A Franklin County jury has found a Laurel man not guilty of manslaughter in the killing of his 23-year-old girlfriend at his home in a gated, upscale subdivision.
The jury handed down its verdict Tuesday morning for 39-year-old Gregory Burroughs in the fatal shooting of Katherine Sinclair, the Laurel Leader-Call announced in a live video on its Facebook page.
Laurel is known nationwide for a couple who has a home renovation show on HGTV.
The jury returned its verdict in the trial’s seventh day.
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Burroughs was accused of shooting Sinclair in the garage of his home in Laurel’s Windermere subdivision on June 1, 2017. Sinclair died the next day.
She was found partially clothed with her gun in her right hand and was shot behind her right ear. Testimony showed Sinclair was left-handed, while Burroughs is right-handed, and both had gunshot residue on their hands.
The jury heard testimony that the couple had previously argued in text messages and Burroughs had threatened to kill her, according to Leader-Call coverage of the trial.
Police did not send the gun to a crime lab to test for fingerprints, blood or tissue, the newspaper says testimony showed. Police seized a gun holster found next to Sinclair, but it was washed away from an evidence room during a flood.
Burroughs had faced up to 25 years if found guilty.
His attorney, Tracy Klein, told the Leader-Call it’s hard to say why the jury decided as it did.
“I recognize this has been very divisive for Laurel and Jones County,” Klein told the newspaper in a Facebook Live interview.
“It’s been a tough time for everybody involved. I realize some may feel like justice was not served ... we have to abide by the outcome.”
The Leader-Call says District Attorney Tony Buckley, in closing arguments, had told the jury his theory of what happened when the couple returned to Burroughs’ home after the two went out to dinner and had several drinks.
“He gets home, he wants the sex he’s been promised, and things go south. She gets upset, leaves the house half-naked, but he doesn’t want her leaving.”
Buckley said one of Sinclair’s last acts was to use Google to search the name of Burroughs’ ex-wife. Sinclair had threatened to send the woman embarrassing pictures and video of Burroughs to ruin his chance of getting custody of his child, according to testimony.
Burroughs waived his right to testify, a point jurors are told to not consider as an admission of guilt.
Police testimony showed Burroughs claimed the shooting occurred at 8:52 p.m. He called a judge three minutes later, reaching him on the second try, and called 911 another three minutes later — six minutes after he said the shooting occurred.
Jones County Judge Dal Williamson presided over the case.
The trial was held in Meadville, the Franklin County seat, in a change of venue at the request of Burroughs’ attorney, who cited pre-trial publicity.
The jury was “made up of a small cross section of this small, conservative county” — a pipeline worker, an offshore oilfield worker, a hair stylist, a bank branch manager, a court administrator and some retirees, the Leader-Call reports.
Burroughs is from a prominent family and has received special treatment from the criminal justice system, Leader-Call Publisher Jim Cegielski wrote in a column published Sunday.
Burroughs’ girlfriend in 2014 had reported he was abusing her and she was arrested, not him, Cegielski wrote. In 2016, he received a DUI while his child was a passenger and a judge dismissed the case because officers did not show up in court on time, he wrote.
Also, Burroughs’ name was kept off the jail docket after the manslaughter arrest, Cegielski wrote, referring to Burroughs as “the product of a system of privilege, corruption and power that has governed Laurel and Jones County for more than a century.”