HARRISBURG — Brian Burns, the Saline County man convicted of attempted kidnapping of a former prosecutor while in jail on a murder charge in the killing of his estranged wife, Carla Burns, is expected to be sentenced for the attempted kidnapping Tuesday.
During one of several hearings scheduled Tuesday, Burns, a former Saline County physician, will be sentenced for the May conviction of attempted kidnapping. While in jail, Burns conspired with another inmate to have then-Saline County state’s attorney Mike Henshaw kidnapped and threatened in order to have his murder charges dropped.
There is also a motion hearing in the same case scheduled for Tuesday, as well as a pretrial hearing for Burns’ murder trial, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Burns was arrested in March 2016 on first-degree murder charges. The charges allege that he shot his wife and attempted to conceal the crime by burning Carla Burns' body.
According to previous reporting in The Southern, Carla Burns had been reported missing earlier that month and a restraining order had been taken out against her husband. Court documents indicate Carla Burns had accused Brian Burns of verbal abuse, which she feared would escalate into physical abuse.
During a bond reduction hearing in April 2016, an investigator with the case testified that Brian Burns stated in an interview that he had committed the crime and that he had enough money to leave the country and never be found. However, Burns’ attorney argued that the comments to investigators were hypothetical.
Burns' legal troubles took a turn in September 2016 when he was charged with another crime — attempted kidnapping. It was alleged that while he was in prison, he conspired to have the late Mike Henshaw kidnapped in order to have his murder charges dropped.
This was followed in December by Burns’ then-attorney Brian Drew asking the court to move the venue for the murder trial, citing heavy media coverage, which he believed had tainted the jury pool.
During that motion hearing, Drew said between March 8 and Aug. 31, 2016, there were 256 news stories filed through various media outlets. He said based on a survey, that had already tainted potential jurors.
Judge Walden Morris denied the motion.
In May 2016, Burns went on trial for the attempted kidnapping charge, which was handled by state appellate prosecutor Matt Goetten. Key to the case were “overhears,” or clandestinely recorded audio tapes of conversations between Burns and cellmate Mark Stricklin. In the tapes, Burns is heard conspiring with Stricklin ways to have the state’s attorney drop his charges.
“I don’t know what this kind of thing goes for,” Burns said on the tape of the price of a kidnapping. “Is $1,000 reasonable,” he asked.
Stricklin also asked what he was specifically asking his guy, an undercover state police officer, to do.
“I guess threaten him,” Burns replied. He later added, “I really don’t want to hurt him.”
Burns was found guilty of attempted kidnapping, but when it came time to sentence him for the crime, there were some issues. Burns and attorney Drew parted ways, which left Burns without legal counsel. After a about a month, Burns was appointed a public defender — his initial reset for the sentencing hearing had to again be moved when Burns still had not secured counsel. Nathan Rowland was appointed to represent Burns in the kidnapping case; he will represent him Tuesday.
Burns has secured Marion’s Duane Verity to defend him in his murder trial.
Burns is scheduled to appear in Saline County Court at 10 a.m. Tuesday.