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The Year in Review: Waynesville Murders

Top L to R: Katherine Burton and Thomas Smith. Bottom L to R: Shawn Burton and Aaron Cross. / Photo: WCSI File
Top L to R: Katherine Burton and Thomas Smith. Bottom L to R: Shawn Burton and Aaron Cross. / Photo: WCSI File

Residents in the small Bartholomew County community of Waynesville were shocked to learn about a quadruple homicide that happened there on Mother's Day Weekend.

Four people - Katherine Burton, Thomas W. Smith, Aaron Cross and Shawn Burton - were all found dead by Katherine Burton's son, Daniel Burton, on May 11 after he returned to his mother's home from work around 10:40 p.m. Daniel Burton shared the home, located at 2634 E. Main Cross St., with his mother, Katherine Burton and Smith, who was his stepfather.

Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said the murders were very violent and brutal. All four suffered gunshot wounds to the head. Smith, Cross and Shawn Burton all suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body. Katherine Burton was shot once and suffered multiple stab wounds to her body. Daniel Burton was never considered a suspect in the case.

Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett said a few days later that drugs may have played a factor in the murders and considered the deaths drug-related. He says recovered from the scene methamphetamine, several spent shell casings and a knife that was used in one of the murders. A rifle was also recovered near the crime scene.

Then on June 18, Sheriff Mark Gorbett, along with members of the Bartholomew County Death Investigation Team, named 55-year-old Samuel E. Sallee, of Columbus, as the lone suspect in the case. Sallee was taken into custody by Bartholomew County detectives May 13 at a home in Columbus on a Brown County warrant for failure to appear for a court proceeding there regarding the alleged battery of one of his relatives.

On Dec. 13, Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett announced that Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash filed formal charges and a warrant has been issued for Sallee charging him with 4 counts of murder. Authorities have not released information about when Sallee may appear in court on these charges.

In an unrelated matter, Sallee was brought into federal custody in August after being charged with illegally possessing a firearm. An indictment returned on May 14 alleged that police found Sallee to have possessed a Ruger Model 10/22 .22 caliber rifle. Due to his prior felony convictions, Sallee is not legally permitted to possess a gun.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said a search warrant was executed at Sallee's home shortly after the murders. During the search of a detached garage, police allegedly found the rifle in question, as well as additional evidence, including several pieces of jewelry that have been identified as having belonged to Katherine Burton.

Sallee still remains in federal custody on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm. He will go to trial in federal court in Indianapolis on that charge March 24.

Images

Top L to R: Katherine Burton and Thomas Smith. Bottom L to R: Shawn Burton and Aaron Cross. / Photo: WCSI FileSamuel Earl Sallee / Photo: WCSI File
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 6:41:31 AM


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