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Arrest expected soon in murder 17 years ago

MONTICELLO — A breakthrough has been made in the 17-year-oldmurder case of Brock and Annie Burnette, according to sheriff’sdepartment officials.

Lawrence County Sheriff Joel Thames said an arrest in the caseis pending, but he declined to name the suspect until formalcharges have been filed. He expected to meet with representativesfrom the District Attorney’s Office next week to discuss thosecharges.

“He’s incarcerated,” Thames said. “He’s not going anywhere.”

The suspect is serving time in Georgia for extortion and otherfederal charges are pending.

Brock and Annie Burnette were murdered on a Friday in February1986, apparently the victims of a botched burglary attempt at theirhome on Holmesville Road.

Annie, 66, was home sick that day with the flu, Thames said.Brock, 65, the owner of an oilfield supply business in Morgan City,La., was last seen when he went to the Big Oak Restaurant onHolmesville Road to get their dinner.

The couple’s home was discovered burning and their 1985 Buickwas missing later that night.

Their bodies were found the following Monday in their vehicle onCrown Zellerbach Company land between Divide and Robinwood. Bothhad been shot by a large caliber handgun.

Newspaper stories written at the time of the murder claimed theBurnettes were known to carry large amounts of cash and ownedexpensive jewelry that they kept at their home, the sheriffsaid.

No leads were developed at that time, Thames said, but eachsheriff since has worked to solve the case with the assistance ofMississippi Highway Patrol investigators, the State Fire Marshal’sOffice, District Attorney’s Office, FBI, and the state attorneygeneral.

Thames said his office received some new information on the caserecently that led to the breakthrough.

“The information we received to really open the door on the casewas only received two weeks ago,” he said.

Thames said he coordinated with other agencies working the case,and he and a U.S. Marshal made a trip to a Georgia correctionalfacility July 21 to interview the suspect.

He delayed making the announcement until today because he wantedto confer with the other agencies working the case, he said.

“It doesn’t appear at this time that anyone local was involvedin the slayings,” Thames said, citing long-standing concerns amongsouthern Lawrence County residents that a killer might be amongthem.

The sheriff said he felt some personal vindication in being ableto break the case.

“I vaguely knew Mr. and Mrs. Burnette, but I remember thatanyone who was needy or needed help could go to them, and theywould open up their hearts and their pocketbooks,” he said. “Theywere well known and well respected. They would also pass out candyas Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus at Christmas. I knew them best forthat.”

The case will be presented to the grand jury in December.