Sister thankful for pending arrest

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 4, 2003

The day she heard the news brought both a blessing and a curseto 80-year-old Annette Beard.

Beard was notified last week that Sheriff Joel Thames and a U.S.marshal had been to a correctional facility in Georgia to interviewa suspect they believe to be involved in the murder of her brotherBrock and his wife Annie 17 years ago.

“It brought it back just like it was the day after they died,”she said. “I was near tears from happiness and sadness.”

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The sheriff announced Tuesday an arrest in the case is pending,but declined to name the suspect until formal charges have beenfiled. He expects those charges to be filed this week after heconfers with the District Attorney’s Office.

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

Thames spoke with her several times leading up to the Atlantatrip, Beard said, but she was afraid to become hopeful until hetold her the results of the interview.

“They have lots of nieces and nephews, but I’m the only closerelative left,” she said. “I want something done. I want justicefor them and I’m so glad to see the time has finally come.”

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 later that night andtheir 1985 Buick was missing.

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.

“I would have been at their house at night, but I was onvacation in Florida for our wedding anniversary,” Beard said. “Iwas often there at night. We became real close when he moved backhere from Louisiana. I’m just thankful that the Lord protectedme.”

Brock was the youngest son of eight children and three years hersenior, Beard said, but their birthdays were close. Hers is May 21and his May 23.

“Brock was a very special person,” she said. “He was a lovingbrother. He was financially better off than the rest of the family,but he was always there for us when we needed him.”

He was also well known and respected in the community because ofhis philanthropic nature.

“He was so good to children and anyone in need,” Beard said. “Hehelped a lot of people. That’s why I couldn’t understand why anyonewould want to kill him.”

Thames’ case against the suspect helps her to understand thereasons, she said. According to Thames, there was no localinvolvement in the murders.

That announcement not only helped ease Beard’s mind, but alsothat of other residents in the community, who long believed theymay have a murderer living among them, Thames said.

No leads in the murders were developed at the time, Thames said,but each sheriff since has worked to solve the case with theassistance of Mississippi Highway Patrol investigators, the StateFire Marshal’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, FBI, and thestate attorney general.

Since the Burnettes were murdered in 1986, three of the brothershave died, Beard said. She feels worrying over the case and theuncertainty of what happened was an additional burden that affectedthem as they grew older.

“I just didn’t let it torment me,” she said. “I think (the day Iread about the pending arrest) was my worst day since this allhappened. Seeing their picture in the paper just brought all thememories back.”

It was leads developed by previous administrations and his ownadministration that led to the Georgia trip, Thames said.

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