Murder of Bremerton woman remains unsolved

A weather-beaten flyer at Warren Avenue and Ninth Street, just blocks from the scene asks, “Who killed Sara Burke?” Questions behind the May murder of the 19-year-old Bremerton resident continues to elude detectives. - JJ Swanson
A weather-beaten flyer at Warren Avenue and Ninth Street, just blocks from the scene asks, “Who killed Sara Burke?” Questions behind the May murder of the 19-year-old Bremerton resident continues to elude detectives.
— image credit: JJ Swanson

Bremerton police have worked the Sara Burke case since May of this year. With no one yet charged, police have more than 80 cases on the back burner.

Sara Burke, a 19-year-old Bremerton woman was stabbed in the neck on May 3, 2011. Neighbors reported hearing an argument and screams around 9:30 p.m.

The police later discovered Burke’s body on the sidewalk on Waren Avenue.

“It was gruesome and really shook everyone up,” said Lori Ann Gregory, a neighborhood resident. “I still think about it, and I won’t let my daughter walk around after dark.”

Bremerton Police Department and its detectives are putting all their resources into solving the case, said Detective Sgt. Kevin Crane of the Bremerton Police Department who is the supervisor of detectives on the Burke murder.

“It’s taking up a lot of time,” said Crane. “A lot of cases haven’t been worked by detectives because we are shifting our attention onto this one.”

Bremerton PD currently staffs seven detectives and has 87 open cases. Two detectives have been assigned full-time to Burke’s murder while the remaining five detectives pitch in to assist when they can.

“We can’t do them all,” said Crane. “We could always use more resources, but we do what we can.”

Patrol officers are also helping with the workload by investigating smaller cases which have taken a back seat to the Burke murder, according to Crane.

“A murder case should take top billing,” said Mayor Patty Lent of Bremerton, “Others will just have to take second billing. I want closure on this case for our city.”

Burke’s murder was the first in Bremerton since 2008.

Detectives have moved forward with the investigation since spring. Burke’s boyfriend Richard Heard, 21, whose house she was leaving when she was stabbed once in the neck, has been moved further down the list but not yet cleared completely, according to authorities.

In August, detectives tracked down another man who was a very strong lead only to find out, after a month of investigation, that he was not in Bremerton at the time of the murder.

There is also talk around the neighborhood that a man who calls himself “Joker” was involved, according to Terry Smith and Donnie Krog, two neighborhood residents.

“He’s scum, worst of the bottom feeders,” said Smith. “Everybody’s saying he did it.”

Krog described Joker as a stoutly built, white man with a scraggly, graying beard.

A resident who lives near Ninth Street and Mckenzie Avenue, who asked not to be named, said that he told detectives about seeing a man fitting Joker’s description sprint across the street and duck into some bushes at the time of the murder.

“Joker is one of many people of interest,” said Crane. “Nobody has been ruled out at this point.”

Other efforts brought an FBI expert to consult with the department on the murder, and detectives have been traveling around Washington state to track down certain people who have left Bremerton since the murder. Authorities believe those people might have information germane to their investigation.

Many, including Lent, have deemed the Burke murder a “cold case.”

The tip line for community information involving the murder has been silent for some time, according to Crane.

“We’re always disappointed when it takes this long a time to catch the perpetrator of such a heinous crime,” said Lent.

Crane believes otherwise and said that the case is far from cold. Crane said he spoke with the Burke family last week and will meet again this week.

Detectives are still bringing in a new piece of information at least every week.

The Burke family could not be reached for comment.

“We will keep going until we exhaust every possible lead,” said Crane. “I couldn’t even guess how long that will take.”


Call (360) 473-5228 if you have information on the murder of Sara Burke.

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