Pair says Burke talked of killing

Give detailed account of murder

Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker shows Cortland police detective David Morris a .22-caliber pistol found in a Cortland apartment that investigators said was used to shoot Brandon Sample and was used in a robbery at Pizza Joe’s several days later.

WARREN — Two Niles residents testified Wednesday that Austin Burke told them he took Warren resident Brandon Sample to Peck Leech Road and shot him.

The road is also known as Hatchet Man Road because of local folklore.

Burke, 19, 5106 Miller South Road, Bristol, is on trial in the courtroom of Judge Andrew D. Logan for the death of Sample, who was killed June 12, 2017, and whose body was found three days later. Burke also is charged with two robbery counts and two count of having a weapon under disability.

Niles resident Hayle Roupe, 17, testified that on June 12, Burke told her and several others he had forced Sample out of his vehicle and told him to get on his knees. Burke, according to Roupe, told them Sample begged for his life.

“Please do not do this,” Burke described Sample saying, according to Roupe’s testimony. “I have a family.”

According to Roupe, after shooting Sample, Burke said he took the car, but dropped it off on the Niles Bike trail, near the corner of Robbins Avenue and State Street.

“He did not have any tears,” Roupe said. “He was bragging about it.”

Roupe and a friend, Jessica Sims, went to Niles police several days later and told them what they knew about Burke, she said.

Several days later, on June 20, Roupe described Deidra Keener receiving a phone call from Burke who said he had come upon some money. However, Roupe, who also was on the phone, said he was not allowed to come to her grandmother’s house at 713 Mason St.

During cross examination, Roupe said she personally did not know Burke prior to him coming to her grandmother’s house on June 11, but knew he previously dated one of her friends.

Burke had been at the Mason Street house for most of the day while the group of teens were playing cards and going back and forth to an area park. He had been going in and out meeting with people she did not know.

Roupe described leaving the house at about midnight to take Jessica Sims’ little sisters home.

Sims testified she and Hayle Roupe had known Burke about two months prior to the shooting. She said they knew him because he was a friend of 14-year-old Ricky Roupe, who lived at the Mason Street house.

Sims testified Burke told them he planned to rob Brandon Sample on June 10.

“After he did it, he was bragging,” she said.

Sims said Burke initially said he shot Sample once, but later stated it was twice in the head. She also described Burke telling Sample to turn around to face him.

Sample had one bullet wound to the back of the head, according to earlier reports.

Kenneth Sample, father of Brandon Sample, said the last time he saw his son was on June 11, when Brandon was going to his grandmother’s house to cut her grass. He later told him he was taking his friend, Josh White, home.

The elder Sample attempted to reach his son at about 4:30 a.m., June 12, through a text because he had not returned home. Kenneth Sample had gotten up early in the morning, because he was headed to work.

Sample received a response to his text, stating Brandon was on his way home.

During cross examination, Kenneth Sample said he did not remember his son mentioning that he knew or had any problem with anyone named Austin Burke.

Cortland police detective David Morris, a member of the Trumbull County Homicide Task Force, said he was called on June 15 to go to North Bloomfield, where a body was found in a wooded area. He worked as a police photographer during that portion of the investigation.

“The body was in a state of decomposition,” Morris said.

The detective described the body lying face down on the ground. It had a dark-colored t-shirt pulled over the head. A shoe was found near his body.

Morris on June 20 was called out to assist in an investigation of the robbery of a Pizza Joe’s restaurant. Cortland Police received a tip that evidence was located at 241-C W Main St.

Officers searched the apartment that afternoon and returned the next day to continue their search. It was moments after Morris left the apartment that he received a call that the owners, who had been given permission to begin cleaning up the apartment, found a pistol in one of two vases. Ammunition was found in the second vase.

Niles police officer Chris Manella testified going to the bike trail near the corner of Niles and Robbins, shortly after 7:40 a.m., June 12, where a four-door white Chevy Malibu vehicle was found lodged between two trees.

Manella said he did not see blood in the vehicle.