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Patrick Tracy BURRIS





Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Motive unknown
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: June 27-July 1, 2009
Date of birth: August 8, 1967
Victims profile: Kline Cash, 63 / Hazel Linder, 83, and her daughter, Gena Linder Parker, 50 / Stephen Tyler, 45, and his daughter Abby, 15
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Cherokee County, South Carolina, USA
Status: Killed during a shoot-out with the police on July 6, 2009

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Patrick Tracy Burris (August 8, 1967 – July 6, 2009) was an American spree killer responsible for at least five known murders in Cherokee County, South Carolina in 2009.

Over a span of six days, he shot and killed five people. His final known victim died of her injuries in the hospital on July 4, 2009. On July 6, 2009, police shot and killed Burris during a shootout in Dallas, North Carolina. His gun was matched by ballistics tests to the bullets used in the murders.

Personal life

Burris was known to police as a repeat offender. At the time of his death, he had a criminal record running to more than 25 pages in length, and had just served an eight-year sentence in jail and was released in April 2009. Neil Dolan, deputy director of the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, said of Burris: "He was unpredictable. He was scary. He was weird."


Burris committed the first murder on June 27, 2009 in Gaffney, South Carolina. Peach farmer Kline Cash's wife informed investigators that she and her husband, 63, had spoken to a man about buying hay. After Mrs. Cash left to run some errands, the man returned, and shot and killed her husband in the Cash's living room, where she found his body upon her return.

Four days later, on July 1, Burris killed Hazel Linder, 83, and her 50-year-old daughter, Gena Linder Parker. They were bound and shot to death. The following day, Stephen Tyler, 45, was killed in his family's appliance and furniture store; his fifteen year old daughter Abby was shot and seriously injured when she came to check on her father. The two were found by Tyler's wife, his older daughter and an employee. Abby Tyler succumbed to her injuries on July 4.


On July 6, 2009, police were called to a burglary in progress in Dallas, North Carolina, a small town in the northern portion of Gaston County. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a vehicle matching the description of the murder suspect's Ford Explorer outside an apparently abandoned house.

Upon arrival, police encountered three individuals, one of whom drew a gun and shot one officer, injuring him in the leg. Officers returned fire, killing the gunman. Ballistics tests, as well as checks on the suspect's vehicle, later proved the dead gunman to be Burris. Investigators are now trying to determine if Burris is responsible for more murders.


Police: Gaffney serial killer could be suspect in unsolved Mooresville slaying

By Corey Friedman

July 10, 2009

MOORESVILLE — The Gaffney serial killer suspect could claim a sixth victim if police find a thread connecting an unsolved murder here to his string of slayings in upstate South Carolina.

Investigators are looking for evidence that would link Patrick Burris, the suspected serial killer shot dead in a Gaston County home early Monday, to the shooting death of a 31-year-old Mooresville man during a home invasion June 9. Mooresville Police Chief Carl Robbins said the probe could take several weeks.

“There’s been no connection that we’ve found so far,” Robbins said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything differently than any other jurisdiction with an open homicide — we’re looking to see if there are any similarities.”

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shootout with Gaston County police officers that left Burris dead, and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, which is probing the five killings in Gaffney, S.C., are working with Mooresville police to evaluate potential links to Burris.

A man broke into a Mooresville family’s home last month and shot a couple as they lay in their bed. Matthew Stewart died from his injuries, while his wife, who was shot in the arm, ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911.

“The only thing she can describe about the person that shot him was he was a tall male,” Robbins said, adding that she didn’t know the shooter’s skin color.

Burris, 41, stood 6 feet, 8 inches tall.

Stewart’s slaying is the only unsolved homicide in Mooresville, a city of 23,000 people that Robbins describes as “quiet.”

“We’re pretty lucky,” the police chief said. “We don’t have a lot of homicides, and nearly all of the ones we have are solved pretty quickly, because they’re usually domestic-related or drug-related. This has kind of stumped us.”

Burris was shot and killed shortly before 3 a.m. Monday in a Dallas-Spencer Mountain Road home. He allegedly shot Gaston County Police Officer Jim Shaw in the leg when three officers entered the house to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

Burris was lying on a sofa inside the home when police opened the door, said Tony Underwood, special agent in charge of the SBI’s Southern Piedmont District. Investigators believe Burris began firing at the officers, and one tried to shock the shooter with a Taser he had drawn as he went inside.

“As I understand it, one of the officers had a Taser in hand when he went back into the residence, just as a precaution because of the size of the man,” Underwood said.

Police had been dispatched to the home to investigate a reported burglary. They found Burris inside with siblings Mark and Sharon Stamey, who called the house a former residence. Officers left after checking identification, but returned after learning Burris had an arrest warrant for allegedly violating his probation.

Underwood said he didn’t know whether Burris was struck with the Taser, which fires needle-like probes that deliver an electric shock. The weapon can be rendered ineffective if both probes don’t attach to a person’s clothing or skin.

Burris’ gun was sent to the SLED crime lab in Columbia, S.C., so it could be matched with bullets used to kill the five Gaffney victims.

“Mr. Burris is deceased, and the evidence clearly links him back to the murders in Gaffney, so there’s not really an ongoing criminal investigation,” Underwood said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. A lot of reports have to be done to close this thing out.”

The SBI, which investigates nearly every shooting in which a police officer kills a civilian in North Carolina, is preparing a report of its findings for review by Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell. Underwood said his field office strives to finish all such reports within 30 days of the shooting.

Underwood said detectives from the Mooresville Police Department have worked with SBI agents to produce a timeline of Burris’ movements since his April release from the Lincoln Correctional Center.

“Nothing at this point links him” to the Mooresville killing, he said. “It’s something that is certainly a possibility, but there’s nothing that says it is or isn’t at this point.”


Police: Recovered items link slain suspect to S.C. killings

By Ashley Hayes - CNN

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Additional evidence found with a man shot to death by police further links him to the shooting deaths of five people in upstate South Carolina, authorities said on Tuesday.

Reggie Lloyd, director of South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division, would not elaborate in a conference call with reporters on the items found with 41-year-old Patrick Tracy Burris, but said they appear to have "come from the victims."

Burris was shot to death by police early Monday in Dallas, North Carolina. Authorities said they believe he is the man who killed five people in Gaffney, South Carolina, since June 27.

Police are attempting to unravel Burris' lengthy criminal history. Lloyd on Tuesday said it raises the question of "what ... the citizens in South Carolina and in this country deserve. And to me, they deserve better than to have somebody with a 25-page rap sheet out on the street with them."

Listed as a "habitual felon" in North Carolina corrections records, Burris was released from prison April 29 after serving nearly eight years. His minimum sentence -- on several 2001 felony breaking and entering and larceny convictions -- was seven years and nine months; his maximum was 10 years and a month, said George Dudley, spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Correction.

As a condition of Burris' release, he was placed on nine months of supervised parole, Dudley said. After he failed to make his set curfew on several occasions, "numerous attempts were made to contact him," he said. After those attempts, Burris' parole officer concluded he had violated his parole and put the process in motion to revoke it -- a process that ultimately would have landed him back behind bars.

It was that warrant, on parole violation, out of Lincoln County, North Carolina, that officers attempted to serve on Burris after finding him and checking his background early Monday. But he shot at authorities, who returned fire, killing him, police said.

Dudley said corrections officials feel they did their duty, but were surprised at the Gaffney deaths. "We feel sorry for the people in Gaffney and elsewhere," he said.

Burris had six infractions listed on his corrections records during his incarceration, but Dudley said the infractions were nothing "that would have made someone think that he might do what he did."

Lloyd, however, said burglary is considered a violent crime in South Carolina, and that Burris' history includes armed robbery. He also has weapons charges "coming out of his ear," he said. "I consider those violent."

The federal system punishes habitual criminals much more harshly, he said, and states should follow suit.

Although Burris was born in Maryland, he spent many years in Rockingham County, North Carolina, said that county's sheriff, Sam Page. Most of his convictions originated there. Page noted, however, that Burris' record in that county contains only property crimes -- extortion, blackmail, larceny -- and "no real crimes of violence."

He recalled investigating an extortion case in which Burris was thought to have forced an elderly man to write a check to him, but said the man was not willing to testify against Burris.

Police in Dallas, North Carolina, responding to a call of a possible burglary early Monday encountered three people at a home -- two who lived there and the third who was an acquaintance, said Bill Blanton, sheriff of Cherokee County, South Carolina. They checked Burris' background and found the warrant, triggering the shootout. One officer was shot in the leg, but was treated and released at a hospital.

About 100 investigators from North and South Carolina were working the case, Blanton said Monday. Gaffney is in Cherokee County.

Peach farmer Kline W. Cash was believed to be the first of Burris' victims, according to police. He was shot to death June 27. Cash's wife found him dead in their home, and the house might also have been robbed, Blanton said.

Four days later, the bound and shot bodies of Hazel Linder, 83, and her 50-year-old daughter, Gena Linder Parker, were found in the home where Linder lived alone. Authorities were still attempting to determine whether anything was taken from that home, Blanton told reporters Monday.

The last victims were Stephen Tyler, 48, and his 15-year-old daughter, Abby Tyler. Stephen Tyler was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting last week in the family's furniture and appliance store. His daughter, shot in the same incident, died Saturday.

Authorities said on Monday that tests showed the gun found with Burris matched the weapon used in the killings in Gaffney, about 20 miles northeast of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and 55 miles southwest of Charlotte, North Carolina.

As for the two people found at the North Carolina home with Burris, "We have nothing to suggest they were potential victims," Lloyd said Tuesday. Authorities are interested in the two, however, regarding their possible association with Burris, he said.

Page described Burris as physically intimidating, about 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighing about 300 pounds.

"Some people go to prison and learn how to be better and correct themselves," Page said, but Burris apparently did not.

"You never know what people are going to do."


Gaffney killer slain, ending 5-murder spree

By John Monk -

Tuesday, Jul. 07, 2009

Authorities have identified a man killed by North Carolina police as the killer they think shot five people to death over six days last week in this mostly rural Cherokee County community.

Law enforcement officials identified the suspect Monday night as 41-year-old Patrick Tracy Burris. They said he was a felon with a lengthy record who was paroled in April after serving more than eight years for felony breaking and entering and larceny.

Authorities said bullets in the gun found on Burris after he was killed by police early Monday near Gastonia, N.C., matched those used to kill residents in and around Gaffney, some 40 miles away.

Investigators did not have an address for Burris. While evidence left no doubt he was the killer, they still had no idea why he did it.

“He was unpredictable. He was scary. He was weird,” said Neil Dolan, deputy director of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division.

Police for several days had blanketed Gaffney and surrounding Cherokee County, fearful the killer would strike again.

“We were of the belief he was not going to stop until he was caught,” said SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd.

Burris was caught when, in the early morning hours Monday, N.C. police shot and killed the man who matched the description of the suspected serial killer. South Carolina authorities were on the scene quickly to determine whether the man was the same person.

A Ford sport utility vehicle similar to the one police think the serial killer might have been driving was at the scene of the N.C. shooting. And police said ballistic tests done at SLED headquarters in Columbia showed the man’s gun matched the weapon used in the killings.

Authorities said they found some items related to the Gaffney killings in the SUV, but they declined to be specific or to release the caliber of the pistol.

Burris originally was from Maryland, authorities said. He had a lengthy record across the Southeast — in Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, officials said, and was wanted on a North Carolina parole violation.

All, or almost all, of Burris’ North Carolina convictions — some violent, some not — were in Rockingham County, north of Greensboro. Police were still sorting through details late Monday.

Lloyd said he wants to find out what Burris had been doing since he got out of prison in April.

Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said investigators would trace Burris’ recent activities to see if he had killed elsewhere.

“We feel the victims’ pain,” Blanton said. “This isn’t over. We’re just changing gears.”

For days, fear had stalked Gaffney, a town of about 13,000.

More than 100 people attended the news conference authorities held just after 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department to announce the news of the suspect’s death.

Sandy Rhinehart, 42, brought her three daughters.

“We just want to make sure he’s gone,” Rhinehart said.

In 1968, a 14-year-old girl who was Rhinehart’s aunt, was killed by the Gaffney Strangler, who stalked lone women and then strangled them.

Rhinehart said she was probably the only person in Cherokee County who didn’t have a gun. Even though the suspect had been caught and killed, she said she was going to buy a gun today.

Cornering a suspect

In North Carolina, SLED towed a Ford Explorer from an abandoned Gaston County home at about 6:30 p.m. to search it for evidence. Police had believed the killer drove an Explorer.

Just after 2:30 a.m. Monday, a man on Dallas Spencer Mountain Road northeast of Gastonia called local police after he saw a Ford Explorer pull into the driveway across the street from his house.

The man, Mike Valentine, saw the SUV and was concerned the vehicle might be connected to the killer. Gastonia is about 40 miles north of Gaffney — just off Interstate 85 — and Valentine knew what kind of vehicle police were searching for.

Three police officers arrived and found three people in the older-model Ford Explorer outside the home. Two were identified by Charlotte’s NewsChannel 36 as Mark Stamey, 35, and his sister, Sharon Stamey, 31. The Stameys told the officers they had lived in the house.

Valentine said the Stameys got out of the car, along with a second man.

“He was a large man,” Valentine said. “He was stumbling around like he was really drunk.”

Valentine said the Stameys told the police it was their house, and they had come to collect some things. Valentine said he walked across the street and told the police officer there was no electricity at the house and questioned why the three were there.

The Stameys and the man went into the house, Valentine said, and the police followed.

Police said they had asked the three people in the Ford Explorer for identification, and one of them gave false identification initially. Gaston County police said they eventually got the third person’s correct name, and when they ran a check, discovered he was wanted by authorities in a neighboring county.

When they tried to take him into custody, police said, the man now believed to be Burris fired, hitting officer J.K. Shaw in the leg. Police said they fired back, killing the man.

The officer was treated at Gaston Memorial Hospital and released.

On Tuesday, authorities said the Stameys didn't know about the killing spree and had met Burris at a hotel about two weeks ago. Police described the siblings as transients who had a drug and criminal past.

The Stameys were not charged and police were not sure of their whereabouts since questioning them after the shooting in Gastonia.

"They were not actively living there," Ramey said. "There's no power. Sometimes they squat there -- sneak in and stay at night."

Police said they think Burris acted alone in committing the Gaffney crimes.

Relief in Gaffney

Early Monday evening in Gaffney, folks at Daddy Joe’s, a popular downtown barbecue spot, were glad to hear the news the killer had been killed.

Gene Wyatt, 35, a housing contractor, said he’s “really glad this guy got killed” because he hasn’t been able to go to people’s houses to do estimates.

“People don’t want me there,” he said.

With a killer on the loose, people, wondering if they might be next, changed their behavior.

“Everybody I know — 75 percent of all my friends — we’re all carrying weapons now, everywhere we go,” Cody Sossaman, 57, publisher of the Gaffney Ledger, said early Monday before police announced they had shot and killed the alleged assailant.

Sossaman lifted a black .38 Special out of his office desk drawer and said he was in the process of sending his wife and daughter out of town.

“When I went golfing over the weekend, a friend of mine carried a gun in his golf cart,” said Sossaman, who for the first time in its 115 years bolted his newspaper’s front doors Monday during daylight hours and put this sign up: “Due to Current Circumstances, The Front Door is Locked. Knock for Service.”

Such fears were reasonable.

Police behavior science experts said the killer’s profile had indicated he might kill again, SLED director Reggie Lloyd said early Monday. SLED had more than 40 agents on the case, Lloyd said.

“We don’t believe he is going to stop on his own,” Lloyd said. “This one is scary.”

By late Monday afternoon, there was a sense Gaffney’s widespread fears might be lifted with news that a man shot to death before dawn in Gastonia might have been the Gaffney assassin who had been striking seemingly at random.

“Ohhhhhhhhh!” gasped a crowd of more than a dozen Gaffney area folks at Daddy Joe’s shortly after 5 p.m. A Spartanburg news show had just flashed a shot of the dead man’s brown-gray Ford Explorer on a wall-mounted television screen.

Daddy Joe’s bar patrons included women who were packing pistols in their purses for the first time in their lives.

“I’m telling you what — people are just scared to death!” said Kim Blanton, 49, a fourth-grade teacher who had a loaded .32-caliber pistol in her purse. No, she said, she doesn’t have a permit to carry a concealed weapon — and she doesn’t care.

Blanton said she lives alone, but recently she either has been spending the night with friends or having a girlfriend over to her house to sleep. “My friend, she had a gun, too,” Blanton said.

The dread of being the next victim had caused the staff at Daddy Joe’s to change a lot of things they do, said general manager Rea Smiley, 44.

“Everyone is just kind of sticking together and being safe,” said Smiley, describing how her employees have not walked out to their cars alone at night. “We all walk out together. We don’t want to, but we’re not being stupid.”

Yes, Smiley said, she keeps a gun close these days. “I haven’t even gone to the bathroom without it.”

Cherokee County had been saturated with more than 200 law enforcement officers. They came from more than 20 S.C. sheriffs offices as well as the S.C. Highway Patrol and various South Carolina and North Carolina agencies.

Forty years ago, the Gaffney Strangler terrorized Gaffney, said the Gaffney Ledger’s Sossaman. But the recent killings have inspired far more dread, he said.

For one thing, the murdered women in the late 1960s weren’t all widely known.

But the victims in the current killings have all been well-known not only throughout Gaffney but all of Cherokee County, Sossaman said.

“If you didn’t know at least one of them, you know someone who knew them,” he said.

It’s bad enough when someone you know is killed, but it is “very, very bad” when more and more people you know keep getting killed, Sossaman said.

-- The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte’s NewsChannel 36 and The Associated Press contributed.



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