Seven months have passed since John Michael Shirley, 53, was murdered in his girlfriend's Fair Lakes home by Anthony Lee Burdis. But for those who loved him, the pain is still as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
Wearing buttons with Shirley's photo, members of his family filled the entire first row of a Fairfax County courtroom Monday as Burdis pleaded guilty to the crime.
Afterward, his ex-girlfriend — whose identity Centre View is not revealing since she, too, was a victim — said she hoped the plea "helps in the healing process for John's family. They're wonderful people, just like him."
She was also hopeful "that John is satisfied that justice is served." As for Burdis, said the woman, "I am confident that he will spend the rest of his life in prison paying for the misery he caused."
At the time of the tragedy, Burdis, 38, lived at 13296 Leafcrest Lane, Apt. 201-C, in Chantilly's Shenandoah Crossing apartments, and Shirley was his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. The murder occurred Nov. 3, 2005, around 10:26 p.m., in The Gates of Fair Lakes condominiums, just off the Fair Lakes Parkway.
Monday morning in Circuit Court, Burdis stood before Judge M. Langhorne Keith and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and malicious wounding. Before accepting his pleas, the judge made sure Burdis fully understood the charges against him and was pleading guilty freely and voluntarily and because he was, indeed, guilty of those offenses.
KEITH ALSO advised him that he could receive as much as life in prison for the murder charge, a mandatory three years for using a firearm and a maximum of 20 years for malicious wounding. Then Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh presented the facts of the case — and they were chilling and horrific.
He said both Shirley, of Falls Church, and the woman, 37, were victims. Originally from Chicago, she's a single mother of a 15-year-old son and works in new-home sales. She met Burdis, July 4, 2004, in Manassas, where she was on a date with someone else and he was out with relatives.
Next day, he asked her for a date and they began a relationship. But he lived in Louisiana then, so he returned there and visited her when he could. However, after being laid off from his job in summer 2005, he moved into her condominium in Fair Lakes.
"But she soon realized it was a mistake because he was a brooder and drank too much," said Morrogh. "She shared custody of her son and, when he came to live with her, [Burdis] was jealous of him."
Morrogh said the couple had a plan that, if things didn't work out between them, Burdis would return to Louisiana. By the end of July, the woman told him he had to leave. But, said the prosecutor, Burdis kept telling her he had no money and, even into August, he made excuses for why he couldn't leave.
SHE WAS friends with his aunt and uncle and, through her real-estate connections, she even tried helping him find a place to live. Then one evening, while she was on the phone with an old, high-school friend, said Morrogh, Burdis heard her say, "I love you, too."
"Jealous, he said, 'Do you know how much I hate you?' and he put his hands around her neck," said Morrogh. "Later on, he apologized to her and, the end of September, he moved out." A month later, after she and Shirley had become serious, Burdis returned to terrorize them.
"At 3 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, the defendant suddenly confronted her and Shirley in bed together in her home," said Morrogh. "He said he'd come for his mail and he threatened to kill [Shirley]."
Burdis eventually left, but came back a few days later, claiming the woman owed him money. She gave him a check for $250 but, said Morrogh, she wrote on the memo line that it was for his daughter, as a gift, because she didn't owe him anything.
"She told him their relationship was over and she was dating Shirley," said Morrogh. "And Burdis agreed that he was a good guy." Shirley was an assistant superintendant for Clark Realty Builders of Rockville, Md., and she'd met him through her job.
On Nov. 3, the woman met Burdis at a restaurant in Greenbriar to give him his mail and get back her house key. He'd wanted to come to her place but, afraid of his temper, she would only meet him in a public place. Morrogh said Burdis smiled and told her, "I'm gonna have to do something to let you know how serious I am."
It was the woman's birthday so, that night, she and Shirley went out to dinner at a restaurant in Fairfax Corner. Meanwhile, Burdis went to the Fair Lakes Wal-Mart and bought black gloves and a black, turtleneck shirt. Said Morrogh: "A security camera captured him doing that, and police later found the torn receipt in his car."
Around 10 p.m., the couple returned to the woman's home on Fair Crest Court. But Burdis had smashed a back window to gain entry. "Suddenly, the defendant confronted her in her bathroom with a gun," said Morrogh. "He then walked both [her and Shirley] downstairs at gunpoint."
"They tried making a run for it outside, but the defendant was on their heels and forced them back inside," said the prosecutor. "Then he hit Shirley in the face with the gun and pistol-whipped [the woman] on her left cheek."
Next, said Morrogh, Burdis told them, "I'm in control now." He said the woman "crawled on her knees and begged him not to hurt Shirley." She also convinced Burdis to let her go to the bathroom.
WHILE THERE, she heard the words, "No, no, no," followed by several gunshots, said Morrogh. She'd called the police after locking herself in the bathroom, but her life was still in jeopardy.
"[Burdis] picked the lock and shot her in the face," said Morrogh. "The bullet grazed her check and lodged in a towel. She collapsed on the floor and the defendant continued his rampage downstairs." Then he came back upstairs to the bathroom.
"She played dead, and he rolled her over and stabbed her twice — once in the chest and once in the neck," said Morrogh. Meanwhile, neighbors who'd heard the screaming and gunshots also called the police, and the injured woman somehow made her way to the mortally wounded Shirley.
"He staggered outside," said Morrogh. Then he fell face down onto the sidewalk in front of the home. "And as his bloody body lay on the ground, she knelt down and held his hand."
He said the woman sustained a broken cheekbone and other fractures, as well as permanent scarring, because of Burdis' attack. Morrogh said Shirley was shot three times in the back and had five stab wounds to the head and 14 to the torso. He also suffered five, blunt-force traumas to his head, three to his torso and two to his extremities.
A short while later, police found Burdis walking behind the Fair Lakes Shopping Center, just up the street, and arrested him. "He had large bloodstains on his pants legs," said Morrogh. "He waived his Miranda rights and gave a statement to [homicide] Det. [David] Allen."
According to the prosecutor, Burdis "claimed Shirley shot [the woman] and then was going after her son. But he couldn't account for the shots in Shirley's back. He then admitted to the police, 'I was @#$*# pissed. I got the advantage; I should have stopped."
Police found Burdis' green, 2001 Ford Expedition in the shopping center with the black turtleneck inside. The black gloves were found in some nearby bushes. Morrogh said DNA tests later identified Shirley's blood on both Burdis' jeans and the gloves.
"GLASS fragments from the window he broke were found on his gloves, jeans, socks and shirt," said Morrogh. "The handgun was never recovered." However, the knife was; Morrogh said Burdis had taken it from the woman's kitchen.
He then introduced into evidence a tape recording of the woman's 911 call to the police, photos of her and Shirley's injuries, Burdis' gloves and turtleneck and his receipt for them, photos of the crime scene, the knife, the towel where the bullet had lodged, Burdis' statement to the police and Shirley's autopsy report.
Judge Keith then asked Burdis if Morrogh's account of the murder was, more or less, what happened, and Burdis replied, "More or less." Keith then found him guilty of all three charges and set sentencing for Oct. 13. Until then, Burdis will remain in jail — where he's been held without bond since being arrested.