Murder suspect's call led police to body

Woman charged with homicide after ending family's weeklong search for victim

February 08, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

Carl Kent started looking for his cousin Nelly the day after Christmas. He organized a search party and went to a flophouse in the city where she sometimes stayed with a friend.

But nobody there had seen her.

The day after New Year's, Kent received a phone call from a woman who was in jail.

"She said, `You don't have to worry about looking for your cousin anymore. Go to my house, kick in the door, you'll find your cousin. She's been in there, and she's been dead for three days,' " Kent recalled in an interview. Police backed his account in charging documents filed in court.

Kent said he dialed 911 and rushed to the North Avenue address -- the same flophouse he had been to before on his search.

He banged on the door, and when it was opened there was a stench. "I said `That is that smell.' I said, `You can't tell me there isn't something dead up there.' "

The police arrived, and they went upstairs to the apartment where the caller lived. There was a lock on the door, Kent said, so police had to kick it down.

Police said they found 44-year-old Nelsene Hattie Burnette dead and wrapped in plastic and placed in a closet.

The medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide, determining that someone broke Burnette's neck and then covered her nose and mouth with plastic bags, suffocating her, according to police charging documents.

Police charged the person who they say had called Kent, Vivian Maria Day, 49, with first-degree murder and other offenses. She was ordered held without bail after a court hearing this week.

According to charging documents filed in court, Day told homicide detectives that she had an argument with Burnette and threw a picture frame at her on the evening of Dec. 29 or the morning of Dec. 30.

Day said that she had a "blackout" and does not remember anything else, according to the documents. Burnette did not wake up, and Day said she thought Burnette was dead, according to the documents.

Police said the suspect took Burnette's car and was arrested Jan. 1 in Baltimore County on unrelated assault and traffic offenses. That is apparently when she decided to call Burnette's family.

Kent said he is thankful for that phone call.

"I'd like to thank [Day] for bringing closure to this situation because I'd be still out there searching," he said. "She told me where exactly I'd find the body."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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