Double homicide case proceeds in Barry County court
An angry altercation quickly escalated into violence and tragedy June 21 in Orangeville Township, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case against Jon Burnett.
A hearing was slated Wednesday for the 63-year-old Plainwell man charged with murdering two men, assaulting his wife and committing five other felonies near his 8115 Lindsey Road residence that afternoon.
Burnett was arraigned June 24 before Barry County District Court Magistrate Frank Hillary, who set bond at $10 million.
Burnett faces two counts of open murder in the shooting deaths of Gary L. Peake, 73, of Plainwell, and Bryce Nathan DeGood, 21, of Haslett; assault by strangulation and felonious assault of his wife, Lynne Burnett; and four counts of committing felonies with a firearm in Barry County.
Since Burnett's arraignment, more information has become known about the sequence of events that afternoon. The affidavit, released by Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt, provides a police account of what happened after sheriff's deputies were alerted.
Police were first notified of the physical altercation at 2:45 p.m. Friday, June 21, after Lynne Burnett sought help from a sheriff's deputy who was parked at the Barry Township Police Department. Burnett drove up, identified herself and told the officer that her husband had a gun and had threatened her with it.
About one to two hours earlier, she told the officer, she had been at home with her husband and a woman who used to live with the Burnetts. The woman, who was not named in the document, had driven up in a van and, assisted by two other people who had come with her, retrieved some items she had left at the Burnett residence. Just as they were finished loading the van, Jon Burnett came out of the house with a handgun.
“He had the gun in the air and was yelling at the woman to get off his property,” the affidavit states. “The van left, and Lynne turned around and pushed Jon in his chest, asking him what his problem was. Jon was still pointing the gun in the air.
“Jon yelled at Lynne and said that he would shoot her, too. Jon grabbed Lynne with one hand around her throat, still holding the gun in the other hand. She shoved Jon back, and then began wrestling with Jon's arms trying to get his hands away from her neck and also trying to keep the gun away from her. She was yelling at him, and they were both out of breath. She then just dropped her arms and gave up. Jon then let her go, and he turned and walked back to the house. Lynne ran to the barn to compose herself, and then after several minutes, she went back to the house. Jon was still there, and she heard him racking a shotgun. She saw Jon in the living room with a shotgun. She went to her car and left.”
Shortly after that, Lynne Burnett located the sheriff's deputy. While she was talking to the deputy, another officer was dispatched to the scene near Lewis and Lindsey roads in response to a report of a man lying in the roadway.
The deputy arrived and identified the man lying in a ditch along Lindsey Road as DeGood, who was subsequently pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the head. A man with a pink pistol, later identified as Burnett, was sitting on a rock near the intersection, the deputy reported.
While the officer was with him, “Burnett stated that he shot the individual nearby [DeGood], and he also stated that he shot his friend, Gary, at Gary's residence,” the affidavit states. The officer said he “transported Burnett to a nearby residence at Burnett's direction and subsequently located Gary L. Peake, deceased from gunshot wounds to the head and neck.”
Nakfoor Pratt told the Banner that Burnett had made statements to police after he was in custody. These statements are an exception under the Miranda warning, she said. Miranda requires police to notify criminal suspects of their right to remain silent.
The prosecutor said the Miranda warning would not apply in a case where a suspect under arrest makes spontaneous, unsolicited statements.
Burnett's defense attorney, Steven Storrs of Hastings, spoke to the Banner Monday and could not confirm if the probable cause conference would take place as scheduled Wednesday. He said he had no comment on the case.
The prosecutor said a probable cause conference is a court proceeding scheduled prior to a preliminary examination. It applies to felony cases and provides an opportunity for the prosecution and defense to work out some of the details of a case as it proceeds through the court system.