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“A tragic accident”: First evidence, witness in Brian Burns murder trial

HARRISBURG (WSIL) — The first pieces of the state’s evidence against Brian Burns were two videos: one of Burns in an interrogation room and another of Burns walking police through the scene of the alleged crime.

Tuesday marked the first day of testimony in a case estimated to take about two weeks.

Maria Dwyer was the first witness in the case to testify. Dwyer explained how she– a detective from Marion– became involved in a Saline County murder case.

On March 10, 2016, the Marion Police Department received several calls concerning the whereabouts of Carla Burns. Dwyer was assigned to the missing persons’ case, according to her testimony.

Brian Burns was arrested and charged with Carla Burns’ murder six days later, turning himself in to police at around 7:45 that morning in front of his divorce lawyer’s office, according to testimony. Dwyer said Burns later called her offering to cooperate in the investigation.

The prosecution presented it’s first piece of evidence in the trial: a one-hour and 40-minute long video of Burns explaining his account to police in an interview room. The second piece was a series of five police-recorded videos of Burns walking investigators through the scene of the crime.

In the first video, Burns told Dwyer and an Illinois State Police investigator that the event happened on March 8. He said Carla Burns wanted to learn how to shoot a gun, so he took her out near the back area to demonstrate.

Burns then tells the investigators that Carla held the gun with one hand. When she fired the shot, Burns said the gun recoiled and caused Carla to accidentally fire a second round to her face.

Burns was unable to save his wife, saying in the video that it was "a tragic accident." His wife, Burns told police, requested that she be cremated and that her ashes be scattered around their property.

In a state of grief, Burns then dragged his wife’s body, picked her up and placed her on a pile of dry wood, which he then lit on fire using newspapers and diesel fuel, according to the video.

Burns later gathered Carla’s ashes using pink buckets, and spread the ashes across the property. He told investigators that he had four buckets of Carla’s ashes In the basement and offered to show them where they were.

The second piece of evidence presented by the prosecution was a series of five videos that shows Burns guiding police through what happened on the night Carla died.

Burns told investigators where he hid Carla’s cell phone. A plastic bag with a phone inside was found underneath the driver’s seat of a neighbor’s pickup truck. Burns then led investigators to the creek and pond where he scattered his wife’s ashes.

Near the end of the final video, Burns took police through his home and the basement, where he told police he had more buckets of Carla’s ashes.

When police rummaged through the items inside the basement, there were no signs of ashes. Burns couldn’t remember where he placed the  buckets of ashes and said in the video, "I’m in shock."

Burns maintained his innocence throughout the videos and pointed out how he was being cooperative with police. "If I murdered my wife, you never would have found me," Burns said.

The defense argued that Burns didn’t tell police about his wife’s death sooner because he had been grieving her death.

The former Saline County doctor is charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of concealment of homicidal death.

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