A jury of 12 took an hour and a half Tuesday afternoon to return guilty verdicts on all charges against Glenn Burkhow Jr., who stood accused of assaulting a Port Orford man and leaving him with life-threatening injuries on the beach in the middle of the night.
Burkhow, who will be sentenced June 27, was found guilty of first- and second-degree assault charges, kidnapping, robbery and felon in possession of a firearm in the beating of Wayne Russell Peters, 50, of Port Orford, at the beach at Paradise Point State Park in January 2013.
A charge of attempted murder was dismissed before the trial began; a second-degree theft charge was dismissed during the trial.
The jury heard testimony for four days before they were given the case — and were presented with more than 50 pieces of evidence, including clothing, a baseball bat, a handgun, transcriptions of text messages and photographs.
“There were a lot of interesting legal issues,” said District Attorney Everett Dial, adding that the judge can decide to impose additional sentencing if he finds there are aggravating factors in the case.
In the beginning
The relationships between all involved began to unravel in the weeks leading up to the assault, Dial proved to jurors. Glenn VonNevin, a co-assailant in the beating and who is serving 16 years in prison for his part in it, had threatened to break Peters’s legs if he ever called him a punk again, sent a photograph of himself sitting on Peters’s motorcycle and made other threats in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 11, 2013, assault.
The night of Jan. 11, Burkhow’s younger sister, Mandi, said she wanted to get methamphetamine from Peters, an admitted drug dealer. But she insisted on using it at Paradise Point State Park, so the two drove there in her pickup truck.
She was texting the entire time, Peters testified, but he didn’t think much of it — until court, when cell phone transcripts showed Mandi, Burkhow and VonNevin were planning to ambush Peters and beat him up.
VonNevin’s videotaped testimony indicated the two wanted to seriously harm, if not kill, Peters; and text messages, freckled with obscenities, depicted how Burkhow and his sister planned to place the truck at the park.
Mandi parked parallel to the ocean in the parking lot — “an odd place to park if you’re going to do drugs,” Peters testified — and VonNevin opened Peters’s truck door and punched him. Peters reached for a gun he’d hidden under his thigh; four shots were ultimately fired, one each of which went into his own legs.
The gun was dropped in the scuffle, and became a major issue in the defense’s arguments regarding its possession later.
VonNevin yelled to Burkhow that Peters was armed, and Burkhow left and reappeared with a baseball bat with which he began striking and jabbing Peters in the ribs, head and left hand, leaving him with five broken ribs, a punctured lung and lacerations that required 54 staples to close.
Dial showed a PowerPoint presentation in which photos of the injuries including those on his left hand that Burkhow was striking with the bat as he held onto the truck’s gear shift to prevent being pulled from the vehicle.
“At some point, he gave up,” Dial said. “Mr. Burkhow was definitely using that bat, hitting him to make him let go of that gear shift.”
The two men then dragged him 155 feet through the parking lot and down a four-wheel drive beach-access road where they left him against an embankment; a beach party found him five hours later.
Dial said the punctured lung, the hypothermia Peters contracted after being left in the cold and his blood loss all contributed to the definition of “life-threatening.”
The men cleaned up and, eventually, Burkhow, Mandi, VonNevin and two others ended up in Bandon, where they concocted a story alleging Mandi was about to be sexually assaulted by Peters, yelled out and Burkhow and VonNevin came to her rescue.
Ashley Shoop, who was dating VonNevin at the time, eventually turned in a backpack with the gun to police; warrants were issued for the men and the two and Mandi were arrested.
The last day
The jury of 15 — 12 and three alternates — heard testimony from witnesses, physicians, law enforcement officials and others throughout the week.
Defense Attorney Jim Gardner tried to show jurors that the men had merely come to Mandi’s rescue when she yelled and that the assault took place in self defense once the two men realized Peters had a gun.
Gardner also tried throughout the trial to show that investigators working the case did an ineffective job, citing mistakes in testimony and contradictions in written reports.
“The detective, when asked what he was going to investigate, said, ‘the baseball bat, if Peters was shot in self-defense and if he was left for dead,’” Gardner said. “My argument to you is, this is what we call tunnel vision. They got it to about three things and that’s what they’re looking for.”
“I made a mistake,” testified Sheriff’s deputy Rod McAllister Tuesday morning, when asked if Peters had been “tossed” over the edge of the embankment, not dragged down the road as was learned later in the investigation. “There was no evidence he was ever tossed. There was evidence he was dragged.”
Gardner also pointed to the lack of information in reports regarding the status of the gun and when its serial numbers had been scraped off; and why physicians testified that Peters had lacerations to his head, but reports indicated he had suffered a fractured skull, as well.
There was testimony about Peters’s gun, which he’d hidden under his thigh in the truck, and whether he intended to use it to obtain sex from Mandi or use it to kill Burkhow, which he admitted being ready to do at one point during the tussle, he testified.
Gardner argued that Burkhow was acting in self-defense once he learned Peters was armed — and particularly after two shots were fired.
Gardner also tried to discredit witnesses, noting how stories had changed and a witness had lied. Dial reminded the jury that one witness claimed to have sustained a concussion two days prior to her testimony couldn’t remember anything and another said she couldn’t remember details of the night in question.
Other information the jury had to consider was the legal definitions of numerous words and phrases, including “intentional,” “serious physical injury,” “interfering with another’s personal liberty,” in determining Burkhow’s innocence.
The judge reminded jurors that everyone remembers things differently and it was up to them to take what they believed and use it to come to a verdict.
“This was a real team effort, by all the law enforcement in the county,” Dial said after the trial. “They all did excellent work, especially the major crimes team that was activated on this case.”