State News

Police: Serial killer suspect slain in N.C. was felon

Posted July 6, 2009

— The serial killer who terrorized a South Carolina community by shooting five people to death before police killed him Monday was a career criminal paroled just two months ago, authorities said.

Patrick Burris, 41, was shot to death by officers investigating a burglary complaint at a home in Gastonia, N.C., 30 miles from where the killing spree started June 27. Ballistics tests showed his gun matched the one used to kill residents in and around Gaffney over six days last week, said State Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd.

Investigators did not have an address for Burris. While evidence left no doubt he was the killer, they still had no idea why he did it.

"He was unpredictable. He was scary. He was weird," said SLED Deputy Director Neil Dolan.

Burris had a long rap sheet filled with convictions for larceny, forgery and breaking and entering in states across the Southeast, including Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. He had been paroled from a North Carolina prison in April after serving nearly eight years for felony breaking and entering and larceny.

"Look at this," Lloyd said, waiving a stapled copy of Burris' criminal record. "This is like 25 pages. At some point the criminal justice system is going to need to explain why this suspect was out on the street."

Gaffney farmer Sam Howell, 61, was among dozens of people from Cherokee County who came to the news conference where authorities identified Burris.

"My prayers were answered. He got what he deserved," Howell said. "He scared the hell out of everyone. I guess we can feel better but we've lost some of our innocence."

The mystery ended in Gastonia early Monday after Mike and Terry Valentine called police to report a suspicious sport utility vehicle pulling into a usually vacant home.

“It kind of favored the vehicle they were looking for,” Mike Valentine said.

They were on edge because the Gaffney serial killer was just a short drive away.

They watched two people who sometimes visit the neighboring home get out of the vehicle, followed by a third man who matched the description of the killer: tall, heavyset, unshaven and wearing a baseball cap. The man appeared to be very drunk, Mike Valentine said.

When officers went inside, Terri Valentine said she heard someone yell "put it down" and heard a gunshot.

Then "bam, bam, bam, bam. Next thing I know, all of Gaston County was here," she said.

Gaston County police said the other two people were in custody, but did not indicate whether they were facing charges.

Killing spree last six days

The Gaffney killings happened in a 10-mile area over six days. Peach farmer Kline Cash, 63, was killed June 27 and 83-year-old Hazel Linder and her daughter, 50-year-old Gena Linder Parker, were found bound and shot in the older woman's home four days later. The next day, Stephen Tyler and his 15-year-old daughter Abby were found shot in their family's furniture store.

The investigation isn't over, and Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said investigators will trace the suspect's recent activities and trying to figure out if he has killed other people in other places.

"Now we have someone we can focus on," Blanton said.

He said he hopes the arrest calms the fears of 54,000 people in the county 50 miles west of Charlotte, N.C., known for its peach orchards and mills.

"We feel the victims' pain," Blanton said. "This isn't over. We're just changing gears."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jul 7, 2009

    Animals like this criminal needs to either be locked up in jail for live or executed in the electric chair.

    If North Carolina hadn't paroled this animal, there would be five people still alive in Gaffney.

  • diver Jul 7, 2009

    Evil people like this will continue to flourish until the law abiding citizens can openly and concealed carry their weapons anywhere we choose.

  • mikeyusmc Jul 6, 2009

    Incredible job by the officers on the scene. Sometimes u get lucky and sometimes you are good, sounds like both happened here.

  • Blue Shirt Jul 6, 2009

    Good job Coppers!

  • leo-nc Jul 6, 2009

    Glad they got him

  • r u crazy too Jul 6, 2009

    Well, I hope he was the one. No, he can stand before his maker and face the consequences,.... and we don't have to wait two years for a trial and appeals.

  • See Chart Jul 6, 2009

    Great work from our law enforcement people.
    The Mad dog killer is dead.
    I hope the friends and families of the stricken
    have at least some closure soon.