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It sticks in my craw

I can remember my grandmother using the phrase ‘˜it sticks in my craw’. The word ‘˜craw’ is slang for crop which is the place in the throats of poultry and birds where seeds are stored as they break down into a digestible form. I have opened the craw of many a dove in the field to see what they were feeding on that brought them within range of my shotgun. When grandma used the phrase, she was talking about something that didn’t seem right to her; something that she could not reconcile in her mind. It could also refer to something that left a bad taste in her mouth. Since the retirement of the irreplaceable Elizabeth Sellers, I have been perusing back issues to highlight events that took place 100, 50, 25 and 10 years ago. Earlier this year, I came across an item on the strange killing of Buzz Burousas. He was shot in the head and chest at the end of his driveway by his wife, Teresa Mangham Burousas on July 1, 2009. I wondered if Teresa was still in jail and checked the corrections website which reported she was ensconced in Pulaski State Prison. Late last month, I checked again and learned she had been released on parole on Nov. 13, 2018. Further delving turned up information she is living in Douglasville. Buzz’s family was not notified of her release. I checked. It struck me as a bizarre end to a bizarre case. We got tipped to the shooting and two of us got close to the Burousas home while GBI crime scene techs worked it. Buzz was dead in his vehicle at the end of the driveway. Teresa told arriving officers she had been beaten by home invaders then she was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital. What we could see from the road did not fit with a home invasion. It just seemed such perpetrators wouldn’t leave victims at opposite ends of a very long, uphill driveway. The next morning we got a tip from an incredulous source that Teresa was out in her yard, playing with her dogs. That does not often happen with life flighted patients. Soon thereafter we heard she had been institutionalized. Teresa was arrested on July 31, 2009 and housed in the Upson County jail. She was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime. The home she and Buzz had built burned to the ground in an overnight fire just nine days later. It was a clear case of arson that was never solved. Teresa languished in jail for two years. In late September 2011, we learned she would face a bench trial – one conducted without a jury – on the charges against her. This is virtually unheard of in a malice murder case. A visiting judge, Quillian Baldwin, was to hear evidence, determine guilt and handle sentencing. All the circuit judges had recused themselves in light of the fact Teresa’s father, Doug Mangham, was chairman of the Pike County commission. During the trial, testimony revealed Teresa and Buzz had met at Gordon College in 1981, dated every Friday night but did not marry until January 2006. Just before the killing, Teresa forged Buzz’s signature on a postal credit union check for $30,000. She put $20,000 in her account and kept $10,000 in cash. Her cellmate at the Upson jail, Casey Taylor, claimed she and Teresa became lovers and Teresa told her she met Buzz at the end of the driveway and shot him twice with a .38 caliber revolver. A GBI tech testified the first shot hit Buzz in the chest and the second was fired into his brain from just inches away. Judge Baldwin heard all this along with allegations Buzz had beaten Teresa. He heard from Doug Mangham his daughter had suffered with mental illness since her junior year in high school. He found Teresa guilty on lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime and sentenced her to 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation. Teresa’s father died while she was incarcerated. Her defense attorney has been disbarred. Judge Baldwin has retired, citing health issues. Counting time served in jail prior to trial, Teresa served just over nine years and three months behind bars. Teresa Burousas has paid her debt to society as that debt was determined to be by a superior court judge not a jury of her peers. The hope here is she left prison a better person and will not offend again. Still, I can’t shake the feeling she got preferential treatment from the day she killed Buzz until the day she was released. And that sticks in my craw.

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