Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Traffic stop in 'wooded rapist' case raises dispute

By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • December 10, 2008 Every rainy night, officers on the Brentwood Police midnight shift had their sights set on catching the Wooded Rapist. Officer Elliot Hamm testified in Davidson County Criminal Court on Tuesday that any time it rained, officers were reminded at roll call about the man suspected in a string of rapes over more than a decade. It was on a rainy night in a quiet Brentwood subdivision that Robert Jason Burdick was pulled over and developed as a suspect. Lawyers for the alleged Wooded Rapist made a second attempt Tuesday to get any evidence they gained from that traffic stop thrown out, claiming that police didn't have reasonable cause to make the stop in the first place. Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Seth Norman rejected a similar motion last month that claimed there wasn't sufficient proof to get a search warrant. Norman seemed surprised to be hearing a new attempt to get evidence thrown out, saying that his deadline for motions before the April 2009 trial had already passed, but he agreed to hear it anyway. Robert Jason Burdick, of Ash Grove Court, faces 27 criminal charges in three counties ranging from aggravated rape to aggravated burglary. Police responded to a call about a suspicious person dressed in black and peering into cars on a rainy night last April. All six of Brentwood's on-duty officers responded to the area to look for the man walking, Hamm said. They saw a Jeep parked on the road and stopped the Jeep driven by Burdick an hour later when it was leaving the neighborhood. "I was more nervous than he was," Hamm said. "I thought I had caught a car burglar." But Burdick, 38, was not arrested that night, and police quickly learned he was lying when he said he had been at a party. Public defender Katie Bottom argued that information should be excluded from the evidence because the police had no reason to link that car to the reported suspicious person. Prosecutor Roger Moore disagreed, saying that common sense gave the officer plenty of reason to stop the car and talk to the driver. "Our position is, this officer did everything by the book," Moore said. "In fact, I think he would've faced criticism if he had not made the stop." Norman took the matter under advisement.

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