The murder trial of a former Fergus Falls man ended abruptly Thursday when Michael Alan Burris, 66, pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder in the 2012 shooting death of his nephew, KVRR reports.
According to KFGO, Burris says during an argument his nephew pointed a gun at him. After Scott Burris put the gun down, Michael Burris picked it up and fatally shot his nephew.
The station says prosecutors agreed to recommend 12 and-a-half years in prison when Burris is sentenced on Dec. 19.
The lead prosecutor on the case, Assistant County Attorney Michelle Eldien, tells the Fergus Falls Journal she had no idea the guilty plea was coming.
Burris' trial was in its third day and the fifth witness was scheduled to resume his testimony on Thursday morning, Eldien told the Journal. She expressed satisfaction with the plea:
“It’s a good result. I would say it’s an appropriate result. It’s closure for everyone. It was a long ordeal for years," Eldien said.
Eldien told the Journal the guilty plea saves Burris' son, Michael Kyle Burris, from having to testify against his father. The younger Burris, who is 24, pleaded guilty in August to being an accomplice to murder by helping his father dispose of his cousin's body. Swimmers discovered Scott Burris' body in the Otter Tail River the month after the shooting.
WDAY says the younger Burris' guilty plea included an agreement from prosecutors to recommend a sentence of just over six years for a crime that usually carries a maximum of up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say the argument that led to Scott Burris' death was over a drug debt of $20,000. Michael A. Burris and his son were reportedly interviewed half a dozen times during an investigation that lasted more than a year. They moved to Mesa, Arizona, during that time.
But when charges were filed against the Burrises in August of last year, it was described as a bombshell in Fergus Falls.