Kenneth Burno is escorted by police after a court appearance this week.
Man held in alleged hit list plot to kill girlfriend's lovers
Friday, December 20, 2002 Posted: 4:58 AM EST (0958 GMT)
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Kenneth Burno, according to police, was an intensely jealous man who couldn't stand the thought that his girlfriend might be sleeping with other men.
By the summer of 2001, Burno's jealousy allegedly turned to murder. Police said he hatched a plan to kill every man he viewed as a romantic rival -- and forced his girlfriend to help.
Two of the five men on Burno's alleged hit list were shot -- one fatally -- before police arrested his girlfriend, Vernell Jones, a year ago and broke up the alleged plot.
"I think they would have attempted to kill (all of) these people until one or the other was caught," said Acting Whitemarsh Township Police Chief Jesse Stemple.
Based on Jones' confession, authorities charged Burno with first-degree murder Tuesday, saying he planned the murder conspiracy and pressured her to go along. Burno, 32, was arrested at his Philadelphia home and jailed without bail.
It wasn't immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
Jones, 33, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of third-degree murder and conspiracy. She has agreed to testify against Burno, Montgomery County prosecutor Risa Ferman said.
Jones had already pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for shooting a Philadelphia firefighter with whom she had been having an affair. She is serving five to 10 years in prison for that shooting.
Jones gave a harrowing account of her five-year relationship with Burno that included allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, authorities said.
"He manipulated her and dominated her to the point where she would do whatever he wanted," Ferman said. "But don't read into that any suggestion that she's not responsible for her own actions."
Burno, according to court documents, used to punch Jones, yank her down stairs by her hair and slam her head into a car. She forked over nearly all her paychecks to Burno, documents said.
The abuse got worse when Burno thought she was sleeping around, police said. Some of Burno's accusations were true and some weren't, Jones said, according to court documents.
"We believe Burno's jealously peaked in the summer of 2001 when he believed Jones had an affair with his own cousin. Burno gave Jones an ultimatum -- either she agree with him to kill five men or he ended their relationship," according to a police affidavit.
Burno allegedly handed Jones a piece of paper and ordered her to write down the first initial of each of the intended victims, including his cousin.
Their first target was Ronald Humphrey, a Philadelphia firefighter, prosecutors said. That October, Jones and Humphrey drove to a secluded area where she shot him in the arm, according to prosecutors. He survived.
In December 2001, Jones and Burno turned their attention to John Davis, 36, authorities said. Davis and Jones had been friends and colleagues at a warehouse he supervised, but Burno suspected them of sleeping together, documents said.
On December 17, Burno fatally shot Davis in the back of the head in the parking lot of the warehouse, police said. Jones, who worked at U.S. Liability Insurance Group in King of Prussia at the time of the killing, followed with two shots to the body, the affidavit said.
After the murder, the couple returned to Jones' apartment and had sex, documents said.
Burno allegedly kissed her and said: "One down, four to go."