Love triangle sur­faces in slay­ing of pas­tor’s wife

Dad, son ad­mit links to woman also held in case, records show

Houston Chronicle - - CITY&STATE - By PEGGY O’HARE

The son of a Hous­ton min­is­ter told Har­ris County sher­iff’s de­tec­tives he was paid to kill his fa­ther’s wife last month, pros­e­cu­tors said Wed­nes­day.

Pas­tor Tracy Bernard “T.B.” Burleson, 44, and his son, Wil­liam Darn­nell Fuller, 20 — both jailed with­out bail on charges of murder — also were hav­ing ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships with the same woman, who is ac­cused of try­ing to burn the murder weapon, ac­cord­ing to de­tec­tives and court doc­u­ments.

Both men are charged in the May 18 shoot­ing death of Pauletta Ross Burleson, 56, at the fam­ily’s home in north cen­tral Har­ris County. The men’s ro­man­tic in­ter-

est, Ty­onne Marie Palmer-Pol­lard, 31, is charged with tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence.

De­tec­tives and court records sug­gest the Burleson fam­ily was rife with con­flict. Fuller told de­tec­tives that he fre­quently fought with his step­mother, ac­cord­ing to Sgt. Wayne Kuhlman of the Sher­iff’s Of­fice Homi­cide Di­vi­sion. And court records show the slain woman was pros­e­cuted twice on child abuse charges, re­ceiv­ing de­ferred ad­ju­di­ca­tion both times, while her hus­band was cleared of any wrong­do­ing in those cases.

In­fi­deli­ties no se­cret

Pauletta Burleson knew of her hus­band’s in­fi­deli­ties and had dis­cussed them with oth­ers, Kuhlman said. And the pas­tor, who heads First New Mount Cal­vary Bap­tist Church in the Fifth Ward, told sher­iff’s de­tec­tives that Palmer-Pol­lard was not the only woman with whom he’d had an af­fair, the sergeant said.

Dur­ing a mag­is­trate hear­ing Wed­nes­day, Har­ris County pros­e­cu­tor Justin Wood said Fuller, a Texas South­ern Uni­ver­sity pre-nurs­ing stu­dent, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he shot his step­mother af­ter be­ing paid by his fa­ther to com­mit the crime. Wood did not say how much the son was al­legedly paid.

Sher­iff’s de­tec­tives broke the case af­ter a con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant told them Fuller ad­mit­ted he had shot his step­mother, ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit re­leased Wed­nes­day.

Pauletta Burleson — known to her fam­ily and friends as “Paulette” — had ar­gued with her hus­band in the drive­way of their home in the 11800 block of Green Loch near North Lake Hous­ton Park­way on the night of her death, one neigh­bor told de­tec­tives, court records show.

Dur­ing the ar­gu­ment, the neigh­bor heard a man say, “You are al­ways try­ing to con­trol me,” ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit.

Shot about 10:15 p.m.

Min­utes later, Pauletta Burleson was shot from be­hind while sit­ting in a chair in her garage. The sin­gle shot pierced her head and neck, an au­topsy re­vealed. An­other neigh­bor heard the gun­shot around 10:15 p.m.

Two min­utes later, the vic­tim’s son, John Ross, re­ceived a phone call from the pas­tor, telling Ross that his mother had been shot, an af­fi­davit shows.

An hour later, deputies were called to the fam­ily’s home, where the pas­tor re­ported find­ing his wife dead in their drive­way. Tracy Burleson told de­tec­tives he had gone to a store to buy chips and candy. But de­tec­tives found no such items in the pas­tor’s car and saw what ap­peared to be blood on the ve­hi­cle’s ig­ni­tion key.

The pas­tor gave in­con­sis­tent sto­ries to de­tec­tives, first telling them he had thrown out the chips and candy on his way home from the store, then claim­ing the store wasn’t open af­ter of­fi­cers dis­cov­ered that the es­tab­lish­ment closed at 10 p.m. that night.

De­tec­tives led to gun

Af­ter the shoot­ing, court records show, Fuller walked across a wooded area to an­other street, where he called Palmer-Pol­lard, who came and picked him up.

Fuller said she took him some­where to clean up, then drove him to an uniden­ti­fied lo­ca­tion where they both burned the gun used to kill his step­mother, an af­fi­davit shows. Fuller later led de­tec­tives to the gun, Kuhlman said.

Kuhlman con­firmed there was a life in­surance pol­icy on Pauletta Burleson to­tal­ing about $60,000, but said de­tec­tives have not es­tab­lished a spe­cific mo­tive for the crime.

Fuller has given de­tec­tives con­flict­ing sto­ries, while his fa­ther and Palmer-Pol­lard have re­fused to co­op­er­ate with au­thor­i­ties, said sher­iff’s Sgt. Cur­tis Brown.

Fuller had long been ro­man­ti­cally in­ter­ested in Palmer-Pol­lard, but his fa­ther be­came in­volved with her first, Kuhlman said. Fuller later also be­came ro­man­ti­cally in­volved with her, and Palmer-Pol­lard car­ried on both re­la­tion­ships at the same time, Kuhlman said.

A week be­fore Pauletta Burleson was shot to death, the cou­ple’s church caught fire and was de­stroyed. Hous­ton Fire Depart­ment ar­son in­ves­ti­ga­tors have not yet dis­cov­ered the cause of that fire or de­ter­mined if it was de­lib­er­ately set.

The Burlesons, who had been mar­ried since July 1995, had two adopted sons, now 16 and 17, whom they took into their home when the boys were very young.

De­ferred ad­ju­di­ca­tion

Burleson ran into trou­ble with the law when she was charged in 1997 with in­jury to a child caus­ing reck­less bod­ily in­jury. No de­tails were avail­able for that case, but she re­ceived de­ferred ad­ju­di­ca­tion and was placed on pro­ba­tion for six years.

In 2005, Burleson and her pas­tor hus­band were both ar­rested, each on two charges for in­jury to a child un­der 15. Both were ac­cused of us­ing an ex­ten­sion cord and wooden board to beat their sons, then 11 and 12. A Har­ris County grand jury de­clined to in­dict the cou­ple in that case.

In 2006, the Burlesons were again ar­rested for in­jury to a child un­der 15. The charges against Tracy Burleson were dis­missed, while his wife again re­ceived de­ferred ad­ju­di­ca­tion and three years pro­ba­tion for the case, in which she was ac­cused of strik­ing her then 12-year-old son with an ex­ten­sion cord and a board.

TRACY B. BURLESON

PAULETTA BURLESON

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