Kareem Lane, charged with murder in the 1992 stabbing of Muscogee school superintendent Jim Burns, will remain in jail. A Columbus Recorder’s Court judge rejected his defense attorney’s attempt to get the warrant dismissed during a preliminary hearing Friday morning.
Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson, who’s representing Lane, 35, of Pell City, Ala., said he will try next to get a Superior Court judge to allow Lane out on bond.
Lane did not testify during Friday’s 30-minute hearing before Judge Michael Cielinski, who limited the questions Jackson was asking after District Attorney Julia Slater objected. She said Jackson was on “a fishing expedition” to gather evidence. Slater said Friday’s session was a “probable cause” hearing to determine only whether Lane should be held for further proceedings, and Cielinski agreed.
Jackson argued that he should be as free to elicit testimony that Lane was innocent as the police were to introduce evidence of Lane’s alleged guilt.
Many of Jackson’s questions went unanswered, as they related to the night police detained Lane after Burns bled to death in the doorway of his 620 Broadway home, having been stabbed once in the back while fighting with an intruder.
Cold case investigators Cpl. Randy Long and Sgt. Harvey Hatcher said they did not know what evidence police got from Lane that night or the next day when officers served a search warrant at the Bertcliff Avenue home where Lane, at the time a 17-year-old Shaw High School senior, lived with his parents.
The key piece of evidence police could talk about was the knife used to stab Burns, which was found near his body. They said a Pennsylvania lab April 30 told them it had extracted a DNA profile from the knife and matched it to a saliva sample police got from Lane with a search warrant.
With the help of the St. Clair County, Ala., sheriff, authorities arrested Lane Monday.
Long said that when he talked to Lane that day, he asked the suspect, “You know what this is about, don’t you?” Lane nodded, he said. Then the corporal told him, “You know it’s over,” and Lane nodded again, Long testified.
Burns was stabbed about 12:20 a.m. Oct. 19, 1992, in his second-floor bedroom, from which he chased an intruder down the stairs to his front door. Long testified today that Burns’ wife, Stella, told police that night that she had been awakened when the couple’s bed shook violently, and she looked up to see her husband fighting with someone. She told police that when she came out to the top of the stairs, she saw Burns at the open front door, looking to his left. He then fell onto his back.
Long told the court that Burns’ looking to his left would have been to the south, down Broadway toward Sixth Street.
One block over, on Front Avenue, residents that night saw a masked man in a gray jogging outfit run to a gray Ford Ranger pickup parked facing the wrong way on the one-way, northbound avenue.
It was after midnight, they said, and the driver headed south toward Fifth Street. They called police and gave a description of the truck, noting that it had a white oval window decal on the driver’s side.
Carol Mauko, who according to city directories lived at 525 Front Ave., testified in court Friday that she and her son, Chris Mauko, called 911 about 11:45 p.m. that night to report the truck, which was parked in front of a house where she knew the neighbors weren’t home.
She said they couldn’t tell whether the person running to the truck was black or white because of the mask.
Jackson wanted to know what kind of mask it was. Hatcher had said a hockey mask was among the evidence police collected.
Mauko said the mask worn by the runner wasn’t plastic like a hockey mask: “It was cloth.”
“I remember more of a hood, like a hood pulled over the head,” her son said.
Neither Long nor Hatcher could say whether police found such a mask in Lane’s truck. Hatcher testified that Lane that night was wearing black pants and a white T-shirt, and in a book bag in his pickup, police found a gray T-shirt and gray sweat pants.
Officers stopped Lane’s truck on Macon Road, near where the school district’s administration building is today, after the Maukos reported what they had seen to police.
Investigators said Lane’s pickup matched the vehicle the Maukos had described, and the Maukos were summoned there to confirm it was the same truck they had seen. In the truck police found an empty knife sheath.
Police then questioned Lane all day, but then released him without charge and let his family take the truck.
After Burns’ slaying, Lane went on to graduate from Shaw in 1993, and then served in the U.S. Marine Corps. A native of Stone Mountain, Ga., he and his parents, Willie L. and Linda Rochell Lane, were living in the 5900 block of Bert- cliff Avenue, in Columbus’ Midland area, in 1992.
Lane more recently has been working at a company that makes parts for Honda vehicles, Jackson said. Investigators said Lane also has recorded music, some of which is available on iTunes, including a song called “Semper-Fi” about his joining the Marine Corps after high school. Music videos featuring Lane were posted on YouTube earlier this week, but since have been removed.
Lane’s mother died in May 2009. Jackson said Lane’s father is still living. His family did not attend this morning’s hearing, but five members of the Burns’ family were there. They declined to comment on the case.