25 years in prison for man who walked into police station and confessed to 2006 killingMichael Burroughs was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday for the 2006 slaying of his girlfriend, Shannon Fischer.
By: By Chris Hubbuch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. -- Michael Burroughs was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday for the 2006 slaying of his girlfriend, Shannon Fischer.
"I'm haunted by what I've done every day," Burroughs said in a brief, emotionless statement. "I'm so sorry for taking Shannon away from her family."
Fischer, 23, was reported missing in December 2006, and her disappearance confounded authorities until Burroughs suddenly walked into a police station in October 2010 and confessed to her killing.
He told investigators he choked Fischer when he thought she had stolen his meth, according to court records. He kept her body in a closet for several days before dumping it in the trash behind his Prairie du Chien apartment.
Fischer's body was never recovered.
Authorities believe it is in an eastern Wisconsin landfill but finding it would be nearly impossible.
Burroughs, 27, pleaded no contest in January to first-degree reckless homicide, just weeks before he was to stand trial. A charge of hiding a corpse was dismissed as part of a plea agreement in which District Attorney Tim Baxter agreed to seek no more than 15 years in prison.
Public defender Rose Oliveto said that while her client refused to provide additional details about the crime -- or his motive -- he agreed to the plea to avoid a trial.
"Mr. Burroughs didn't want to put the family through that," she said. "And he didn't want to feel horrible if he was found not guilty, which was a possibility."
Burroughs will spend an additional six years on extended supervision under the sentence crafted by Judge James Czajkowski. He will receive credit for almost a year and a half he's spent behind bars.
Quoting the Greek historian Herodotus, Czajkowski said, "for great wrongdoings there are great punishments," though he held out hope that the sentencing in Crawford County Circuit Court would result in forgiveness.
Baxter said Tuesday he was satisfied with the sentence.
"There are no winners in a case like this," he said.
Burroughs was declared competent to stand trial in April after several months of treatment in a state hospital. A psychiatrist testified Burroughs suffered from delusions that his stepfather was poisoning the air around him.
That belief led him to walk into the police station nearly four years after Fischer's disappearance and confess to her killing.
Burroughs told the court he regrets not coming forward sooner.
"I thought about what I did over and over," he said. "I was too scared to change and disgusted by what I'd done."
Fischer's mother, Diane Bouzek, asked for a 60-year sentence and accused Burroughs of having no remorse.
"What the hell kind of animal are you?" she asked. "I still don't know where Shannon's remains are. You threw her away like a piece of trash."
Bouzek said her daughter was naïve and easily misled, someone who fell in with drug users but loved her children and had potential.
She described the pain of not knowing for nearly four years where she had gone, despite talking with Burroughs several times after the disappearance.
"The opportunity was there ... to speak the truth," she said. "He kept his silence."
Burroughs' mother testified on his behalf.
"My son is not a monster," Laurie Gjere said. "I don't agree with what he has done. I am comforted that he has a conscience."
Both mothers described the pain of losing a child.
"He was your all American teen in high school," Gjere wrote in a letter to the judge. "After returning from the second summer of basic training everything changed. I don't know why."
Bouzek said she was happy with the sentence and sympathized with Gjere, even though she can still visit her son.
"Two families were affected," she said. "It's sad all the way around."
Cindy Gordon adopted Fischer's 5-year-old daughter, Savanah. She saves court records and news clippings for when Savanah is old enough to understand what happened to her birth mother.
Gordon wrote a five-page statement to read at Tuesday's hearing, but when the time came she couldn't bring herself to testify.
Paul Graham and Kelly Debnam have raised Fischer's son, Isaiah, since he was a baby. They said the 7-year-old knows his mother is dead, but little more.
"It will be us who have to tell Isaiah what happened," Debnam said to Burroughs. "It will be us who have to tell him you threw his mother away as if she was nothing."
Graham said he hopes he can someday tell Isaiah that the person who killed his mother has remorse, has turned his life around, and that there is "a glimmer of justice and reconciliation."
(c)2012 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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