Jerry Burt

Jerry Burt was shot and killed June, 12, 2010 in his home by his housekeeper’s son, 17, and nephew, 20, (who was out on parole). They then set his house on fire.

Two men face capital murder charges

Diver Brad Conaway of the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Detail Dive Team surfaces while diving in Scarham Creek.


By Lisa Rogers
Times Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 8:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 8:29 p.m.

GERALDINE — A DeKalb County man was robbed and shot multiple times and a fire was set at his house to cover up the crime, DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Two cousins are charged with capital murder in the death of 63-year-old Jerry Burt, found dead in his home in the New Harmony community Sunday afternoon.

Billy Ray Justice, 20, and Richard Sharp Shelton, 17, are being held in the DeKalb County Jail with no bond set, Harris said.

Shelton is charged as an adult and Justice told authorities he was released from prison in August on a robbery charge in Marshall County.

The two are cousins and have been living in Boaz, but Justice originally is from Blount County, Harris said.

Burt’s body was discovered by a friend about 4:30 p.m. Sunday when the friend went to visit Burt at his home on DeKalb County Road 58, just a few miles from Marshall County.

Burt’s friend opened the door and could see evidence of a fire.

The friend went inside and discovered the victim and contacted authorities.

Since that time at least 17 officers have been involved in the investigation.

“I can’t express enough how much we appreciate the cooperation of the officers who have helped us,” Wade Hill, commander of investigations at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.

“We had 17 interviews going on at one time and officers from Marshall County and the Marshall County Drug Enforcement Unit were critical in the investigation,” Hill said.

“The community where this happened straddles the Marshall County line and we knew early on it was a homicide.”

Harris said the quick arrests would not have been possible without assistance from other agencies and from people in the community.

“We’ve had a lot of folks give us a lot of information,” he said. “A lot of people in the community liked Jerry and they were giving us all the information they could.”

Shelton’s mother was Burt’s housekeeper and Shelton and Justice went to Burt’s house Saturday night.

Burt knew Shelton and let them inside when Shelton asked to use the phone, Harris said.

“They went to the residence and knew he had been sick and had prescriptions,” Harris said. “They took his money and prescription pills.”

The two talked to a man in the Asbury community about buying a gun from him and had borrowed the gun under the pretext of trying it out. The man did not know their plans, Harris said.

After Burt was shot, the two left his house and went to buy gas to set the house on fire.

“They came back and tried to cover up the crime,” Harris said.

The fire quickly burned out and only a little damage was done to the house.

After Burt’s friend discovered his body and called authorities, Geraldine Fire Department responded. Firefighters checked the structure and cleared the smoke and heat so officers could investigate Burt’s death and the cause of the fire, Harris said.

Deputy state fire marshals Ray Cumby and Bobby Joe Rollins also responded. The department’s dog, trained to detect accelerants, found evidence fire had been set in at least three different places.

“Investigators from DeKalb and Marshall counties worked almost around the clock from Sunday night until arrests were made on Tuesday night and we are continuing to gather evidence at this time in both DeKalb and Marshall counties. The Geraldine police and fire departments were also instrumental in bringing this case to where we are now.” Harris said.

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Department dive team was called and were searching in a creek at a bridge on Alabama Highway 75 between Albertville and Geraldine.

Harris also said assistance from Albertville and Boaz police departments, Alabama State Troopers, , District Attorney Mike O’Dell, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences divisions in Huntsville and Birmingham, the Safe Streets Task Force and DeKalb County Drug Task Force were instrumental in the investigation.

Harris said the investigation has been difficult on the Burt family.

“They have been understanding during this stressful event,” he said. “We appreciate their patience and support as we imposed on their private time to obtain any information which could be helpful to the case. This investigation evolved quickly because several people wanted to help the Burt family get justice.”

DeKalb Co. 17-year-old gets life behind bars for capital murder

By Stephen McLamb | December 7, 2011 at 12:30 AM CST – Updated August 21 at 10:13 PM

DEKALB COUNTY, AL (WAFF) – A DeKalb County 17-year-old will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars after being found guilty Tuesday afternoon of capital murder in the 2010 robbery and shooting death of a New Harmony community resident.

Sheriff’s investigators testified how Richard Sharp Shelton and a co-defendant planned to seek out Hispanics to rob that night. Instead, they chose 63-year-old Jerry Neal Burt, the man who employed Shelton’s mother as a housekeeper.

Shelton was convicted on Tuesday of capital murder in the June 2010 murder of Burt.

Witnesses testified Shelton gained access to the home claiming he needed to use the phone.

That’s when he and Billy Ray Justice pushed Burt to the ground and stole money and prescription drugs from him.

Investigator Wade Hill said of the killing that when Justice could not bring himself kill Burt, that’s when Shelton said, “Then I’ll do it.”

Shelton admitted to shooting Burt in the face and in the back of the head on the way out.

The pair then went to an Albertville gas station to get gas and set the home on fire.

After a year and a half, Shelton said he wanted to plead guilty to spare the family grief before the holidays.

When asked if he was apologetic for what he had done, Shelton said yes.

“I wish one day they would forgive me,” Shelton said of Burt’s family.

Justice pleaded guilty to murder and arson charges last week and received two life sentences.

Because Shelton was a juvenile at the time of the crime, state law only allowed for life without parole in death penalty cases.