District Attorney: Entire Sinclair case heading to grand jury

District Attorney: Entire Sinclair case heading to grand jury
Katherine Sinclair. Source: Family Photo

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Mystery, confusion, rumors and a search for answers still surround the death of 23-year-old Katherine Sinclair, and some things could be answered when the case heads to the grand jury in early September.

She died from a gunshot wound to the head on June 2, which she sustained the night before in her parked car inside her boyfriend's garage in the Windermere Subdivision near Laurel.

"She was so beautiful, she was so full of life, she was so happy, everybody's friend and everybody's sweetheart," said Sinclair's mother, Madeline Herrington.

Sinclair was described as a happy-go-lucky girl that was always smiling and studying to be a nurse, because she loved helping people.

The Scene, according to Laurel Police Reports:

Around 9 p.m. on June 1, Laurel Police responded to a home in the Windermere Subdivision after her boyfriend Gregory Burroughs called 911 and said his girlfriend (Sinclair) had shot herself in the head in the garage.

According to police reports from the Laurel Police Department, on the night of the shooting, Burroughs was wearing a blue t-shirt, blue jeans and brown boots, standing at the end of the driveway near the road on the phone and flagging down the officers.

Burroughs, 38, and the officer ran toward the residence and approached the garage, where the beige 2008 Honda Accord was parked.

That's where Sinclair was found, in the driver's seat with nothing on but a t-shirt, suffering from a gunshot wound to the right side of her head.

Officers and paramedics administered first aid, and she was taken out of the vehicle, placed on the concrete floor of the garage and was still breathing but not responsive, according to police reports.

She was then loaded on a stretcher by EMServ personnel and transported to South Central Regional Medical Center, and then transferred to Forrest General Hospital where she was placed on life support.

When investigators arrived on scene, Burroughs was transported to the Laurel Police Department for questioning. He was held, but not charged, from 2:20 a.m. on June 2 to June 5, when he was released around 3:45 p.m., according to county records. The decision to release him was a joint one made by the district attorney's office and Laurel Police, because the autopsy wasn't completed, there were no witnesses and there was no confession.

Family members of Burroughs cleaned up the garage, according to 18th Judicial District, District Attorney Anthony Buckley.

The 4-door Honda Accord was processed and towed from the scene and secured inside a dry and locked building in the Myrick Community.

On June 2, Sinclair's body was sent to the crime lab in Jackson for an autopsy.

The investigation:

"It is a death investigation, and where we're at, when we have a case like this, we send a lot of items to the crime lab," Buckley said. "Different items from clothing, to fingerprints, to gunshot residue, to cell phones and the autopsy itself."

"We are finally drawing to a conclusion of getting all our crime lab reports and report from the medical examiner and that sort of thing." said Laurel Police Capt. Tommy Cox. "Kind of pulling everything together, additional records, phone records and what not."

Sinclair died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to investigators. The weapon used at the scene, which was found in her right hand, was a Ruger LCP2 .380 Caliber handgun, according to the incident report.

The gunshot wound was in the right side of her head, and the bullet shattered the rear window on the driver's side of the car.

"She was given that gun (the .380) on May 19th, which was her birthday," said Madeline Herrington, Sinclair's mother. "She had been carrying a .357 ever since she was 16 or so, but that was her dad's and he wanted it back, and bought her the .380 for her birthday."

Herrington said that her daughter was left-handed, but would and could shoot right-handed because of her dominant eye.

"She knew very well how to handle a gun," Herrington said. "She was no stranger to shooting at all."

According to reports, Burroughs said Sinclair shot herself.

"We're awaiting results, results are beginning to come in," Buckley said. "It's a death investigation case."

Buckley said the shooting happened sometime after 8:40 p.m. and just minutes before 9 p.m.

Investigators are also combing through phone records and matching the timeline, because Burroughs allegedly called a family friend, which was one of Sinclair's family members and a local municipal court judge, before calling 911.

Burroughs was transported from the scene by investigators to give his statement at the Laurel Police Department, and according to Buckley, he refers to him as a "person of interest." Burroughs was never formally charged and was later released on June 5.

"It's a very challenging case because I can't change the fact I have no neutral eye witness, no confession, so we're having to look at circumstantial evidence and awaiting scientific evidence from the crime lab,"  Buckley said.

According to Buckley, there has been an outcry from the public to make an arrest, as well as push the investigation forward, but he said that takes time, and Herrington agreed.

"I want it to take long, but I don't, it's a nightmare I wake up from every day," Herrington said. "But I'm praying they are doing the best they can and being thorough about it so Katherine can rest in peace."

"I've been dealing with homicide investigations for 25 years and this is how it goes," Buckley said. "I think the most frustrating thing for people that's out there in the public and on social media is they believe that results come back within hours like they see on TV. The reality is, it's usually six to nine months."

Buckley said most people are confused how things work, noting that things aren't like CSI on TV, and things aren't handled in 30 minutes.

"We have excellent crime lab technicians, excellent forensic pathologists in the State of Mississippi, but like all state agencies, they are overworked and understaffed," Buckley said. "They do an excellent job, but it just takes a little while longer to go get to it."

When it comes to waiting on results in a death investigation, or homicide, Buckley said it's something he's familiar with.

"I'm still waiting on autopsy results from a case that occurred prior to this, and when I went to the state pathologist office last week, they just had 13 bodies come in to the crime lab over the weekend," Buckley said.

Cox agreed and said the timeline and timetable in the scientific part of the process takes time.

"Unfortunately, it's not solved in 30 minutes and you're not prosecuting in 30 minutes," Cox said. "You know, we would love for it to be immediate."

Cox said their department has come under many questions regarding the investigation, but Herrington said she has no complaints.

"I think Laurel police are doing a wonderful job and going about it the right way," Herrington said. "They are being precautionary... Very thorough with the whole thing, and so is the district attorney."

One thing that has come under question is the cleaning of the garage at the Burroughs' home.

"For me, as the prosecutor, the crime scene is the interior of the car," Buckley said. "The car was removed, and the car has been examined."

He said everything was captured on body cameras and hundreds of photos taken by crime scene investigators, which will all be used as evidence.

"The body cams of the Laurel police officers have captured everything in high quality, that was in that garage, the garage itself, of course is of interest to us," Buckley said. "But I know what's on those bodycams, the grand jury will be the ones to see them first, and I'm confident that when they see that they know the crime scene and what we're focused on is the interior of the car."

According to Herrington, she was unaware that Burroughs and her daughter were in a dating relationship.

"I didn't know anything about it, I didn't even know his name," Herrington said. "Apparently, they were dating for eight months, but she was a very private person."

Herrington said months before her death, she called and asked for her birth certificate, but she didn't think anything of it.

"I assumed she was going on a cruise or something, I didn't ask her or anything like that, I even told her how to get a passport," Herrington said. "Her and that boy went to some island."

Herrington said that Katherine's father had met Burroughs the weekend before her death and that he was unware of their relationship or his age, with the fact he was 15 years older.

"She was a very private person," Herrington said. "She's the type of person you could tell her anything and she wouldn't say a word to anyone."

Herrington said that she was told by police that some point in evening on June 1, Burroughs changed shirts.

"I know that they went to a convenience store and bought alcohol or something earlier that night, and he didn't have that shirt on," Herrington said.

She didn't know if it was something relevant, but she remembered being told that by the police.

"The whole thing just doesn't add up," Herrington said. "She was clearly running for her life, otherwise she just wouldn't have been in that car like that."

Buckley said he couldn't comment on additional matters involved in the case or with the scene.

"It is a death investigation case, and because of that, none of that information can be released by law and won't be released by law since we are constrained by the constitution and the rules of Mississippi not to release information," Buckley said.

He added that the entire case will be presented to the grand jury in early September.

"In this particular case, we're going to present everything in its entirety, they're going to see the body cams, they're going to see the interviews, they're going to be read statements word for word, they're going to be given the results from the crime lab," Buckley said. "Then they're going to be given choices of what to begin deliberation on, from potential criminal charge to further investigation to no bill."

"The only thing that makes it different is just the circumstances, and by that I mean how the incident took place," Cox said. "You know a lot of times, you know, you'll have multiple witnesses or things will be a little bit more clear cut."

"If it were to come back as suicide, I will not take that for an answer whatsoever," Herrington said. "I know the evidence that they have in the case, and I think it's positive on our part, and the rest is in God's hands."

Burroughs past offenses:

According to the Jones County Sheriff's Department records, Burroughs was charged with five offenses on July 3, 2016: Driving under the influence, child endangerment, resisting arrest, disobeying a police officer and disturbance of family. He was processed and released less than two hours later.

According to investigators, those five misdemeanor charges were dismissed at a later date.

According to Jones County Justice Court records, Burroughs has no past felony convictions.