Couple are found dead in camper
Published: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 10:33 p.m.
A tiny baby girl has been left an orphan because her parents tried to keep warm while they slept in a camper this week.
Donald Ray Burke, 50, and his girlfriend, Angela Ann Lucas, 33, were found dead inside the older model recreational vehicle where they were staying off State Road 349 outside Old Town.
According to Major Dean Miller of the Dixie County Sheriff's Office, witnesses heard the motor on the RV being started at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, where it was parked near Burke's sister's home.
Myrle Lynn Burke, Donald's sister, said the motor on the RV was running when she left for work at about 6 a.m. and was still running when she returned just before 3 p.m. Myrle Burke said she got into the RV, shut off the motor, then opened the door to the sleeping compartment and found her brother and his girlfriend dead in their bed.
Preliminary autopsy results from the Medical Examiner's Office in Jacksonville show the couple likely died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the RV's engine.
"This is a sad reminder to be careful of carbon monoxide poisoning," Miller said. He said that carbon monoxide detectors are readily available and should be used anytime fossil fuels are used in living areas.
The couple's infant daughter was not with them at the time because she remained hospitalized in a neonatal unit in Gainesville.
Myrle Lynn Burke, was born about three weeks prematurely on Dec. 14 and weighed just 3 pounds 15 ounces, according to her aunt and the woman she was named after, Myrle Lynn Burke of Old Town. Burke said her namesake was born with some problems, but could be released from the hospital in a couple of weeks. Where the child will go once she is discharged is unclear, but her aunt said she is willing to raise her.
Investigators have been unable to locate anyone related to Lucas so that her remains could be released from the Medical Examiners Office.
Burke said her brother would be cremated and his ashes scattered sometime later, possibly across the Suwannee River, which he enjoyed being near his entire life.
"My brother met Angela (Lucas) when he was working in Tarpon Springs and I really didn't know her very well but he really seemed to care for her," Myrle Burke said. "He was from here, but he had been gone for awhile and they just moved back to this area four or five months ago."
Donald Burke was a welder who most recently had been working on an expansion of a Cross City business. Lucas had not worked since moving to Dixie County.
The couple was dividing their time between two homes, living in the RV on some days to be near Myrle Burke and living in a small house near Guaranto Springs to be near the Suwannee River.
Myrle Burke, whose own children are grown, said she would like to be able to raise her niece.
"My brother was 50 and not really equipped to handle a new baby, so I guess that's part of why he wanted to move back here, and it was already settled that they would name her after me before they came back here to live," Myrle Burke said. "I guess my brother had a plan there, didn't he?"
Burke said she has been visiting her niece as often as possible and expects to begin working to bring the tiny girl to her home within a few days.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@ gvillesun.com.
What now? AT A GLANCE
DEATHS on Page 2B
Continued from 1B
Carbon monoxide poisoning likely caused deaths
Couple found dead in camper
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