Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Never Reported Missing: The Murder of Jeana Burrus

source: The Sun

February 6th, 2007 began as a typical day in Sarasota, Florida. The southern coastal area experiences warm temperatures year-round, which allows for children and adults alike to spend their time outdoors during the winter months. On this fateful day, a 14-year-old boy was doing just that: spending time outside in the woods behind Ashton Court.

 At some point, the boy stumbled upon a bone. His mother, who worked as a nurse, immediately recognized that the bone belonged to a human. The boy's mother subsequently called police, who then went to the wooded area where the bone was found. While sifting through dirt, investigators found a partially decomposed body in a shallow grave. 

The body was fully excavated the following day, during which it was discovered that the deceased person was an adult female. The female was fully clothed but did not have shoes on - which led detectives to believe that she had been carried to the location where she was found. A medical examiner determined that the woman had been dead for about 5-6 months at the time her body was found. She had been killed by blunt force trauma. Her manner of death was labeled a homicide.

Great lengths were taken to identify the woman - who was determined to be between her 30s and 40s at the time of her death.  DNA samples were taken, but there were no matches in the investigative database. The FBI processed the woman's clothing for fibers and trace hairs. Renderings were created with images of the woman's estimated appearance. Unfortunately, none of these efforts turned up any leads.

Fifteen years later, advances in DNA technology finally led to a positive identification. A woman in Bowie, Maryland used AncestryDNA - and her DNA matched the Sarasota victim's DNA. It was eventually confirmed in November 2022 that the victim was 39-year-old Jeana Burrus - the niece of the Maryland woman in the ancestry database.

Investigators soon learned that Jeana lived in Sarasota with her husband, James, and her son, James Jr., prior to her death. Her body was found in a wooded area near the local auto body shop where her husband James used to work. This detail alone would have likely been suspicious to investigators had they known Jeana's identity back in 2007. However, Jeana had never even been reported missing.


Who was Jeana?


Jeana's uncle described Jeana as a loving woman who went out of her way to make others happy. Prior to moving to Florida, Jeana lived in Maryland - closer to her relatives. Her uncle said that she would routinely visit and regularly call her relatives after she moved to Florida. However, at some point in 2006, Jeana's relatives stopped receiving calls. 

Jeana's family. 

Jeana with her husband, James Burrus, and their son. (Sarasota County Sheriff's Office)

Jeana was a stay-at-home mother in Sarasota. Her son was in elementary school at the time of her death. As previously noted, her husband James Burrus worked at a local auto body shop - located close to where Jeana's body was found. 

There is very little publicly known information about Jeana's relationship with James. It is inevitably suspicious that he did not report his wife missing on top of the fact that she was found deceased near his workplace, but he has not been charged with anything related to Jeana's death. James and their son eventually moved out of Sarasota. 

It also seems odd that nobody else in the family reported Jeana missing. Jeana's uncle told reporters that he inquired about Jeana's whereabouts over the years, and he was always "given a story" that he currently cannot comment on due to the ongoing investigation. The same story was also reportedly given to Jeana's brother and stepfather. Jeana's extended family members did not know she was dead until her remains were identified in 2022. 

It is unknown if any friends or acquaintances asked about Jeana's whereabouts over the years. If they did, it's likely that they were also told a similar story. 

The investigation.

As previously noted, Jeana was killed by blunt force trauma. She did not end up deceased in that wooded area on her own - somebody had to have placed her there. Before her body was identified, it was reported that whoever had carried the then-unidentified victim to the spot where she was found had to have already known that the isolated spot existed. A detective told reporters, "This is an area that someone has obviously taken great care to obfuscate the fact that there is a body here."

In August 2023, it was reported that investigators wanted to track down Jeana's family members and/or anyone who knew Jeana and James. As of right now, it appears that investigators are keeping information close to the vest due to the fact that the case is ongoing. Though it has not been confirmed, it appears that James Burrus is the main person-of-interest. 

Anyone with any relevant information is asked to contact detective Brian Ng at 941-861-4900.

Citrus County Chronicle
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, (2)
The Sun

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