Douglass Detrie, the boyfriend of Nicole VanderHeyden, testified Wednesday afternoon in the trial of George Burch, who is accused of killing the woman in May 2016. Detrie himself was an early suspect in the case, and was arrested for the crime but released without prosecutors pressing charges. In the months that followed, Burch was arrested and charged with murdering VanderHeyden.
Burch continued to insist that Detrie was the real killer, claiming that the boyfriend had caught him and Nicole having sex, then shot her and threatened him at gunpoint, making him move the body to where it was eventually found.
Detrie acknowledged how earlier that day he and Nicole had exchanged some heated, derogatory text messages, including her accusing him of cheating on her and saying to him, “Fuck you, abusive asshole.”
Detrie said he didn’t respond angrily or with vulgar language, and that he just wanted the situation to calm down by saying things like “Lol” and “Stop it, Nikki.” Still, he said, the messages from her continued.
“I was kinda puzzled, I didn’t know what she was thinking,” he testified. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
In the meantime, he said, he was drinking “pretty heavily” with friends at a bar, and using a vape pen to have what he believed to be marijuana. He eventually left to go to another bar, The Sardine Can, where they believed VanderHeyden might have been. When she wasn’t there, Detrie called her to see where she was, but she was yelling at him.
“Her words weren’t making any sense,” he told the court. “She was upset.”
He and his friend Greg, who was driving, parked at The Sardine Can, and went inside.
When asked if, at that point, he was concerned that VanderHeyden was missing or that something bad might have happened to her, Detrie said no. He said his only concern was that she was mad, but figured the next day would be better.
He later received a text saying that Nicole had met up with someone and gone somewhere else, but the message didn’t specify who it was.
When he finally left The Sardine Can around 2 a.m., he looked for her around the neighborhood before going home.
He said he may have tried to contact her once at that point, but her phone wouldn’t answer.
“I figured it was off, or the phone had died,” he said.
When Detrie finally got home, he asked the babysitter who was looking after his child if she had heard from Nicole or knew where she was, but she didn’t know where Nicole was.
Once the babysitter left, Detrie said, he got ready for bed. He then called the babysitter to see if she had heard from Nicole, but she had not. He then went to sleep a little after 3 a.m., he said.
When he awoke the next morning, Nicole still wasn’t home, and he didn’t know where she was. As the day went on, he became increasingly concerned. He even checked jail records to see if she had been incarcerated, and he had Nicole’s family check hospitals, since he couldn’t because he wasn’t a family member and didn’t think they’d reveal information to him if she was there. After talking to Nicole’s sister, he finally called the police at her suggestion.
When asked why he didn’t call the police sooner, Detrie said he hadn’t thought about it because he initially just assumed Nicole was mad at him.
Stay with Law&Crime.com and the Law&Crime Network for continuing coverage of the trial.