Confession of alleged heroin addict illegal, attorney says

The lawyer for an alleged heroin dealer charged with the overdose deaths of three Tri-Citians is challenging his initial capture, saying his rights were violated, making his confession illegal.

Brian Haney Burt, 35, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with two counts of controlled substance homicide. He also has a Franklin County case with the same charge.

During a hearing Wednesday in Benton County, lawyer Gary Metro said he believes the initial arrest for littering was inappropriate and illegal. Therefore, any later conversations Burt had with police about the heroin overdoses should be suppressed, he said.

Burt was a passenger in a car that was stopped April 26 in Richland's Walmart parking lot. Officers with the police department's Proactive Anti-Crime Team pulled over the car after reportedly seeing Burt commit a misdemeanor violation by tossing a cigarette out the car window.

The driver of the car also did not have a driver's license.

Once Burt was identified, officers learned he had active arrest warrants, including failing to appear in court. He was arrested and reportedly had two prescription pills with him but did not have a prescription.

While being interviewed at the police station, Burt reportedly told Richland officers he was addicted to heroin and had sold the drug for years to support his habit, court documents said.

It was through thosecomments that police linked Burt to a number of deaths in recent years, documents said. Burt allegedly sold or provided the victims with the heroin that killed them.

In Benton County, he is accused in the deaths of Liam D. Hermsen, 29, and Shirley E. Sanders, 44. Prosecutors said relatives identified Burt as the drug source, and that Burt was present when Sanders died.

He also is connected to a third Benton County victim, Jason Brickey, but the statute of limitations expired to charge him with that death.

In Franklin County, Burt is charged with the death of Derek Scott Bradley, 21. The two men used the drug together, and Burt allegedly later found Bradley dead but he ran from the house without calling authorities.

Judge Robert Swisher -- who has been assigned to the cases in both counties -- told Metro he must immediately file his motion challenging the arrest so Benton County Deputy Prosecutor Art Bieker has a day to respond.

Swisher wants to stick to a schedule set June 29, so he told the attorneys to be prepared to argue the issue next Wednesday.

Swisher said he will have a different judge preside over that hearing because he is the one who signed the search warrant April 28.

The court will also hear testimony that day about whether officers properly advised Burt of his rights when he was arrested.

His trials are set for Oct. 10 in Benton County and Sept. 28 in Franklin County.

Metro said an offer was made by Prosecutor Shawn Sant on Tuesday to resolve the case, but he wasn't given the details.

Metro said that maybe in the next week he will have a better idea if a resolution before trial is possible.