LAGRANGE, GA (WTVM) - Murder suspect Thomas Lee was formally charged with five counts of malice murder during his first court appearance in LaGrange on Wednesday.
News Leader 9's Tesia Reed was able to sit down with the relatives of victims Bill & Sheila Burtron after the court hearing. We were also the only local news outlet to interview the victims' relatives. It was a very emotional day interviewing this family, and there was not a dry eye in the building.
Trotsky Quinn, son of William and Sheila Burtron, and William's daughter Brenda Vega, said they just miss their family members.
"I've never seen two people who loved each other so much as them either," said Trotsky.
Their parents, youngest sister Christie, niece Bailey and her friend Iioanna were all killed by Christie's husband of five years, Thomas Lee.
"Right now, I don't want to focus on Thomas," Trotsky said. "I want to focus on my family."
"He doesn't deserve the mattress he's laying on in there," Brenda added.
In this exclusive interview, the siblings talked about their family, including their mom who grew up in LaGrange. She was very sick this time last year, but she was able to pull through.
"We actually almost lost her last year, which makes it really hard now," Trotsky said. "Because she fought, and when I talked to her the other day, I just told her how proud I was of her. And I told her, 'Mom I'm going to come see you in a few weeks.'"
They said their father Bill would give you the shirt off his back. The retired Navy airplane mechanic and flight engineer served his country for 20 years. They said he was a protector and a provider.
"My dad was a friend, my dad was there for anybody at any time," Brenda said. "If there's anyone that wouldn't go down without a fight, without a doubt, it would be him."
"And he fought," Trotsky added.
"That's one of the things that I'm most proud about is his fight to the end that he did for everybody in that house," Brenda said.
"Everybody wants the community, everybody that knew all of these people who remember them for all of the wonderful, beautiful people they were," Trotsky said. "And as hard as it is, we want to try to celebrate those great moments and try not to… I can't." They also just want to know why this happened. When asked if they had any clue why Lee would do this to their family they had this to say.
"With us not living here, we can't say one way or the other exactly what was going on there," Trotsky said. "We've heard things, people have speculated things, but I don't know that we'll ever truly know why."
"Didn't come across shy, came across as maybe a little disinterested but I still didn't see that he would go a route like this," Brenda said.
They said the Burtrons were very well-known in the community and lived there about 20 years.
Bill and Sheila also celebrated their forty-fourth wedding anniversary just a few months ago.
The family thanked the Troup County Sheriff's Office, especially Sheriff James Woodruff and his team, for everything they've done to see Lee captured and behind bars.
We also spoke briefly with Iioanna Green's stepfather Carlos Ortiz, who had this to say:
"I would like to give thanks for all the support, the outpouring of love and condolences we've received from family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and the community, and for all the hard work the Troup County Sheriff's Department did in finding the suspect and bringing him back to Troup County to face justice in the legal system," Ortiz said.
"I also want to say he had no right to take away our beautiful, loving, talented, kindhearted young daughter who we love so much," Ortiz continued. "Our whole family is incredibly heartbroken, not only for her loss but for the loss of our four neighbors, and we feel for the entire Burtron family and their friends who have four terrible losses in this tragedy. This is something that will stay with us forever. We want to see justice served."
If you would like to help the families you can call 1-866-902-2265, or make check or money order payable to:
PO Box 1489
LaGrange, GA 30240