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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homicide victim a convicted sex offender

9-16-2011 Canada:

Hamilton’s most recent homicide victim, George Washington Burnett, was a convicted child molester.

Court documents obtained by The Spectator show Burnett pleaded guilty to sex-related offences in 1993 involving three victims, whose identities are protected under a publication ban. He was sentenced to seven years in a penitentiary.

The abuse took place during two time periods. The first was in the mid-1970s. The second occurred over several years, ending in the early 1990s.

Burnett, 82, was found dead in his bed at his Stirton Street home with a knife in his neck on the evening of Sept. 7. His son David and concerned friends had come to check on him and found his body.

Police said he was last seen by several people around noon the day before.

Neighbours have remembered Burnett, a former pastor, as a deeply religious man whom one neighbour said was like everybody’s grandfather.

Hamilton police say they are confident the murder was not random, but would not comment on whether his death was connected to his past. Staff Sergeant Steve Hrab, of the homicide unit, said there is some sort of relationship between Burnett and his killer.

“This individual wasn’t a stranger to the deceased,” Hrab said.

When asked if police are looking at someone in the neighbourhood, he said: “That’s a possibility, but it’s not conclusive to just that.”

Hrab described Stirton Street, in the central lower city near Sanford Avenue North and Wilson Street, as a close-knit neighbourhood. Burnett was known to most of his neighbours and they knew it was unusual that he had not been seen for more than a day.

One of the victims Burnett was convicted of molesting spoke to The Spectator.

She stoically recalled details of the abuse, which began more than 20 years ago when she was nine years old. The woman, now 30, read about the homicide in the newspaper and wondered if it was the same George Washington Burnett.

She hadn’t seen or spoken to Burnett since he was sent to prison. No one told her he lived about a 10-minute drive away. News of his death brought back memories.

“I started thinking, ‘Well maybe somebody from before that he did something to had come back to get revenge.’ Or maybe he did it to someone’s kid,” she said.

The woman said the abuse started about a month after she met Burnett. She said he would cover her mouth so she couldn’t scream and threaten her by saying he would send her away and she would never see her family again. She never told anyone what happened, not even her mother.

“I was scared to tell anyone, he put the fear in me,” she said. “I just remember being in shock, I don’t remember ever having emotion. After this happened, I just had to deal with it.”

The woman broke down when she talked about how Burnett changed her life — she was always afraid of men and new people until she got older.

“I never had boyfriends growing up, I felt like I never had a normal childhood because of that.”

A few years into the abuse, she was confronted by a woman who said Burnett raped her. At first she denied anything had been done to her, but when she found out she wasn’t the only victim, she broke her silence and told her family. Burnett was charged with five offences in 1993. He eventually pleaded guilty to three of those charges.

She never saw him again.

Following his death, neighbours — who say they knew little about Burnett — were deeply saddened. They described him as a wonderful man whom everyone looked after. He spent holidays with the folks across the street, and others helped him with meals and chores. They said Burnett was always alone and some recalled him living on Stirton for 10 to 15 years.

Burnett had seven children and several grandchildren. He once worked at Menasco Aerospace in Oakville as an engineer. Before he went to prison, he was a pastor at a local church.

Some of Burnett’s family members declined to speak to The Spectator. They held a funeral service for him Friday morning.

Police set up a command van in the neighbourhood on Thursday hoping to interview about 30 people they had not yet spoken to. Hrab said they did reach some of them, but would not say whether police learned any new details about the case.

“I don’t want the people responsible to know what we are thinking,” Hrab said. ..Source.. by Stacey Escott

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