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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2008

Burleson found not guilty in Thanksgiving Day murder

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Burleson Burleson
LCSO Enlarge

Christopher Burleson was found not guilty on Wednesday by a judge in the Thanksgiving Day shooting death of Marc LaShawn Draper.

Judge Denise Ann Dartt acquitted Burleson of the felony offenses and a gun possession charge after a bench trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Mr. Draper, 36, was shot in his home at 1638 Freeman St. while he was on the phone talking to his girlfriend.

The previous story in The Blade and on toledoblade.com:

Trial begins for Toledo man charged in robbery and fatal shooting

With portions of his Thanksgiving Day dinner cooking on the stove, Marc Draper was shot in the head at point-blank range while his father slept on the couch in a nearby room, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor said yesterday.

One of the men charged for the early morning murder of Mr. Draper appeared yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for a bench trial.

Christopher Burleson, 42, of 1706 Joffre Ave., is charged with one count each of murder, aggravated robbery, and having a weapon as a felon, each with gun specifications.

Judge Denise Ann Dartt will decide the case.

Assistant Prosecutor Andy Lastra said during opening statements that the 36-year-old victim was known to sell drugs from the back door of his home at 1638 Freeman St., where he lived with his father.

He said that Mr. Draper's friends and family used the home's front door and those buying drugs would use the back door.

Mr. Draper was on the phone with his girlfriend about 2:45 a.m. Nov. 22 when she heard what sounded like a "pop or bang" followed by a grunt from Mr. Draper, Mr. Lastra said.

The gunshot woke up Mr. Draper's father, Ronnie Draper, who went toward the kitchen.

The elder Mr. Draper, who was "highly intoxicated" at the time, was struck on the head by an unseen assailant, Mr. Lastra said.

"He then found his son on the floor in a pool of blood," Mr. Lastra said.

Police, who were called to the house just before 3 a.m., found a handgun in the backyard and money strewn throughout the house. The elder Mr. Draper was taken to Toledo Hospital for the injury to his head.

Mr. Lastra said a glove found at the scene tested positive for both gunshot residue and DNA. He said that the DNA found on the glove was that of Darin Armstrong, a second man recently charged in the murder.

Mr. Lastra then spoke of a confession Burleson made in the jail to another inmate, Omar Scott. In that conversation, Burleson admitted to having set up the robbery of Marc Draper and later calling 911 to report the shooting, Mr. Lastra told Judge Dartt.

"He is the person who set up this aggravated robbery by his own admission," Mr. Lastra said, adding that Burleson is "just as responsible" for the murder because of the laws of complicity.

Defense attorney Matt Fech told Judge Dartt there was no physical evidence linking Burleson to the murder, only "argument and innuendo."

He said the detective handling the case often told witnesses what had occurred rather than interviewing them.

Mr. Fech said the inmate who came forward with information about Burleson's supposed jailhouse confession was facing a lengthy sentence for robbery charges, and that time was significantly reduced after he approached police with information about Burleson.

"Scott testified to help himself out," Mr. Fech said.

Throughout the day, Judge Dartt heard testimony from several witnesses, including the elder Mr. Draper and Scott.

Family members of the victim crowded into the courtroom yesterday.

At the time of Mr. Draper's death, family said Mr. Draper was the father of a 4-year-old son and was the second in his family to be murdered.

His older brother, Ronnie Draper, Jr., was found in 1991 with gunshot wounds to the back of his head under a railroad viaduct at Post and Albion streets.

Before the start of the trial, Mr. Lastra asked that a previously filed obstructing justice charge against Burleson be dismissed. A felony domestic violence charge also was dismissed.

The trial will continue today.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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