comer
CBS News

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Calarco's mission, after four civilian trials failed to get a verdict, is to finally prove Sgt. Burke shot and killed his wife, Tracy, and her ex-husband's mother, Karen Comer, on Sept. 11, 2007.

"We knew that somebody had gone to Karen and Kurt Comer's home ... and gone to their back door, shot Karen Comer, gone into the house, shot Tracy Burke - left three children there ... and left the house," said Lt. Col. Calarco.

Matthew Pete, Tracy's son from a previous marriage, witnessed a horror when he was only 9 that no child - and no adult - should ever have to see. He was there when his mother and grandmother were shot dead.

" ... I hear a couple of gunshots going through and some glass breaking and my grandma screaming that she's dying ... I hear a couple more shots. And then I'm down on the couch ... shocked, never really thought this would be happening," Matthew told Schlesinger.

His younger brother, Eion, who was 4, and his sister, Raegan, who was 2, were all in the house when the murders were committed:

911 Dispatcher: Where are they at right now?

Matthew Pete: They're dead in my house. There's blood spattered everywhere.

911 Dispatcher: Do you know who done this?

Matthew Pete: No.

When Matthew called 911, he said he didn't know who the gunman was, but was certain he was wearing a camouflage jacket similar to one Sgt. Burke might wear. Kentucky State Police investigator Mark Gillingham interviewed Matthew days after the murders.

"... He described -- the camouflage jacket as being what we call the woodland pattern," Gillingham explained. "And he said he remembered one being in his -- stepdad's closet ..."

Investigators never found a jacket like that in Burke's barracks or his van. But Gillingham also interviewed Matthew's brother, Eion, who said his father, Sgt. Burke, was the killer.

"And how able was Eion to communicate with you?" Schlesinger asked.

"... he was very easy to communicate," Gillingham replied.

"And what did he say?"

"'You wanna talk to me about my daddy shooting my mommy,'" said Gillingham.

Tracy and her husband, Sgt. Burke, who was a military policeman, were divorcing. Tracy and her three children were staying with Karen Comer in Rineyville, Ky. Sergeant Burke was living at Fort Campbell, 140 miles away.

"... he got off of work at approximately 10:30 in the evening," JAG prosecutor Major Sondra Smith explained. "And from testimony that his roommate gave us, he returned to the barracks at approximately 11:30."

Sergeant Burke then leaves and he is not seen until about 6:30 the following morning when his roommate returns from PT ... physical training. So, that whole period of time is unaccounted for."

"And that's how many hours?" Schlesinger asked.

"It was 11:30 till 6:30, so seven hours," Maj. Smith replied.

"So what do you believe he did in those seven hours?"

"Well, we believe he rode to Rineyville and he killed Karen and Tracy Burke ..." she said.

Former JAG Captain Nathan Brown was one of Sgt. Burke's military defense attorneys.

"From the moment I started reading anything about this case, it's like, why is the Army doing this?" Brown told Schlesinger. "... the fact that it's a two-and-a-half hour drive from Fort Campbell to Rineyville and back ... I don't see how someone could drive that, do whatever they needed to do to get into the home, do what they did, exit the home, dispose of every single shred of evidence, drive another two-and-a-half hours back, and be sound asleep in their bed when your roommate comes in the morning."

A shattered glass door and shell casings were discovered at the scene.

Investigators have never found any blood, DNA, or a murder weapon linking Sgt. Burke to the crime.

In an interview with reporter Eric King for CBS affiliate WLKY, Sgt. Burke denied any involvement in the murders.

"I'm an innocent man, and I'm a father and I'm a soldier and I need to go home to my family," Sgt. Burke said.

All the families involved in this case are military families and proud of the tradition. Master Sergeant Michelle Kerstetter is an Air Force reservist and Karen Comer's daughter.

"In my head I just like to think that she was in the wrong place, wrong time. I just knew that Brent killed my mom," Kerstetter said

Sergeant Burke's father, Stan, is a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran. He earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

"How certain are you that your son is innocent?" Schlesinger asked.

"I've asked Brent actually more than once. I said, 'Did you have anything to do with this?' and he says, 'No.' And I said, 'Fine.'

That's all I needed to hear," Stan Burke replied.

But Tracy's father, David Wilburn, who is retired from Army Artillery, says Burke is the only suspect because of what his daughter said to him after Burke's last visit with the kids.

"'Dad, she says, 'I'm uneasy. He's actin' very strange," Wilburn told Schlesinger.

"Did she describe how?"

"... the way he acted when he come in the house wantin' to know where everybody was sleeping, who slept in what room ..." he replied.

"Did you think that was odd?" Schlesinger asked.

"Yeah, I did," Wilburn replied. "... and that's when I told her, I said, 'you need to come here. I'll come get you right now.' She said, 'Dad, I got it.'"

That was Saturday. By Tuesday Tracy was dead.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this is an open-and-shut case. But then almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. And it began to look like it would take an Army to drive this case to a conclusion.

BRENT AND TRACY

Sergeant Brent Burke grew up a farm boy in Ursa, Illinois. He was the son of a soldier. When he could, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Army. That's when he met Tracy. He couldn't wait to bring her home to meet his family.

Irene Burke was thrilled her son had found love.

"He brought her home in July, I think, of 2001 ..." Irene Burke told Richard Schlesinger. "She was very bubbly. She --was a pleasure to be around."

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The Burke family

Tracy was a nurse with a young son, Matthew. She divorced Matthew's father to marry Brent Burke, who was a military policeman stationed at White Sands, New Mexico. Before long, Brent and Tracy would have two children together, a son, Eion, and a daughter Raegan.

"He adored the kids," Irene Burke said of her son. Asked if Brent liked being a father, she told Schlesinger, "Yes. Very much so."

"What did you make of him?" Schlesinger asked Tracy's father, David Wilburn.

"Over energetic, tryin' to please too hard type individual," he replied. "But he's a soldier. And I have respect for soldiers. So I give him the benefit of the doubt."

Tracy's stepmother, Gractia Wilburn, says Burke had a quick temper and was very possessive of Tracy.

"I didn't like Brent very much not even in the beginning ..." she said.

"He was stalking her ... and whenever she would go to work he'd be in the parking lot when she'd get there."

"Did you ever talk to him about it? Or was it more your daughter's business..." Schlesinger asked David Wilburn.

"No. I didn't talk to him about it. I talked to him. ...." he replied.

"I imagine you did just looking at you," Schlesinger commented.

"Oh, yeah. Absolutely," said Wilburn.

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him to behave himself, let her have her own life," said Wilburn.

"Brent has a temper, but it's never a violent temper," Irene Burke said. "... he says things and then five minutes later ... everything's blown over."

But according to Tracy's family, Sgt. Burke had been acting erratically, sometimes dangerously, even around the kids.

" ... Brent had picked Matthew, the eldest, up over his head and slammed him down on the concrete floor," Tracy's sister-in-law, Hillary Wilburn explained. "... and I mean we just remember the way his body shook and the impact. And Matthew was sobbing ... and Brent just started to say, 'Oh, he's just, you know, being dramatic. He's fine, he's fine, don't give him any attention.'"

The family says Matthew had the wind knocked out of him, but was not seriously hurt. No police report was filed and Burke was never arrested. But Tracy's brother says that's when she started thinking about leaving Burke.

Then, after five years of marriage, Sgt. Burke was sent to Afghanistan, where he was a prison guard at Baghram Air Force Base. He was gone for 13 months.

With her husband away and her marriage getting shaky, Tracy, according to her family, assigned herself a mission: self improvement.

"She lost 60 pounds," said David Wilburn. "60 pounds. And she is a good lookin' girl..."

Burke's father, Stan Burke, was stunned by Tracy's transformation.

"Tracy was goin' out buying this Camaro ... two-door sports car," he said. "I kinda said somethin' ... 'what would Brent think of this?' 'I don't care what Brent thinks.' ... That gave me an indication things weren't right."

When Sgt. Burke returned from Afghanistan, he got a glimpse of his wife's new look.

Asked how he reacted, David Wilburn told Schlesinger, "He was very jealous. ... Oh yeah ... A lot of guys looked at her then."

Tracy filed for divorce. That's when Sgt. Burke moved back to the barracks at Fort Campbell. Tracy and the kids moved in with Karen Comer 140 miles away in Rineyville, Ky.

"He just couldn't understand why she would want a divorce," Irene Burke said, "and she wasn't even willing to give it a try."

Tracy's family says the divorce got ugly. The couple argued about money and the children and Tracy became increasingly afraid of Burke.

"... she said, 'I'm afraid he won't let me divorce him. He'll kill me first ..." said Gractia Wilburn.

When Tracy and Karen were killed, police believed the murder weapon was a 9mm handgun. Tracy's father believes he knows where Brent Burke got the gun: Burke got it from him.

"Did you give him a gun?" Schlesinger asked David Wilburn.

"Yes I did," he replied. "It was a Ruger 9mm."

"And how soon before the murders was that?"

"April and she was murdered in September," said Wilburn.

"Tough question to ask a tough man," said Schlesinger, "But do you blame yourself? Because I noticed this is an emotional thing for you."

"I do," Wilburn replied.

"Because?"

"Two reasons: one I gave him the gun. And the Saturday before I didn't go get her like I wanted to. That woulda stopped it. He would never come to my home and do that," he said.

Burke says the gun his father-in-law gave him was not a 9mm, it was a .38, and he gave that gun to Tracy.

The police never found the weapon or any other physical evidence against Brent Burke, but they thought they had more than enough circumstantial evidence. On Oct. 15, 2007, Sgt. Burke was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.

In September 2009, two years after the crime, Burke was facing the death penalty. His case was finally, getting ready for trial for the first time in a Kentucky state courtroom.

"... the information the investigators had was extremely scant," said defense attorney Chris Davenport.

Davenport and David Broderick were Burke's defense attorneys and they had a lot to work with. The police made serious mistakes. Four shell casings, from bullets like those that killed both women, were never collected by police even though they were in plain sight. They were picked up by the cleaning crew.

"What does it tell you about the investigation?" Schlesinger asked.

"Told me it was not a very good investigation. Told me again that there was a rush to an indictment," Broderick replied.

No blood or DNA was ever found that could link Sgt. Burke to the crime. There was one other thing that would rock this case.

Just as jury selection began, the defense learned someone else -- a 14-year-old -- had confessed to the murders.

THE CIVILIAN TRIALS

Brent Burke | WLKY jail interview: "I only got 10 minutes so I just want to make a statement ... I am an innocent man. I can no longer sit back and be railroaded and slandered. ... As of now I've lost my children and my career. What more does the Commonwealth of Kentucky want from an innocent man?"

The first of Sgt. Burke's four civilian trials began two years after the murders of Tracy Burke and Karen Comer. And just as it began, the trial came to a screeching halt.

"... we just walk into the courtroom one mornin' and there are these four tapes on our desk ..." explained defense attorney David Broderick.

The tapes were statements from friends of a 14-year-old named DeShawn White. He had bragged to them that he committed the murders. Burke's lawyers were just now learning that.

"Do you believe that DeShawn White killed Karen Comer and Tracy Burke?" Richard Schlesinger asked Broderick.

"I don't know that we have enough information to say that beyond a reasonable doubt ..." he replied. "He was at the right place at the right time ..."

Police never believed White and he recanted his confession before trial. But prosecutors never told the defense about him as required by law. So the judge declared a mistrial.

"Angry and frustration doesn't even start to scratch the surface here," said David Wilburn, Tracy Burke's father.

Four months later, a second trial began and quickly ended in another mistrial when a key witness, Tracy's eldest son, got sick.

"I think we were about a week to 10 days into that ... when Matthew became ill and would not be able to attend the trial," said defense attorney Chris Davenport.

"... you go back to trial anticipating, 'OK, this is it. We're going to have this done, and you know, Tracy and Karen are going to have justice, and then it's postponed again, and you just go out with this deep heart again and you think 'Oh my lord, we're never going to get it ...'" said Tracy's stepmother, Gractia Wilburn.

The third trial began in August 2010.

This time, the prosecution decided not to ask for the death penalty. Deshawn White recanted his confession again, under oath. And prosecutors had their two star witnesses: Tracy's two sons, Eion and Matthew:

Prosecutor Chris Shaw: Who did you think that voice was?

Matthew Pete: It was Brent, of course. It was -- it was a little lower, like, somebody's trying to -- to disguise his voice, to disguise a voice. But it was obvious it was him.

Prosecutor Chris Shaw: Do you see that person in the courtroom?

Matthew Pete: Yes.

Prosecutor Chris Shaw: Would you indicate him for the jury?

Matthew Shaw: [points to Burke]

But the defense argued that when police interviewed Matthew and Eion right after the murders, Matthew was not as sure that Burke was the killer as he appeared to be on the stand.

"... and as this case evolves over a period of two, to three, four years, those statements change in nature and specifics and frankly with the assuredness the children have when they make 'em," said Davenport.

The defense says Eion and Matthew did not remember Sgt. Burke was the killer.

"... I think Eion had been coached, unfortunately," Broderick said. "... he was living with family members of his deceased mother," said Broderick.

"... Oh, Eion said it all the time," said Karen Comer's daughter, Michelle Kerstetter. "Eion said 'My daddy killed my mommy and my grandma. ' ... You didn't need to coach Eion ..."

The third trial lasted long enough for the prosecution to present the heart of its case: the timeline. Burke was last seen at Fort Campbell at 11:30 the night before the killings -- 140 miles away from the murder scene in Rineyville, Ky. Police believe the murders took place at around 3 a.m.

Brent Burke | WLKY jail interview: "...I was two hours and 41 minutes away from the crime scene. Now I'm not a genius by any means, but just a soldier and a father but if the time don't fit you must acquit."

"There's this question of whether Brent could have gotten from Fort Campbell to Rineyville and back and killed these people," Schlesinger commented to David Wilburn.

"I could tell you without a doubt I can drive from Rineyville to Fort Campbell in less time then they're saying he did it and do the speed limit," said Wilburn.

Burke gave Kentucky State Police Detective Larry Walker and other investigators a detailed statement, without a lawyer present, to try to explain his whereabouts that night:

Detective: Sarge, if you were involved, we can get through this. We can help your kids. We can explain to 'em. We'll get 'em all the help we can get you to --

Sgt. Brent Burke: I wasn't there. OK?

Detective: OK. Sarge, right now all the facts, all the evidence, doesn't tell us that.

Burke said about 1 a.m., he stopped to gas up his van. Then he said something that seemed strange:

Detective: And you say you went truck shopping?

Sgt. Brent Burke: Yeah, I went truck shoppin'--

Detective: What time was that?

Sgt. Brent Burke: Like, two o'clock, 2:30. I went truck shoppin' here 'cause, you know, I couldn't sleep.

Detective: OK. What type -- what type of vehicle were you lookin' for?

Sgt. Brent Burke: Just -- like, a '99 -- 2000 truck.

Truck shopping at 2 a.m.? As odd as it sounds, Burke's family says he doesn't like to be bothered by salesmen.

"He told me personally he went truck shopping," said Stan Burke of his son. "OK, he does that a lot ..."

Sergeant Burke says after truck shopping, he returned to Fort Campbell, fell asleep in his car because it was too hot in the barracks, and returned to his room at 6 a.m. But the jury will never hear any of Burke's statement because he was not read his rights.

So the judge threw the whole thing out. It was a blow to the prosecution.

And prosecutors had a potentially huge problem with Mark Gilmartin, who says he was walking his dog near the murder scene that night.

"I heard approximately four or five gunshots I do not recall," Gilmartin testified. "I heard a dog yelp, after the dog yelped I didn't hear anything else."

The trouble is, Gilmartin says it happened at 10 p.m., when Burke was still at Fort Campbell.

"... what about the neighbor who heard the gunshots at 10 o'clock at night....didn't that give you any pause?" Schlesinger asked David Wilburn.

"No, I lived there for 10 years. You hear it all the time. Not too far away is Range 4," he replied referring to a gun range.

After six weeks of testimony, the jurors got the case. They deliberated for 10 hours and then gave up. With the jury deadlocked, the judge declares a mistrial.

If you're keeping count, that's mistrial number three.

"It was horrible," Gractia Wilburn said. "How many times are we going to do this?"

They did it again. Four years after Tracy and Karen were killed, a fourth trial began. Once again, there was a mistrial because, once again, the jury could not agree on a verdict.

"Four times at bat," Schlesinger noted to David Wilburn. "What did you think was gonna happen?"

"We need to fire the coach," he replied.

"You were mad at the prosecutor?" Schlesinger asked.

"Oh yeah, I was mad at him," he replied.

After the fourth trial, prosecutor Chris Shaw, who declined "48 Hours"' numerous interview requests, surprised everyone and dropped the charges.

"I begged him not to do it and he still did it," David Wilburn explained. "I begged him. I asked him, 'How would you feel if this was your daughter?' He didn't care."

Brent Burke | WLKY jail interview: "I'm gonna fight for my job back as soon as I get released ... and God willing I will get to visit my children...."

"... we [were] overwhelmed at that point in time. I said, "Finally ... he's getting outta jail," said Stan Burke.

After four trials and four years behind bars, there was now nothing stopping Sgt. Brent Burke from walking out of jail a free man, except the United States Army.

A CASE FOR MURDER

Sergeant Brent Burke's stepson, Matthew Pete, was 12, when after four mistrials, the charges against Burke for murdering Matthew's mother and grandmother were dropped. Matthew was scared.

"... if they were going to drop charges and he was released, he could easily take a trip here," Matthew told Richard Schlesinger.

"And?"

"And come hurt me and my family," he replied.

"Why would he do that?

"Revenge, payback, I don't know. It just felt like he could," Matthew replied.

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Sgt. Brent Burke

Burke was released from jail and sent back to Fort Campbell, but was not free to leave the base. And Burke did not know that the Kentucky State Police had been talking to the Army.

"When we realized that he was being released back to the military after the charges were dismissed against him, we looked into the charges," said JAG prosecutor Maj. Sondra Smith.

They found just what the civilian prosecutors did: a case for murder. Within nine days, Burke was rearrested.

"The military arrested him this time," said Stan Burke.

"How did that feel to you?" Schlesinger asked.

"Here we go again. Numb and upset," he replied.

Sergeant Brent Burke was interviewed again; this time on camera:

Federal agent Mike Collins: ...I don't think you went there that night with the intent to kill your wife. ... I don't think it was premeditated. I don't think that you went there. I think it was just sumthin' that happened.

Sgt. Brent Burke: You're right, I wasn't there.

The Army had breathed new life into this case and began the court martial of Sgt. Brent Burke.

The JAG lawyers argued that even though the civilian courts failed four times to get a verdict, they could charge Sgt. Burke with murder because he was on active duty when the crimes were committed. He would go on trial for the fifth time. His military attorney, Nathan Brown, was surprised.

"... if the Army believes that there is a murderer in its midst, why not prosecute?" Schlesinger asked Brown.

"One, the civilians had already done it multiple times. You know, and two, is it -- it happened off post," the JAG defense attorney explained. "... It happened a long time ago. You know, a murderer in the midst -- is easily resolved by discharging him."

"It feels to some people unfair though that in this case ... four civilian courts were unable to get this verdict," Schlesinger noted to JAG law professor Major Rebecca Kliem. "In this case ... why do you think... it's fair, if you will, for the military to step in after that?"

"In many cases, it's simply an interest of ... the order and discipline in the unit and the fact that a military member was involved and a military spouse ... which the military considers spouses in the military a part of our family," Maj. Kliem replied.

The court martial would be very different than the civilian trials held here. Sergeant Burke could choose either enlisted soldiers or officers to be on his jury, which in the military is called, "the panel." He chose seven senior officers, including a colonel. There's one other thing: unlike in most states, military verdicts don't have to be unanimous.

"... the panel members heard from individuals who knew Tracy Burke and also Sergeant Burke leading up to the incident -- to the murders," said Captain Janae Lepir.

The JAG prosecution team -- Capt. Janae Lepir, Lt. Col. Matthew Colarco and Maj. Sondra Smith -- like the civilian prosecutors before, told the panel the Burkes had a troubled marriage.

"...he did not want the divorce ... he wanted to control the money -- the decisions," Maj. Smith said. "... and he did not want her to move away, which she ultimately did, and he not have access to his children."

The boys, Eion and Matthew, would once again have to tell their story.

"When you were on the stand and he was sitting there in uniform, Brent, did you look at him?" Schlesinger asked Matthew.

"Yeah," he replied.

"And he looked at you?"

"Mm-hmm," Matthew affirmed.

"How did he look at you?" Schlesinger asked.

"Very mean and angrily," said Matthew.

"Really, like how?" Schlesinger asked. Matthew grimaced.

"He was doing that? Scowling? Really? Do you think he was trying to scare you?"

"Yeah," said Matthew.

"How'd you look at him?" Schlesinger asked. In reply, Matthew made a mean face.

"Did Sgt. Burke ever show emotion about his kids testifying against him?" Schlesinger asked Brown.

"Absolutely," the JAG defense attorney replied. "He didn't like the fact that on cross examination, you know, we would be confronting them. Yeah, it was very unsettling for him. He did not like it."

Throughout the four civilian trials, prosecutors could not present any physical evidence against Burke. They thought there was none. But shortly before the court martial, the Army lab produced something: a tiny, almost microscopic speck of glass taken off of Burke's coat.

The Army lab compared it to the shattered glass door at the crime scene and concluded it was similar.

"Your lab compared scrapings from his coat?" Schlesinger asked Capt. Lepir.

"Yes," the JAG prosecutor replied. "... it was the first piece of physical evidence ... that we could show linked him to the crime scene."

"And what we did present to the panel tended to demonstrate that that particle of glass that was found on his ACU jacket likely came from the back door that was shattered at the Comer residence," said Lt. Col. Matt Calarco.

Except that tiny piece of glass came off a camouflage coat that was different than the one Matthew and Eion say the killer was wearing.

"What's the most likely way that little tiny speck of glass ended up on that jacket?" Schlesinger asked Brown.

"It was probably picked up from somewhere else," he replied. Do I think it's possible that someone was at the crime scene and then when they collected the evidence that maybe there was a transfer because it was such a small piece of glass? Maybe. But that even assumes that I think it is the same kind of glass or the same piece of glass which I don't ... I don't buy into that."

"The report says that it could have the same origin as the glass sample," Brown continued.

"It could have the same origin? How strong a connection is that?" Schlesinger asked.

"Well it doesn't sound very strong to me," Brown replied.

"Were you worried about it?

"Well, you worry about everything when someone's life is on the line," he said.

The tiny piece of glass could make a huge difference in this case. But even without it, everyone can be sure this time there will be a verdict -- because in a court martial, there is no such thing as a hung jury.

THE COURT MARTIAL

Sergeant Brent Burke wanted to make the Army his life. Now, the Army will decide if he'll live out his life a free man or spend the rest of it in prison.

"... it goes all the way back to the beginning of the military on the battlefield. If you had a court martial you know it was swift. It was fast and it was right," said Tracy Burke's father, David Wilburn.

"Was there any part in the court martial where you were worried?" Richard Schlesinger asked Brent Burke's mother, Irene.

"I was always worried," she replied.

Major Rebecca Kliem teaches military criminal law.

"The burden of proof is the same in the civilian world as in military.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Maj. Kliem told Schlesinger.

"If you're a defendant, if you're charged with murder, where would you rather be tried? Would you rather be tried in a military court martial or in civilian court?" he asked.

"If I am the defendant, we call our defendants accused, a military court martial would grant you more rights than a civilian trial would grant you," said Maj. Kliem.

For instance, in a court martial, the accused can present what's called "good soldier" evidence.

"In the military you can come in and talk about how good of a soldier you have been," the JAG law professor explained. "And they may find, because I believe this soldier is of such a high caliber, I do not believe he is capable of committing this type of offense and I find him not guilty..."

Brent Burke | WLKY jail interview: "This is in July 2007. These are my children. I am a father and a solider... these are my babies. I would never put their lives in jeopardy."

Prosecutors say whether or not Burke started out a good soldier, he ended up a murderer when he killed Tracy and Karen Comer.

"... there was no one else who had that motive, who had the means, who had the time -- to commit this particular crime," said JAG prosecutor Capt. Janae Lepir.

The seven-member panel of officers deliberated the case for 2 1/2 hours.

"They're all highly intelligent individuals. They're all in the Army. They are not randomly selected from the civilian population," David Wilburn said. "So, if they're sittin' on that panel, what are they doin'? Their job."

Their verdict: guilty. After four attempts -- four failures in civilian courts -- the Army wrapped up everything in just eight days.

"I looked over and kept seeing all the joys on the other side, it broke my heart," Irene Burke said.

"Did you look at your son?" Schlesinger asked.

"Yes," she replied. "He was as devastated as I was."

"Did you doubt the way this was gonna come out?" Schlesinger asked Tracy's father.

"No. I knew he was gonna be guilty," David Wilburn said. "I knew it in my heart. No doubt about it."

There is no question about the sentence; life is mandatory. The only issue for the jury panel now is will Sgt. Burke ever be eligible for parole.

Irene Burke pleaded for leniency.

"He'd never been in trouble with the law. He was raised with good values and strong family and faith and community..." she told the panel.

But the panel decided Burke would serve life without parole. He would also be dishonorably discharged and stripped of his rank.

"Dear mom and dad. Hello. How are ya'll doing? Have you talked to my kids yet? Have you seen them yet? Just to let you know they're listening and reading everything we do here. Supposedly."

At home in Ursa, Ill., Burke's mother is left with her son's letters and an empty reminder of a shortened, once proud career -- a scarred uniform.

"... He gave 11 years to the Army. And he was very decorated," she said, showing Schlesinger her son's uniform.

"It looks like the stripes -- the sergeant stripes were here," he noted.

"Yes. ... They ripped 'em off and -- took away his rank," Irene Burke said.

Burke will serve his sentence in the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His children, Eion and Raegan, were adopted by Tracy's brother, Dave and his wife, Hillary.

Tracy's oldest son, Matthew, lives with his father, Mike Pete.

The kids will grow up without their mother. Matthew also lost his grandmother.

But after four failed trials, someone is finally being held responsible for the murders. Tracy Burke's father believes the Army he served so proudly returned the favor with a conviction he is convinced is just.

Said David Wilburn, "Finally... somebody listened ..."

Tracy Burke's children visit each other regularly.

Brent Burke, now a Private, is appealing his conviction.

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