The husband of a woman whose remains were recently identified after she disappeared 16 years ago has been named as a person of interest in the case, police said.
Jeana Burrus was never reported missing when she disappeared sometime in 2006. Now her husband, James Burrus, has been named as a person of interest in the case.
Burrus’ remains were found on February 6, 2007 in a shallow grave in Sarasota County, Florida.
But they were not positively identified as hers until recently.
The case remained unsolved until November 2022, when advances in DNA technology allowed the identification of Burrus’ remains.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office confirmed this NewsNation that they spoke to both James and the couple’s son, James Jr., about Jeana’s disappearance and death.
“As far as we know, her husband left the state of Florida, went west to California, and ended up in Maryland shortly after she was last seen,” Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman told the outlet.
Hoffman also said that investigators traveled to Maryland to speak with James, but that the man’s responses were not satisfactory.
“They don’t seem to be rational responses from a person who was married to someone and then disappeared,” Hoffman said.
“And then he moved out of state and never called authorities to report her missing.”
Investigators were only able to link two other relatives – an aunt and an uncle – to Jeana.
“Your aunt and uncle were interviewed. They were actually the party that entered their DNA into a family DNA database that connected us to them and eventually to Jeana’s father,” Hoffman said.
“They lived out of state and just assumed she was out of their lives and hadn’t contacted her.
“They didn’t know she was missing.”
COLD CASE REOPENED
According to the sheriff’s office, Burrus’ whereabouts were not questioned by her family.
In fact, only recently did some of her relatives know that she had passed away.
Burrus’ uncle, Clare George Wiedmaier, told the Herald-Tribune that his niece cut off contact with him in 2006.
Eventually, however, he managed to reach her husband.
However, Wiedmaier was unable to comment further as the investigation is ongoing.
However, he said the same story was told to both Burrus’ stepfather and his brother.
It was Wiedmaier’s wife who then used AncestryDNA in 2022, which provided a match to Burrus, leading investigators to positively identify her remains.
Wiedmaier told the Herald-Tribune that most of Burrus’ relatives live in Maryland, where she and James are known to have lived before living in Sarasota.
“We’ve been waiting for her to show up and knock on our door at any time, especially on birthdays, as she has in the past,” Wiedmaier said.
But Wiedmaier and his wife only recently learned that Burrus had died.
“That wasn’t happy news,” he told the outlet.
“It was tearful news. Shocking. We didn’t want to believe it.”
The case continues to evolve
When Burrus’ remains were found in 2007, she was found in a three-foot hole, the Herald-Tribune reported.
A 14-year-old boy stumbled over a bone that his mother, a nurse, realized belonged to a human.
Burrus’ decomposing body was found on its side, with one knee bent in the air, the outlet reported.
According to the outlet, she was fully clothed, wearing a shirt and skirt with a leather belt, along with underwear and two pairs of socks.
But she had no shoes.
Investigators assume that Burrus was buried for this reason.
“This is not a normal homicide area,” said crime scene technician Maxine Miller Herald-Tribune at that time.
“This is an area where obviously someone has taken great pains to cover up the fact that there is a body here.”
dr Russell Vega, a coroner, told the Herald-Tribune in 2010 that the body likely lay in the grave for seven to 12 months before it was found.
Vega also said at the time that the body showed signs of trauma, including skull fractures, leading investigators to rule the case a homicide.
He then attempted to identify the body based on dental records and the fact that she had silicone breast implants.
But Vega kept hitting dead ends.
And at that point, DNA technology wasn’t advanced enough to identify Burrus, nor were there any existing matches.
Now, 16 years after the remains were first found, police are asking the public for help in locating Burrus’ husband and other relatives who may have more information about the case.
Anyone who knew Burrus or her husband is urged to contact Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brian Ng at (941) 861-4900.
The US Sun has contacted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office for more information.