Stories posted are written by National news Journalists, not by this blog.
Our Blog Tips

PA- Death years ago ruled a suicide

3-7-2008 Pennsylvania:

Nearly five years to the day after a man was found on fire in Bethlehem's Nisky Hill Cemetery, the Lehigh County coroner's office has ruled his death a suicide.

A man walking his dog in the historic North Side cemetery the afternoon of March 11, 2003, saw a drift of smoke that he thought was a pile of leaves on fire and called police.

Instead, police and firefighters found a trembling man in a wooded area near the cemetery with severe burns on 98 percent of his body.

David Burkhardt, 58, was still conscious and told police he was jumped by three men who had set him on fire. He died eight hours later at Lehigh Valley Hospital's burn center.

On Thursday, Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim ruled Burkhardt's manner of death as suicide.

He said Burkhardt did not leave a suicide note, but some of his clothes were found neatly folded near a gravestone, an act unlikely to have been done by an attacker.

Grim said police also tracked down three people thought to be linked to Burkhardt's death, but determined they were not connected.

Burkhardt's brother, Thomas R. Burkhardt Jr. of Bethlehem, said Thursday he believed for years his brother had been attacked and killed while walking in the cemetery.

He said he was unsure what to think about the coroner's ruling.

''If that's what [Grim] said, I guess that's the way it is,'' Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt's death came about a year after police charged him with exposing himself and performing a sex act while standing in front of the window of his Center Street house dressed in a woman's wig and feather boa. A utility crew was working outside and reported the incident to police the following day, claiming Burkhardt's actions caused them ''severe distress.''

Police obtained a search warrant for the house, where they found several women's wigs, a white boa neck garment, several women's robes and Burkhardt hiding under the bed.

Police said that over the years, they had received similar complaints from delivery people and workers in the area, but no one was willing to testify against Burkhardt.

He agreed to plead guilty to indecent exposure and prosecutors dropped open lewdness and disorderly conduct charges. He was put on 23 months probation and ordered to attend sex offender counseling.

Family members were unsure what led Burkhardt to the incident at his living room window, but his life fell apart after the charges, said Joe Delaney, who is married to Tammy Delaney, Burkhardt's niece. She declined to comment.

''To us, it's like the system killed him,'' Joe Delaney of Bethlehem said. ''He had to sell everything, he lost his job, he was never the same. We never understood why he did that in the window.''

He said Burkhardt was a talented artist, cleaned houses and worked various home health care jobs. He said relatives were torn between believing Burkhardt had killed himself or someone had targeted him.

''Who would want to die like that?'' Delaney said. ''It's just awful.''

Nearly five years later, Delaney said there are still burn marks on a tree in the wooded area where Burkhardt was found.

''To us, he was the best person in the world that would do anything for you,'' Delaney said. ''We're proud to say we all stood by him and were there for him.'' ..more.. by Pamela Lehman

No comments: