weather icon Clear

Las Vegas murder suspect linked to car with doctor’s body inside

A California psychiatrist found dead in the trunk of a car last month had texted his girlfriend on March 2 that he was looking forward to coming home but “had to take care of a few things in Las Vegas.”

Judy Earp then received several text messages that “did not sound like” Thomas Burchard, according to Metropolitan Police Department arrest documents.

The doctor had been set to fly home on March 4 but never returned, according to the arrest report for Kelsey Turner, the 25-year-old Las Vegas woman accused of his murder.

Burchard was reported missing in early March by Earp, his longtime girlfriend, after he did not come back from a trip to Las Vegas to visit Turner, for whom Burchard had paid rent on a home, according to arrest documents released Tuesday.

After a report of a suspicious vehicle March 7 on a dirt road near state Route 147, Metro officers found the 71-year-old’s body in the trunk of a blue 2017 Mercedes Benz C300 two-door coupe, which detectives determined Turner had been driving.

Tuner was arrested in connection with Burchard’s death on March 21 in Stockton, California, by Las Vegas detectives and California FBI members.

Facebook and Instagram accounts that appear to be Turner’s identify her as a model who lived in Las Vegas and appeared in magazines such as Playboy Italia and Maxim.

In an interview with the Review-Journal on Saturday, Earp said Burchard had earlier signed a lease for Turner in Salinas, California, because Turner told him she couldn’t qualify on her own. The Salinas doctor ended up paying Turner’s rent for months until she was evicted, Earp said.

It was unclear when she was evicted from the Salinas home, but Burchard had paid rent for Turner on March 1 for a split-level single-family home in Las Vegas, the arrest report shows.

On March 7, detectives found the Mercedes on the side of a road 2 miles off the highway, the arrest report said.

Detectives found clothes and bedding in the trunk of the car, covering “what appeared to be a human body part,” the report said. The partially clothed body was later identified as that of Burchard, who died from blunt-force injury to the head, the Clark County coroner’s office has said.

Based on Burchard’s cellphone records, it appears he was killed between March 3 and March 6, the report said.

It appears Burchard had been struck multiple times with an “unidentified object, which left a unique pattern,” the report said.

Blood found in car

Inside the car were several latex gloves and “evidence of a small fire” in the front passenger seat, the report said. Police also found evidence of blood on the driver’s seat headrest and in the backseat. Detectives later found clothing with what appeared to be blood on it, as well as Burchard’s vest, his house keys and cleaning supplies.

“The blood evidence in the backseat suggested Burchard was attacked in the vehicle; however, it was unclear if the attack started inside the vehicle or if the attack started outside,” the report said.

Earp told detectives that Burchard “may have early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” and that she believed Turner and her boyfriend killed Burchard. Turner’s boyfriend was only identified by his first name in the report.

Before finding Burchard’s body, officers tried to conduct welfare checks to speak with Turner on March 3, 4 and 5.

Search of Turner’s home

Officers entered Turner’s home on March 5 after they found the lights on, mail piled up, windows open and the front door unlocked, the report said. No one was home, but investigators found “cleaning supplies throughout the residence, which suggested the occupants were in the process of moving out,” the report said.

The home’s landlord told detectives Turner rented the home in December, and her lease wasn’t set to expire until June.

On Saturday, Earp said Burchard was paying Turner’s rent because “he helped a lot of people,” and Turner “had this real sad story of ‘Oh, I can’t qualify for a lease because I have bad credit.’”

She said Turner got about $300,000 from Burchard over the time they knew each other.

“She took the $300,000,” Earp said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Detectives also found towels matching a towel in the Mercedes’ trunk, as well as blood and evidence of a cleanup in the garage. A door to an upstairs bedroom had been torn from the hinges and broken into two pieces, which both had evidence of blood, the report said.

Turner’s cellphone records showed she left the area of her home on March 6 and never appeared to return, turning the phone off the next day “after the body was reportedly found in a truck by the media,” the report said.

The Mercedes that Burchard was found in was registered to a man in China who placed a Craigslist advertisement for someone to take over his car payments. The man told detectives Turner agreed to take over the payments in November, the report said.

“It appeared Turner went into hiding after Burchard’s body was found,” the report said.

The arresting documents did not detail Turner’s arrest in Stockton. She remained in the San Joaquin County Jail on Tuesday without bail, facing a murder charge and awaiting extradition to Clark County, jail records show.

Burchard had worked near Salinas with Monterey, California-based Montage Health for nearly 40 years in the medical nonprofit’s behavioral health program, spokeswoman Mary Barker has said in a statement.

In a March interview, Earp said she and Burchard traveled the country together, often for medical or magic conferences, as the doctor’s hobby was performing magic tricks. The two most recently visited Las Vegas for a medical conference in February, she said.

The Metropolitan Police Department has asked anyone with information about Burchard’s death to contact Metro’s homicide section at 702-828-3521. Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Convicted killer Margaret Rudin awaits word on parole

An attorney for Margaret Rudin, convicted in the 1994 murder of her millionaire husband, said the 76-year-old prisoner could be paroled as early as December.