OSBI identifies cold case couple found in 1995

Apr. 12—Two previously unknown homicide victims found in a wooded area in Pittsburg County nearly three decades ago were identified through DNA testing and the work of several law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The two bodies — a man and a woman — were found by a guardrail under a tree near Crowder Point on April 9, 1995, by a man who was riding his four-wheeler, according to a report in the April 10, 1995, edition of the McAlester News-Capital.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced Monday the bodies were identified as Brian and Rachel Burr, of Texas.

"Hopefully we brought some closure to some family members," Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris said about the identification of the two bodies. "Whenever we exhumed the bodies, we didn't know what the outcome would be, but with the help from OSBI, it turned out really well and I think it's a success."

The case was reopened as part of a cold case investigative unit Morris formed in December 2017 that is led by retired McAlester Assistant Police Chief George Scott.

In December 2018, a Pittsburg County judge granted a petition for exhumation of the bodies.

The petition stated, "because there is an absence of scientific evidence and comparison information, the State is requesting exhumation of the decedent(s) which could provide dental radiographs, full body radiographs, and a DNA sample to submit for use in positive identification."

Morris previously told the News-Capital DNA collected was first compared with that of a family from Daingerfield, Texas. Investigators believed the family could have been related to the two bodies found because there were two missing people from that area around the same time when the bodies were discovered in 1995.

After a match was not found, the DNA was entered into a national database.

According to the OSBI, the agency's Forensic Science Center sent a specimen from one of the deceased for further DNA analysis to Parabon Nano Labs. In September 2022, it was reported the persons "were likely to be the Burrs."

"OSBI Agents traveled to Texas and Ohio to conduct interviews and collect DNA samples from relatives in an attempt to positively identify the individuals," the agency said in a press release. "Based on the information received from various interviews, the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner, additional DNA testing performed by the OSBI Forensic Science Center, Ohio Bureau of Investigation, and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, the identities were believed to be Brian Burr, 23 years of age at the time, and wife Rachel Burr, 21 years of age at the time."

Investigators told the News-Capital in 1995 that the bodies were at least two weeks old and were badly decomposed when they were discovered. Investigators speculated on the pair's origin and believed they were killed and dumped by travelers.

The medical examiner's office said following an autopsy that the man and woman were killed by gunshot, with the man being shot once in the chest and the woman being shot at least two times in the chest.

A nationwide bulletin was issued after the bodies were discovered in hopes to gather leads to identify the pair — but numerous tips from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas did not lead to conclusive identifications.

After seven months, the bodies were buried with "John Doe" and "Jane Doe" grave markers in the Dorsey Cemetery on the north side of Lake McAlester.

"It has come to a point where all the evidence required to make an identification has been documented," then-PCSO Chief Criminal Investigator Don Fools told the News-Capital in November 1995. "Our agency felt like that these individuals needed to be temporarily laid to rest."

Fools said the burials were to be conducted with the expectation that the remains will someday be disinterred when family members are found.

According to the OSBI, the identification of the Burrs took the work of several agencies, including OSBI, PCSO, Texas Rangers, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, and Parabon Nano Labs, Inc.

The OSBI and the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office are both asking the public for any information about the crime.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the OSBI at 1-800-522-8017 or email tips@osbi.ok.gov or the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office at 918-423-5858.