Rifle murder suspect allegedly told police he ‘just snapped’
August 5, 2009
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Rifle man accused of murdering a DeBeque resident Sunday night told Mesa County Sheriff’s investigators that he “just snapped,” according to an arrest affidavit released Tuesday.
According to the affidavit, the victim was identified as Steven Laverne Burdick, 52, of DeBeque, in western Colorado.
Kenneth Earl Wright Jr., 43, called Garfield County dispatchers about 6 a.m. Monday and stated that he had assaulted a 50-year-old male with a sledge-hammer handle, at 2090 45 Road in DeBeque, according to the affidavit. Wright apparently called dispatchers from the West Rifle Interstate 70 exit and told dispatchers that he would wait for authorities at the DeBeque exit.
Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him at the exit.
Wright told dispatchers that Burdick was not conscious when he left the residence. He also stated that when the victim did regain consciousness, he hit him again, the affidavit stated.
A Mesa County Court judge set bond at $1 million Tuesday afternoon, and ordered Wright to appear in court again on Aug. 11, at which time he is expected to be formally charged, according to court officials.
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Deputies arrived at Burdick’s home Monday morning and found him “face down on the floor of the residence,” and “there appeared to be a large gash wound to the head of the deceased,” the affidavit states.
Wright told investigators that this was a “serious crime” and “thought he needed to get an attorney,” the affidavit stated. He then asked investigators if they wanted to hear the whole story from the beginning.
According to the affidavit, Wright was incarcerated in August 2008 for a DUI charge, and he has been arrested numerous times for domestic violence-related incidents. Wright told investigators that he was released from jail in December 2008, but was again incarcerated from February to April 2009.
According to the affidavit, Wright and his wife lived in a trailer in DeBeque, but that his wife had asked Burdick to help move the trailer to Rifle while Wright was in jail from February to April 2009.
Wright claimed that Burdick made several lewd comments to him about Jane to the effect that he and Jane had had intimate relations while Wright was in jail.
Wright told investigators that he went to Burdick’s residence looking for work the last week of July.
According to the affidavit, Wright said that Burdick called him on Tuesday, July 28, to work at his ranch.
“According to Wright, from the first day he arrived at Burdick’s place, Steven Burdick told him he was actually invited to the RV by his wife and was in his bed while [Wright] was in jail,” the affidavit says.
“According to Wright, Burdick made taunting statements like that, ‘every day since Tuesday,'” the affidavit stated.
Wright told investigators that he “just snapped” when Burdick made those remarks, and he told Burdick to “shut up and not to say that,” and “to quit and it’s not funny.”
Wright told investigators that on Sunday he was in Burdick’s kitchen when Burdick and a female returned from picking up some hay for his horses. Wright claimed that Burdick made unwanted sexual advances toward the woman. However, the woman later told investigators that she had been a friend of Burdick’s for about 20 years, and denied any sexual contact by Burdick or that any comments were ever made to her by Wright.
The woman left the residence between 9 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the affidavit. The woman also confirmed to authorities that a woman known as “Crazy Jane,” referring to Wright’s wife, had been at Burdick’s residence on one occasion in previous months, while the woman was there.
According to the affidavit, Wright told investigators that Burdick came home about 10:30 p.m. Sunday and sat down in a chair in the living room, in close proximity to where Wright was sitting on a couch.
“Burdick made the comments to him, ‘Like to get her in his room, like I got your woman on your bed,’ and ‘I almost got her to bed like I did your old lady,'” the affidavit stated.
There was an argument about how Burdick had treated the woman at the residence earlier in the day.
“Burdick told him he was only going to rub against her, just like he did to his wife,” the affidavit stated.
Wright told investigators that he yelled at Burdick about his behavior, and that Wright got up and slapped Burdick against the head with his hand.
Wright decided to leave and was walking toward the door when he grabbed a sledge-hammer handle that was sitting beside the front door, turned, took one step toward Burdick and struck him in the back of his head, with a baseball bat type swing, as Burdick attempted to get up from his chair, according to the affidavit.
Wright said that he could not remember how many times he hit Burdick with the handle. He told investigators that Burdick fell to the floor after the initial blow to his head, and when he tried to get up or moved, he again struck Burdick with the handle. He said that he sat on the couch for “a few minutes” and then decided to leave.
“He stated that Burdick was still breathing when he left but bleeding badly from where he struck him in the head,” the affidavit stated.
Wright reported that he left the residence in Burdick’s white Ford truck and drove to an area at the West Rifle I-70 exit. He cleaned the handle and left it in the back of the truck. He told investigators that he called his father, who told him to call someone to make sure that Burdick was all right and to turn himself in to authorities.
He said that it was about seven hours after the incident when he made the calls, the affidavit stated.
“When Wright was told Burdick was deceased, he sobbed and made statements that he was a murderer and this was all due to a jealous rage,” the affidavit stated.
The report stated that Wright was cooperative with investigators as they collected physical evidence from him, and that he admitted to doing methamphetamine after he left Burdick’s residence.
Wright was arrested for first-degree murder and was taken to the Mesa County Detention Facility in Grand Junction on Monday.
Investigators interviewed others who had worked or were working for Burdick. According to one man interviewed, he described Burdick as “a very nice person and never had any problems with him.” The man also said that he knew Burdick to be drunk “from sunup to sundown,” the affidavit states.
The man also told investigators that he remembered being at the residence Sunday when Burdick and a female went to pick up the hay, and that Wright made the statement to the female that, “He was going to hurt him if he did not stop making comments about his wife.”