It took 16 years for police to identify remains found in a shallow grave in Florida as Jeana Burrus – but still questions remain. What happened to her? And why was she never reported missing?
She was 39 at the time of her death, and was married with a son, yet so much of Jeana Burrus’ life still remains a mystery.
Reports from before she was identified, only known as “Jane Doe” in the case, have provided clues as to what her relationship was like and what could have happened in the final hours before she died.
The Herald-Tribune reported in 2010 that police suggested that it could have been a homicide, given that it appeared she had been carried to the site. Now, according to Fox13, her husband has been named as a person of interest in her death.
Before moving to Sarasota, the Burrus family lived in Citrus County, Florida then in Frederick, Maryland. Frederick County criminal court records show that the couple were arrested on 14 January 2000 for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.
James Burrus Jr, her son, attended Gulf Gate Elementary School between 2005 and 2006, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Investigators said that Mr Burrus abruptly left Sarasota in 2006, but without Jeana.
On 6 February 2007, female remains were discovered in a wooded area of Ashton Court in Sarasota, the sheriff’s office said.
When asked about her death, according to Fox13, investigators have since said that Mr Burrus provided “different versions, honestly of what happened to their relationship, but when he sat with detectives he provided no details. He gave no information.”
Mr Burrus worked at an auto body shop, just a four-minute drive away or a 20-minute walk away from where her remains were found, according to Google Maps. The couple’s home was an hour walk or an eight-minute drive from the location.
On 9 July 2015, someone named Jamie A Burrus filed for divorce from Jeana Burus in Frederick County in Maryland. However, the case was dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction, as the court said that the mail directed to Jeana Burrus was returned, writing: “No such street, unable to forward.”
The case went cold until November 2022, when DNA technology provided the positive identification of Jeana Burrus.
On 2 August, authorities posted information about the case, adding that they were looking for more information into both James and Jeana Burrus.
On 3 August, James Burrus was named as a person of interest in the death of his wife. Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Mark Lefebvre shed some light on her cause of death, explaining, “The bones indicate it was not a natural cause of death.”
Who Was Jeana Burrus?
Officials have said that Jeana Burrus was unemployed. She was married to James Burrus, with whom she had a son who attended Gulf Gate Elementary School in Sarasota.
Her uncle, Clare Wiedmaier, described her to Fox13 as “a very loving, fun, warm person. She really had a lot to do with family.”
Lt Lefebvre added some colour to the pair’s relationship. He told the publication, “They were just struggling at the time, and they had a very volatile relationship.”
“Someone has to have been told something or know something. People just don’t disappear,” her uncle added.
Before She Was Identified
A number of older news reports referred to Jeana Burrus as “Jane Doe” before police identified her remains. The Herald-Tribune wrote in 2010 that the remains were found in a 3ft-deep hole.
After a 10-hour excavation, investigators discovered “a woman lying on her side, a knee bent in the air, buried in a shallow grave,” the outlet wrote.
The woman was found fully clothed in a cotton multicolored shirt with “Made in Italy” label and “a skirt with an unusual leather belt made of straps tied together.” Investigators described her as approximately 5ft 7in with “reddish hair with blond streaks.” She also had breast implants, the publication added.
She had no shoes, leading detectives to believe the body had been carried to the site, according to the 2010 article.
Detectives at the time also discovered skull fractures that they believed to have occurred before she was buried; one expert thought the fractures were consistent with blunt-force trauma.
“This is an area that someone has obviously taken great care to obfuscate the fact that there is a body here,” the then lieutenant explained.