AUGUSTA, Maine - The tortuous path to justice for a Rochester, N.H., man killed gangland style in Saco in September 2017 took another crooked turn last week when it was confirmed that the York County District Attorneys Office had revealed it is no longer investigating whether charges should be brought forward in the fatal shooting of 54-year-old Mike Burns.
That decision, released to The Rochester Voice through an attorney for Maine State Police, reverses an Oct. 10 statement from York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, who said at the time they were reviewing the case to see if any charges might be brought forward.
McGettigan's unexpected announcement they were reopening the case came exactly one month after State Police and the state's Attorney General's office concluded that Burns was killed in self-defense by a man protecting himself and a female acquaintance when Burns became enraged after he had paid her to have sex and she reneged.
The probe concluded that Burns was shot twice in the torso and once in the head while threatening the shooter, who was an acquaintance of the woman.
Attorney Christopher Parr of the Maine State Police confirmed on Friday that the York County District Attorneys Office was no longer reviewing the case for possible charges.
The Saco Police Department, meanwhile, said they continue to investigate the case regarding other crimes that may have been committed on Nye Street that night that were not associated with Burns' death.
Meanwhile, a Freedom of Access Act request made by The Rochester Voice last month to obtain records relative to the police investigation was denied, Parr said, "in at least part, as there is a reasonable possibility that disclosure of many of the records would ... constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of one or more of the individuals involved in the incident to which the reports relate."
Parr said the refusal was backed up by Maine statute. Normally, case files are released once it is closed, and while Saco Police continue their investigation, their probe is not into the circumstances of Burns' death.
Parr did hint that heavily redacted case files may be available sometime in the future.
The decision to deny The Rochester Voice case files may also frustrate the efforts of a Dover attorney working for the Burns family, who do not believe the State Police narrative of what happened that fateful night.
That narrative was first revealed in a Sept. 11 Rochester Voice article that quoted Maine State Police as saying they had closed their case in the Sept. 30, 2017, killing of Burns, which they say occurred when he threatened the tenant of the duplex at 26 Nye St. with a knife. The tenant then shot fatally Burns three times, twice in the torso and once in the head.
The official police version of the story is that Burns went to the home looking to pay for sex after answering a Craigslist ad. Police say he paid a woman there $100, but she then refused sex and a man (not the shooter) came into the room and told him to leave.
Burns is said to have left, retrieved a knife from his vehicle and returned to the duplex and threatened the woman whereupon the shooter, the tenant, killed him in self-defense.
Police have not released any of the names of the three principals involved that night, but Dover Attorney Alfred T. Catalfo said in October he and Burns' family expressed incredulity with the official version of events.
"The allegation that (Burns) ... somehow became so enraged over being robbed of $100 that he went on a violent rampage, made threats and attempted to force his way into the residence at 26 Nye Street, resulting in him being shot and killed in self-defense, is not only out of character for him but simply unbelievable," Catalfo said in a statement sent to media outlets in October.
In the four-page statement Catalfo lays out his reasons for doubting the police version, which relies in large degree upon the statements made by the alleged prostitute, the tenant who pulled the trigger and the third unnamed man, whom Catalfo identified as a felon and parolee, who, according to police, was found under a bed in the duplex when police arrived.
The statement also included details of what police believe occurred that night gleaned by Burns' family members briefed at the conclusion of the investigation last September.
According to Catalfo, police believe that when Burns first met the woman he paid her $100, but then a man entered the room and told Burns to leave.
Burns left the home without physical confrontation, but may have made verbal threats, according to Catalfo's statement.
The man who told Burns to leave also left the home at the same time. Burns then went to his truck and retrieved a pocket knife, a bag of tools that did not contain any weapons and a 5-gallon bucket of "pull cord," which is used for fishing computer network wires through a building, part of Burns' job as a computer technician.
When Burns returned to the home, he was met for the first time by the gunman on the front lawn. The man had just returned from a convenience store to buy alcohol, according to the statement by Catalfo.
"Mr. Burns allegedly told the man he was going to kill him and burn the house down," Catalfo wrote. "There are no witnesses to this other than the shooter, who is claiming self-defense."
Catalfo said the gunman then retreated through an enclosed front porch and into the residence, but Burns followed him into the porch, leaving his tools and bucket of pull cord outside.
The gunman closed the front door between the house and the porch, but Burns was able to fight through the door using his pocket knife. From this scuffle, the gunman is said to have suffered a single cut on his arm from the knife, according to Catalfo.
Catalfo said Burns followed the gunman down a hallway near the back of the building, where Burns was ultimately shot three times, twice in the chest and once in the head. The rounds were fired from between 1 foot and 3 feet away.
State Police maintained that Burns died of a single gunshot wound to the head for almost a year until telling The Rochester Voice on Sept. 11 he'd been shot three times. Subsequently, State Police Spokesman Steve McCausland said police often give out erroneous facts at the start of an investigation as part of their strategy to catch wrongdoers.
Catalfo noted in October that two (bullets) in the torso and one in the head are a widely known method of ensuring a fatal outcome, also known as "gangland style."
There are many other inconsistencies and questionable findings made by State Police, Catalfo said.
Some of those include
First, Catalfo believes Burns was shot in the back of the head; he said one of his sons said he saw his dad's face prior to burial and it was intact. Being shot in the back of the head is not consistent with self defense, Catalfo noted.
Second, Catalfo said one detective called it a clear-cut case of self defense, and clear-cut cases of self defense don't take a year to settle.
Third, an evidence envelope containing Burns' wallet indicates it was found on a back stairwell, while the official story is he was killed on the enclosed porch.
Fourth, according to the official story, Burns and the shooter did not meet and had no interaction until after Burns was robbed of $100, went back to his truck, allegedly came back and attempted to re-enter the house. At this point the shooter supposedly had no idea who Burns was or why he was there. Additionally, the shooter who was allowing the man and woman who apparently robbed Burns to use his apartment, also claims had had no knowledge as to their activities.
Fifth, As Burns is deceased, the official story is only supported by three remaining principals: the tenant/shooter, the man said to be a convict and parolee who first told Burns to leave and the alleged prostitute.
Sixth, why would Burns take a bag of tools and bucket of pull cord from his truck in the midst of all this. Catalfo theorized that it makes no sense and sounds like "perpetrators concocting a story on the fly with limited items from the truck that could be quickly attributable to Mr. Burns."
Catalfo said he and Burns family have their own theory of what happened that night.
"It is our theory that Mr. Burns never left the house, and that he was robbed and killed there," he said in the statement, adding the case warrants further investigation and they are considering a civil suit against the perpetrators "in which we intend to get to the bottom of this tragic event."
It should also be noted that The Rochester Voice published portions of the 911 transcript when it was called in by the shooter.
The transcript, which was obtained in late July by The Rochester Voice, begins with a 911 dispatch specialist asking "What's the address of your emergency," to which the caller replies, "Some guy was tryin' to break in my house and stab me."
The 911 dispatcher then asks for the caller's home town.
"I shot him. I shot him," he replies.
While the transcript, itself, proves nothing, it indicated for the first time a possible motive, however bizarre or inexplicable, in the death of Burns, known as a mild-mannered father of two.
Catalfo has said he would also be filing FOAA requests, and he and the Burns family are prepared to pursue wrongful death lawsuits against the principals involved and may subpoena them as well as others.
Catalfo was not immediately available for comment today, however he said recently other cases had prevented him from pursuing the Burns case as vigorously.