Nathan Burkett, accused of squeezing the life out of two Las Vegas women almost 16 years apart, said Wednesday there is more to his case than police allegations that he is a "serial killer."
"Some things need to come out," Burkett said calmly during a brief video conference at the Clark County Detention Center.
Burkett was extradited from Picayune, Miss., on Tuesday to face murder charges in the strangulations of two women, the first in 1978. He made his first public comments Wednesday afternoon during a video conference that was cut short, first by audio technical problems and then by a public defender's intervention.
The Metropolitan Police Department accuses Burkett of killing 22-year-old Barbara Ann Cox on April 22, 1978, and 27-year-old Tina Gayle Mitchell on Feb. 20, 1994. Forensic evidence links Burkett to the slayings, police said.
In 2003, Burkett was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the death of a 41-year-old woman in Las Vegas.
"Mr. Burkett is a serial killer," Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said earlier this week. "He hasn't (just) committed one homicide in Las Vegas, not two, but we know he's at least committed three."
Burkett, 65, wore a county jail-issued navy blue shirt that contrasted starkly with his white hair and beard.
When asked whether he had killed Cox and Mitchell, he said, "Hold on for a second" and briefly put the phone down.
After a few seconds passed and the question was asked again, Burkett appeared to deny his involvement in the slayings. He gave a slight shake of his head no, but his statement was inaudible.
Audio for the video feed became increasingly choppy. The interview was cut short as jail employees tried to fix the problem. A few minutes later, a woman claiming to be his lawyer ran to the Review-Journal camera and asked whether Burkett was conducting an interview.
"I told him not to do that," she said.
Lawyers persuaded Burkett to keep quiet. Hours later, he officially declined to speak with the media.
Burkett is being looked at in connection with other cold-case slayings, but police wouldn't release details about those investigations.
Clark County's special public defenders office is expected to be appointed to represent Burkett at his next court appearance, set for Friday before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman.
Special Public Defender David Schieck said he did not want Burkett to give interviews to the media. Schieck said he was concerned about how the interview would be edited and then broadcast.
"We can't control what they put on the airwaves," Schieck said. "We don't try our cases in the press. We try our cases in court."
Meanwhile, the Review-Journal has learned that Burkett was served with a "Marcum" notice, meaning prosecutors could seek a grand jury indictment for the murder charges.
Police said Burkett is no stranger to local law enforcement.
He has been arrested more than a dozen times in Southern Nevada since 1975 on charges including battery, kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, robbery and domestic violence.
Las Vegas police arrested Burkett in October 2003 in the slaying and kidnapping of Valetter Jean Bousley, 41. Bousley was found strangled Sept. 4, 2002. Burkett was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in her death and served six years in prison.
Police also are investigating him in the death of a 32-year-old woman three months after Mitchell was found slain in 1994.
Police think the killing spree began in 1978, when Cox was found dead in a parking lot outside apartments at 211 W. Bonanza Road.
Cox was found nude, raped and with strangulation marks on her neck, according to Burkett's arrest report, which cites the notes from the original homicide investigators.
Police interviewed the woman who found Cox's body. The woman was in the area because she was driving Burkett home from the Aladdin hotel-casino, where he worked then.
She told detectives that she and Burkett discussed reporting the death. But Burkett got out of the car and walked into his upstairs apartment at 211 W. Bonanza. The woman then flagged down an officer.
When detectives interviewed Burkett, he was staggering around nearby, "grossly intoxicated" and "belligerent."
"This subject was in no condition to be interrogated, and he was escorted to his apartment by uniformed officers, where he promptly passed out," their report said.
There is no indication that detectives believed Burkett was a suspect, according to the reports. Investigators took vaginal samples of Cox, and the case was suspended when no new leads surfaced. DNA would not start to be used in forensics until the late 1980s.
Five years after her death, Burkett was sentenced to 20 years in prison for manslaughter in Mississippi. Details of that case weren't available. Records show he was scheduled to be released in 1992.
Police think his move back to Las Vegas is connected to the slaying of Mitchell in February 1994.
Mitchell's body was found behind a house on H Street near Washington Avenue, lying facedown and covered with towels. Medical examiners ruled she had been strangled.
Burkett's name didn't surface in the investigation into Mitchell's death, according to his arrest report. Detectives focused on another man, obtaining an arrest warrant for a Louis Donald Moore. But prosecutors dismissed the case.
Moore's connection to Mitchell is unclear, and the reports don't state why the case was dismissed.
Detectives obtained samples from Mitchell that would yield DNA, but the case went cold.
Two months after Mitchell's body was found, the body of Alethea Maria Williams of Los Angeles was discovered in the same location. Williams, too, was strangled, authorities said.
Although Burkett has not been named as a suspect in Williams' death, his arrest report reveals that detectives recently questioned him about the case.
Burkett would serve time a decade later after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of local hotel maid Bousley. She was found strangled in September 2002, outside a church on F Street near Monroe Avenue.
The case was unsolved until March 2003, when a jail inmate said he saw Bousley go around the church with Burkett. Ten minutes later, the inmate saw Burkett walk away from the church, alone.
Police charged Burkett with murder, but he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
When he started his six-year prison stint, officials took a sample of DNA. That sample was registered with a national database and linked him to the deaths of Cox and Mitchell when cold-case detectives submitted evidence from their deaths into the system in 2010.
When officers went to Mississippi to question him about the deaths on July 18, Burkett denied knowing the victims or having sexual relations with them.
Schieck said Burkett's defense team is sorting out fact from fiction.
"We need to know what the allegations are and what the alleged evidence is before we establish a defense. At this point all we know is what we've read in the newspaper," he said.