INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Court records are revealing how police worked with the homeless to solve a brutal murder in Fountain Square.
The killing took place last year inside Saint Patrick’s church on Prospect.
After the murder, several homeless people came forward with information on the case. Police claim that assistance helped them track down the accused killer.
58-year-old Julie Morey died after being stabbed and strangled in early November.
“Anybody who would go inside a church and kill somebody, that was just totally cruel. That was disgusting,” said Betty Stringer.
Betty Stringer has worked at Peppy Grill near Saint Patrick’s church for 4 decades. Despite being homeless, Morey had been a regular customer before her death.
“She always was friendly and was smiling. She was a good person and she didn’t deserve to die like that,” said Stringer.
According to court records, multiple homeless people identified Robert Burks as the killer. Just two weeks before the killing, prosecutors allege the victim reported Burks had sexually assaulted her.
“He probably found out she called the police and said he’d raped her, which she did, and then he got out of Dodge,” said Stringer.
Sgt. Tabatha McLemore oversees a half dozen officers in IMPD’s homeless unit. The officers work to build rapport with the homeless to let them know police can be trusted.
“We’re not out there to arrest people and criminalize homelessness. We’re out there to help them and get them in touch with resources,” said McLemore.
Working the homeless can present some challenges. According to court records, another homeless person who suffers from mental illness initially gave a false confession to the murder at Saint Patrick’s.
“When you have mental illness and couple that with drug abuse, sometimes they don’t know where they were or what they were involved in. They hear a story and don’t know if it’s their story or someone else’s story and they do get confused,” said McLemore.
Still, cooperation from the homeless is important going forward because just last week a homeless man died in a shooting inside a parking garage at Circle Centre Mall. Police are still searching for a man who walked away from that scene.
Burks remains behind bars in Monroe County on an unrelated battery charge.