By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
In a letter to his father shortly after he was arrested, a Marshall County Jail inmate who's charged with murder says he shot two men in self-defense after being accused of being a plainclothes policeman or a confidential informant.
Ted Burgess, father of Phillip Burgess, 33, provided the letter this week so his son's side of the story could be told. Phillip Burgess is charged with the Aug. 7 shooting death of Joey Perryman, 48, and wounding a 15-year-old boy during the 1 p.m. shooting.
It happened in Apartment No. 7 of Martin Street Apartments, 210 Martin Avenue. The Marshall County Courthouse is easily seen on the western horizon from the small one-story apartment complex.
"He feels very bad about taking someone's life, but it was to protect another's," Ted Burgess said Wednesday last week with his wife, Debbie, at his side just outside the Marshall County Circuit Courtroom. Debbie Burgess interjects that she and her husband have been threatened in court and so they moved from Lewisburg. Ted says they now live 650 miles away in another time zone. He won't say where.
"He' concerned that people think he's a murderer," the father said in a telephone interview.
Phillip Burgess' letter was sent by fax from a business that provides such services. The letter was written on his first night in jail. He's still there. His bond was set at $1 million.
Phillip Burgess had a home of his own in Lewisburg, his father said.
"Then," Phillip says in his letter, "people started breaking in my apartment and stealing only my meds."
He had his locks changed and he got a gun. He's been getting disability checks and he takes medicine since he had surgery on his right knee.
He'd met a woman from Kentucky where she'd been getting Food Stamps, the father said. Phillip Burgess agreed to let her use his address so she could continue to get that government assistance. Why she couldn't use an address at the Martin Street Apartments is something Ted Burgess didn't, or couldn't explain completely.
In his letter, Phillip sad, "I let a girl stay a couple of days; we got along. I did not want her for sex, only another person there so I would not be alone. She had a beautiful [baby] daughter... I felt bad for her, so I was willing to up my rent so they could stay, but she sold my meds and I was hurt, but I forgave her and she left."
Phillip Burgess claims, and his father explains, that on Aug. 7, the woman's mail was being taken by Phillip to the woman who was at the Martin Street Apartments.
"When he got there, he didn't know which apartment she was in," the father said.
Phillip "had talked to her on the phone," the letter states. "She said, 'OK bring it.' because I said I was going to my dad's, but she did not tell me her address."
At Phillip's apartment complex, "The neighbor across the hall knew her, so I ask him," Phillip wrote. "He told me in the back behind Andy's Tire. I did not call her back because my phone is an extension of my dad's... I took the gun with me for protection. No one knew I had it and I wanted it to stay that way."
The apartments' maintenance man told him which unit she was in, so he went there and gave the woman her mail, the letter states.
Shortly thereafter, "Three guys came in ... the third was a ... kid... The one in front ... called me a cop... [and said] ... he was going to beat me to death and throw my body into the Duck River. She said I wasn't a cop, but had a scared look on her face."
The woman was ordered to leave and she did, according to the letter. Burgess' father said she went to the bathroom and that Phillip followed her. The letter says the 15-year-old boy went to the kitchen.
The faxed letter is illegible in places and some of the words were omitted, apparently because the paper wasn't fed straight through the machine.
At this point in the chain of events, the father explains that his son shot Perryman in self-defense and that the boy was wounded.
That chain of events is different from what Lewisburg Police Detective Sgt. David Henley could report in August and that information was published on the Wednesday after the Sunday shooting.
Henley attributed the information to the victims and that's the reason given for Ted Burgess' release of his son's statement. The father said he did so only after consulting with his son.
During that second week of August the detective sergeant said "Detectives determined through their investigation that Jeanette Belew, Joey Perryman, and two male juveniles, age 13 and 15, were at the residence when the shooting occurred. According to the victims, Burgess came to the residence, entered the front door and shot Joey Perryman and the 15-year-old juvenile. Belew was in the bathroom at the time of the shooting and was not injured. The 13-year-old juvenile stated Burgess fired a shot at him but he was able to escape the residence uninjured while the shooting was in progress."
That was in the early stages of the investigation.
According to the defendant's father, Phillip Burgess was confronted by two men who "told him they'd beat him to death." Phillip Burgess was using a cane to walk. One of the men had "a 40-once beer bottle that knocked him over, so he was shot," the father said. "The second man was shot in the arm."
Phillip Burgess' statement says, "There is no motive other than self-defense. They had a motive. It was to kill and rob me and get rid of my body... Instead of going to my dad's, I tried to drive back to the apartment, but did not make it."
His vehicle's transmission failed, he said.
"I thought I had to get it off the road because it made me an easy target, so I called the insurance to tow it.
"Next thing I knew I had five or more guns in my face and was arrested," Phillip Burgess wrote. "I had no clue I had shot any of those guys. The detectives questioned me and recorded me. They said I had shot two people and they might die. I gave them everything, even though I was still scared out of my mind."
Phillip Burgess came to the conclusion that he'd shot a drug dealer, according to the statement provided by his father. The inmate apparently believes that's why he's been held in a protected cell, but he wrote that there's another reason he was put in a separate cell.
"A nightmare had happened to me," Phillip Burgess wrote in his letter. "My little world I had fell apart. I wanted to die, so they put me in a suicide cell for 12 days."
Ted Burgess said he "moved back to Michigan, (although that's not where he is now.) I had to leave Lewisburg because we were being threatened. The threats have been reported to police."
Once they were stated to him in the courtroom.
"Two nights after this happened in August, we noticed a couple of cars in our driveway," Ted Burgess said. "The people in the car in the driveway were talking on cell phones. One time it was a white woman driving with a black man on the passenger side. The next time she was by herself and the third time he was by himself."
Police increased their patrol of the area "for 30 days and they [the black man and white woman] didn't come back," Ted Burgess said.
Subsequently, the father has been threatened and "Phillip called us from the jail ... saying he wanted us to move out of state because of jailhouse rumor."
The Burgess family made the letter available, explaining their son had been portrayed as a murderer when he's not. They say it will correct his public image and apparently they believe it will not adversely affect his chance of getting a fair trial.