Accused murderer guilty of weapon in jail cell

Sentencing delayed until after March trial

WARREN — A Bristol man waiting in the Trumbull County Jail to go to trial on a murder charge is guilty of having a homemade weapon inside his cell.

Austin T. Burke, 19, pleaded guilty Thursday before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald J. Rice to possessing a deadly weapon while under detention. Rice delayed sentencing Burke until after the murder trial, expected to begin in early March.

Burke, 5106 Miller South Road, was found July 23 to have had a homemade shank made from a plastic spoon inside his jail cell.

He faces up to 11 years in prison on the felony charge.

In the murder case, Burke is charged with aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and two counts of having a weapon as a convicted felon in the death of Brandon Sample, 22, and an armed robbery at a pizza shop in Cortland.

Sample was found June 15 shot once in the head in a wooded area off Peck Leach Road in Bristol.

Sample’s mother reported him missing June 12 after he did not return home from swimming with a friend the previous day, according to a police report. She told police Sample’s father sent him a text about 4:30 a.m., and he responded he was on his way home, but he never returned. His car was found abandoned in Niles.

One of the aggravated robbery charges, one of the weapons under disability charges and the tampering with evidence charge are in connection to a June 20, 2017, armed robbery at Pizza Joe’s in Cortland.

Police in Cortland said a masked man just before the 10 p.m. closing time at the pizza shop came into the store, pointed a gun at employees and demanded the money from the register. He left the store and ran toward Grove Drive. Burke, who was also wanted on a murder warrant in connection to Sample’s death, was found a short time later at a nearby apartment.

Police found a pistol, ammunition and cash believed to be part of the robbery inside the apartment, the release states.

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