Placer DA: Weimar murder victim Sarah Burr shot in back

Konnerth moves closer to trial in double-slaying of fiancé, fetus
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A single gunshot in the back from a hunting rifle killed murder victim Sarah Burr as she was walking toward the front door, prosecutors are contending in the case against Burr’s fiancé Lee Konnerth. New revelations from the investigation into the slaying obtained Wednesday by the Journal indicate an incendiary relationship that escalated last May 15 from a verbal dispute into what the Placer County District Attorney’s Office is alleging was a double-murder. The prosecution and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office investigators have held back on releasing details they have pieced together surrounding the death of the 30-year-old, pregnant mother of two and her fetus. Lee Konnerth has been identified as the father. But much of the investigation was presented publicly earlier this month during a preliminary hearing before Judge Colleen Nichols. The hearing ended with Nichols finding sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial. Konnerth is charged with two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of Burr, a licensed vocational nurse he had met on Facebook 10 months before her death, and the 22-week fetus she was carrying. Court records quote Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman summarizing the prosecution’s case revolving around Konnerth’s anger and degree of planning in trying to keep Burr from leaving during an argument. Tellman described it as “probably a classic motive for murder.” At the time of the killing, Burr’s 7- and 11-year-old daughters were at the rural Weimar house Konnerth and Burr shared with Konnerth’s father, Kraig. Kraig Konnerth said he had made jambalaya with the girls that Sunday afternoon while waiting for Burr’s return from her job. The elder Konnerth said his son had consumed at least a six-pack of beer while watching sports before Burr arrived. Kraig Konnerth said the three adults ate dinner together and Burr had some champagne. Later testimony, however, would calculate Burr’s blood-alcohol level at the time of her death at a very low 0.01 percent. “Everything was fine,” Kraig Konnerth said. Kraig Konnerth said during the preliminary hearing that he was sleeping after dinner and was awakened by the two girls. He said he found Burr face-down and dead on the outside deck. Kraig Konnerth would testify that his son told him that Burr came at him with a gun and the gun went off accidentally after he took it away and threw it on the ground. But forensic interviewer Angela Ford told the court that interviews with Burr’s two daughters indicated that Lee Konnerth had retrieved the gun from a closet, chambered a shell and threatened their mother. “I’m going to (expletive deleted) shoot you, bitch,” a daughter quoted Lee Konnerth saying. Kraig Konnerth said his son and Burr had several arguments but none had turned to violence. “It was a volatile relationship,” Kraig Konnerth said. Arguments were usually about Burr filing divorce papers, he said. But they were talking about a wedding in Hawaii and having their own apartment as they ate dinner May 15, Kraig Konnerth said. And both were overjoyed with having a child together, he said. Detective Michael Simmons said, however, that Burr had talked with a Grass Valley apartment owner five days before her death about moving in without Konnerth. The apartment owner said that Burr was “anxious” and “fearful,” especially when she talked about a “volatile” relationship she was trying to get out of. She filled out a rental agreement for herself, her two daughters, and the infant she was carrying, but never followed up on it, Simmons said. Preliminary hearings provide the opportunity for the prosecution to present grounds to move the case to trial. The defense does not present evidence. Public Defender John Spurling provided a line of questioning on details presented during testimony that could lead to a different representation of the facts, including the discovery of a seven-inch kitchen knife near the body and the possibility of witnesses being wrong in their retelling of events May 15. Tellman stated in his summary of the case that evidence didn’t point to either a knife attack by Burr or a gun grab that resulted in an accidental shot being fired.