It will be life in prison without parole for Dorleen Burklund, the Upper Bucks woman who fired eight bullets into her husband, killing him, during an altercation at their Springfield home.
Jurors in Doylestown deliberated for less than three hours Friday before finding Burklund, 51, guilty of first-degree murder and possessing an instrument of crime.
Burklund covered her face with her hands as the verdict was read. On the other side of the courtroom, Michael Burklund’s mother and other family members wept quietly.
The couple’s 20-year-old son, Gabriel, was not in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. He had been home when the killing occurred and had testified on his mother’s behalf. During Trial it had been raised of some possible mental issues surrounding her behavior. Officers, neighbors and friends testified to odd conversations where Mrs. Burklund believed people were helping her husband and making life difficult for her.
“I’m glad that the jury saw through her false claims of being abused and saw her for what she is — a cold-blooded killer,” said First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry.
The slaying occurred at the couple’s Mink Road home on the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2010. The Burklunds were in the midst of a contentious divorce and were fighting over who was going to live in the $400,000 house and direct the real estate agents tasked with selling the 10-acre property.
As part of divorce negotiations, Dorleen had moved out of the home more than a year before. She returned suddenly a month before the killing, hiring a locksmith to change the locks while Michael, an airplane pilot, was away on a business trip.
Michael was staying with friends but returned to the house frequently while Dorleen was there.
The two battled constantly, witnesses said, and Michael had sought a court order to remove Dorleen from the house. The couple was scheduled to return to court on Oct, 11, 2010, so that a judge could rule on the motion.
Jurors rejected Burklund’s claim that she shot her 47-year-old husband in self-defense. Henry had laid out the forensic evidence in her closing argument, showing that blood splatter and the placement of the victim’s wounds proved that he was crouching and covering his face when he was shot, not lunging at his wife, as she claimed.
Henry also reminded the jurors of forensic pathologist Ian Hood’s testimony; the doctor said it would have been “extraordinarily unlikely” that Michael Burklund would have rose from the carpet after being shot the first five times, forcing his wife to shoot him three more times in the back to defend herself.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence was Burklund’s 911 call after the killing. Jurors heard her calmly talking to a dispatcher, admitting to the killing and asking questions.
Henry played the 911 call to rebut Burklund’s testimony in court. On the witness stand, Burklund wept and trembled, shrieking at one time that she loved her husband and never meant to hurt him.
She told the jury that she was devastated and disoriented after the killing, so distraught that she reloaded the gun to commit suicide.
None of the emotion she described could be heard on the tape.
Other damaging evidence came from one of Burklund’s best friends, who testified that Burklund had talked about killing her husband in the past, specifically saying she’d shoot him and make it look like self-defense.
Burklund (nee Virgulti) is a Bristol native. She and Michael married in 1990 and lived in Levittown until 2002. Burklund home-schooled Gabriel, their only child.
She filed for divorce in 2007. As part of a post-nuptial agreement, she was to receive 80 percent of marital assets, including Michael Burklund’s United Airlines pension.
During the weeklong trial, Burklund testified that her husband had struck her once and sexually assaulted her. She said he frequently charged at her to frighten her during arguments and threatened to kill her, saying he’d dismember her body with a wood chipper and make her “disappear.”
She said she sought help from police and the FBI. But when officers were questioned about their contact with Burklund in court, they said she never reported abuse, just complained about “activities” she believed her husband and neighbors were involved in.
After the verdict, Bucks County Judge Jeffrey Finley chided Burklund for “smearing” the victim with her testimony, saying he found it “disheartening.”
“The jury’s verdict here is no surprise. Having heard the evidence, I would have been astounded at a different result. It’s clear that this was a cold, calculated act by this defendant,” he said.
Burklund’s attorney, Ann Faust, left the courtroom after the verdict and did not comment.
Michael Burklund’s family declined to be interviewed after the verdict. They will have a chance to speak when Burklund is formally sentenced, a hearing that will occur within a few weeks.
Henry said she believed that the murder was not only premeditated, but well-planned.
“Dorleen Burklund had been thinking about this for some time and that day was her day to do it.”