Drifter possibly linked to beach slayings
Religious zealot killed by police in July shoot-out
SAN FRANCISCO - Two couples fatally shot more than 30 years apart while camping in different countries could have been victims of the same man: a drifter who authorities say was a religious zealot and disapproved of relationships between unmarried couples.
Joseph Henry Burgess, 62, who died in a July 16 shoot-out with New Mexico sheriff’s deputies, had been wanted in Canada as a suspect in the 1972 killings of two university students on a Vancouver Island beach, and might be linked to more killings.
Investigators in Sonoma County, Calif., wanted to talk to him. The fatal shootings of two camp counselors whose bodies were found on a Jenner beach in 2004 bore a striking resemblance to the crime up north.
But Burgess’s nomadic lifestyle had helped keep his whereabouts a mystery.
He is believed to have spent the past decade burglarizing cabins in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, where he was nicknamed the “Cookie Bandit’’ for allegedly stealing food, boots, and other goods. Deputies conducting a stakeout for the Cookie Bandit were confronted by Burgess, leading to a gun battle that left him and Sergeant Joe Harris dead.
Much remains unknown about Burgess, including how he got to New Mexico from Canada and where he stopped along the way.
Investigators in Canada and California are looking to New Mexico for information, such as a diary or people with whom Burgess had contact, that could tie him to their cold cases and possibly others.
“It would appear from the end result of the incident down in New Mexico, he carried on with the same sort of lifestyle,’’ said Dan Creally, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who helped investigate the 1972 slayings on Vancouver Island. “There is good reason to suspect that there could have very well have been other [killings] between ’72 and 2009 that he became involved in.’’
Police Lieutenant Ramon Casaus said investigators received calls from law enforcement agencies as far away as Wisconsin and Seattle to see whether Burgess might have been connected to crimes there.
New Mexico State Police said they are trying to determine how Burgess got the weapon he used during the shootout - a .357 revolver registered to David Eley, a New Mexico resident who was reported missing in 2007 from the same area where Burgess was suspected of breaking into cabins.
On June 21, 1972, Ann Durrant, 20, and Lief Karlsson, 21, were shot multiple times at point-blank range in their sleeping bag on Vancouver Island.
Burgess was among hundreds on the island that summer living in tents on the beach, Creally said.
Authorities said the New Jersey native moved to Canada in the 1960s to avoid the draft. He first arrived in the Toronto area, where he bought a .22-caliber rifle, the type of weapon used in the Vancouver Island slayings.
Burgess eventually made it to the West Coast, where he lived in a religious commune run by the Children of God and called himself Job, in reference to the biblical figure, Creally said. He reportedly was kicked out after his rifle made other residents uncomfortable.
Creally said a woman on the beach told authorities that she had seen Burgess cleaning a .22-caliber rifle and said Burgess had told her he disapproved of Durrant and Karlsson’s relationship because they were unmarried. It was not clear what kind of contact, if any, Burgess had with the couple before the killings.
He was gone by the time investigators arrived, but a police dog discovered his belongings, including an identification card and passages from the Bible he had written and discarded nearby, Creally said. His fingerprint was also at the scene.