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AP: Prosecutor wants the death penalty for suspect in Officer Seara Burton's death

Seara Burton
Posted at 2:50 PM, Oct 29, 2022

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — A prosecutor wants the death penalty for a man charged with killing an Indiana police officer.

Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Shipman made the request Friday in the case of Phillip Matthew Lee, 47, of Richmond, who's now charged with murder in the death of Richmond Police Department Officer Seara Burton.

Burton, 28, died Sept. 18 from her gunshot wound to the head after she was taken off life support Sept. 1. She was shot Aug. 10 after other officers stopped Lee, and Burton was called to the scene to assist with her police dog.

Court documents allege Lee pulled out a gun and fired shots toward the officers, striking Burton. Other officers returned fire, and Lee was apprehended following a foot chase.

Online court records do not show Lee entering a plea on the murder charge. He earlier pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder as well as drug and weapons charges. Lee is being held at the Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill on a parole violation.

Shipman filed court documents Friday that amended a previously filed attempted murder charge in Burton’s shooting to murder and that requests a death sentence if Lee is convicted, the Palladium-Item reported.

Shipman’s filing indicates that two aggravating circumstances would justify the death sentence: that Lee intentionally killed Burton while she was acting in the course of her duty and that the killing occurred while Lee was free on parole after being convicted of possession of a syringe and possession of a narcotic drug.

The prosecutor also requests Lee now be held without bond. Wayne Circuit Judge April Drake previously had set a $1.5 million bond for Lee. His trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 27.

Shipman also filed documents that accuse Lee of being a habitual offender and for an enhancement to two remaining attempted murder charges because Lee used a firearm. The habitual offender allegation against Lee is based on four previous cases that resulted in felony convictions for burglary, possession of cocaine, attempted burglary, auto theft and resisting law enforcement, and possession of a syringe and possession of a narcotic.

The prosecution and Lee’s court-appointed defense attorney, Andrew Maternowski, jointly filed a motion Friday for a gag order in the case.