WARNING: THE ABOVE VIDEO CONTAINS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC, AS WELL AS RACIST, LANGUAGE AND DESCRIPTIONS. SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND THIS MATERIAL DISTURBING AND UNSUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.
QUEENSBURY -- The Schenectady man accused of stabbing his estranged wife to death Christmas Eve told police he “snapped” after he was contacted by a child support collection specialist who told him a warrant would be issued for his arrest because he missed two child support payments.
Clifford R. Burns said he hadn’t seen his children in eight months because of “court orders,” and his wife, Patricia Burns, had been calling his cellphone and threatening to have him arrested for missing child support payments.
He said a Warren County support collection agent called him that day, and he had also been told he would have his driver’s license suspended.
“It was my last straw. I lost it. It’s Christmas and I haven’t seen my kids in three Christmases,” he said. “Everything I worked for my whole life has been taken from me. So what’s a man to do?”
Nearly seven hours of videotaped police questioning of Burns and his conversations with police was filed Wednesday in Warren County Court after Burns pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment that charges him with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and lesser charges for the Dec. 24 attack at Patricia Burns’ Lake Avenue home in Lake Luzerne.
He is accused of repeatedly stabbing Patricia Burns, 42, with a hunting knife, and stabbing her 22-year-old daughter when she tried to intervene.
One of his daughters, 14-year-old Autumn Burns, suffered a minor hand injury during the melee but it was unclear how it happened.
In the video, he spent hours talking about what led up to his going to his wife’s home, but repeatedly said he “blacked out” when asked what happened at her home.
“It was like the devil took my body over today. I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “Dude, I blacked out. I don’t know what the (expletive) happened. ... I don’t even know what the (expletive) I did tonight.”
He ranted about court orders that barred him from seeing his children, but neglected to mention that he had repeatedly been arrested for domestic violence against his wife and orders of protection were in place that barred him from contacting her.
He said he had been paying $250 a week in child support for his two teenage daughters with Burns, and had been paying for his wife’s children by other men but his wife didn’t seek child support from their fathers. He said he earned over $100,000 a year as a “tree climber.”
“I paid $250 a week and the kids are calling there’s no food in the house,” he said. “They just want you to pay, pay, pay, pay. Every time you go, they’re looking for more money.”
The videos show wild emotional swings by Burns.
He is often agitated and combative, repeatedly ranting and cursing, yelling at the police officers in his room, slamming his hands against a desk, knocking over a computer monitor at one point as he was being warned about his outbursts.
He repeatedly used racial epithets, said he had a “white power” tattoo on his torso, and accused his wife of infidelity and neglecting her children.
At various points, he threatened sheriff’s Investigator Doug David and other officers, threatening to “rip your (expletive) head off” as David questioned him.
At another, he cried and said “I just wanted to see my babies at Christmas. I just wanted to see my girls.”
“Why don’t you put a (expletive) bullet in my head,” he said shortly after he was brought into the interview room, repeating it at other times on the video. “I don’t want to live no more. You took everything from me.”
Burns also told police he had contemplated bringing guns to Lake Luzerne, shooting his wife and fleeing into the woods.
“I could have made this a war. You would have had to drop a (expletive) platoon in the woods for me,” he said. “I cut you (expletives) a big break tonight (expletives).”
He told police he wrote out a will before he left his home to make sure his children got his possessions.
He repeatedly ranted about a February 2013 criminal case that involved his wife and her then-boyfriend, Ted Backus, the brother of two Warren County sheriff’s deputies, calling police “corrupt” for their handling of it. Backus was charged with assaulting Patricia Burns, and was accused of firing a gun shot into the ceiling of his home. Burns said he believed he should have been charged with multiple felonies.
“He should have had four felonies for an unregistered handgun. You (expletives) gave him misdemeanors and the SWAT team comes,” he said. “You guys started this war. You rigged another man’s charges because his brothers are sheriffs.”
Court records also show that Burns allegedly threatened to assault or kill a number of corrections officers and fellow inmates in Warren County Jail after he was brought in.
“He stated multiple times that he can and is going to ‘snap my neck like a twig’,” Correction Officer Anthony Kubaryk wrote. “He also stated that he is going to cut my throat and take my tongue and mop the floor with my blood.”
Also among the court filings Wednesday was the audio recording of the chilling, 10-minute, 23-second 911 call made by a sobbing Autumn Burns after the attack.
In it, the teen is heard telling the Warren County dispatcher that Clifford R. Burns came into the home and stabbed her mother and sister. She can be heard begging her mother to “hold on.”
“My dad just came in and stabbed her. My mom’s bleeding on the floor,” the girl said, sobbing.
Burns’ new lawyer, Wayne Smith, entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf.
The 46-year-old Burns, wearing a black-and-white jail jumpsuit, spoke only to list his address and acknowledge he had received orders of protection barring him from having contact with the survivors of his attack, his stepdaughter and daughter.
Warren County Judge John Hall sent him to Warren County Jail without bail. Smith did not ask for bail, after Hall pointed out Burns had a criminal record that included two felony convictions and four misdemeanor convictions.
The Warren County District Attorney’s Office also filed medical records in court that detailed the injuries Patricia Burns and her daughter suffered.
Court records show Patricia Burns suffered five stab wounds to the torso and arms, and died from a punctured lung and lacerated liver. Her daughter, Megan Jenkins, 22, suffered a deep stab wound to her left arm that required surgery to repair a tendon.
Smith was recently retained by Burns’ family, after the Warren County Public Defender’s Office represented him at initial court appearances.
“It’s a tragedy for the whole family,” Smith said. “We entered a not guilty plea, we’re going to investigate this and we’ll go from there.”
Police initially listed a Niskayuna address for Burns, but he told Hall that his last address was in Schenectady.
He faces up to 50 years to life in state prison if convicted of the murder and assault counts, which could result in consecutive sentences.
No further court dates were set, but Smith was directed to file pre-trial motions by March 14.