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Detective: David Anthony Burns arrested in murder of Courtney Coco after being IDed by witness

During a motion to reduce bond, Detective Tanner Dryden revealed new details surrounding the Coco case
Published: Jun. 7, 2021 at 4:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 6:40 PM CDT
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - David Anthony Burns, the Boyce man charged with the 2004 murder of 19-year-old Courtney Coco, appeared in court Monday in an attempt to reduce his bond.

In court, testimony was heard from APD’s Detective Tanner Dryden, who arrested Burns in April after being assigned to the cold case investigation in 2018.

While being questioned by Burns’ public defender Christopher LaCour, Dryden revealed that Burns was taken in almost 17 years after the murder when he located a witness in Texas who claims they saw Burns backing out of the building where Coco’s body was later found.

According to Dryden, Burns was named as a suspect in 2011 when individuals came forward with statements that Burns made about killing Coco. Dryden said at that time, there was no other hard evidence to arrest Burns on, until the witness was found.

The detective shared that while reviewing the case, he came across a Texas case file that included information about the possible witness.

In statements made to Dryden, that person said he was driving in Winnie, Texas in October of 2004 when a man almost backed a car into his. The witness said he remembered the car and part of the license plate with Louisiana tags that was made public when Coco was reported missing and later found dead. Her body was found in the building that the witness shared the man was backing out of that night. The witness later identified Burns out of a lineup as the driver of that car.

In court, Dryden also said that he believes Coco was killed at her home in Alexandria. He said after reviewing evidence photos, the house was in “disarray,” with the residence gone through, items missing, and Coco’s safe broken into.

The detective shared that through the statements from individuals that claim Burns confessed to them about being involved in Coco’s death, that the 19-year-old likely died of asphyxiation after being smothered by a pillow in her bedroom. Those statements also included that Coco’s body was wrapped in her comforter, then dumped in Texas. That comforter was never found.

An autopsy conducted shortly after could not determine Coco’s cause of death due to the condition of her body, but it was ruled a homicide.

Dryden also revealed during testimony that DNA found on Coco’s car is currently being tested.

The detective said that blood was found on the trunk of the car back in 2004, but at the time, the technology could only confirm that it was Coco’s DNA mixed with another male’s. Dryden said that sample is currently being tested again, but said it’s “not a sure thing that anything will come back.”

He also shared that he is working on a warrant to obtain DNA from Burns to see if it’s a match.

Other evidence stated in court included tire tracks near where Coco’s body was found that were matched to her car and a shoeprint that was confirmed to be from a Nike Air Force One near the body.

LaCour asked Dryden about numerous other suspects considered throughout the investigation, claiming that there were “so many suspects, could’ve brought ten people to grand jury.”

Dryden refuted that claim, stating that there was only enough evidence to arrest Burns for the murder.

LaCour wrapped by saying that no one saw Burns with Coco surrounding the time of her death, there’s no DNA tying Burns to the murder, and no confession to police.

When questioning was opened to prosecutor Hugo Holland, he asked Dryden about Burns’ possible confessions to individuals about Coco’s death. Dryden said that in their statements, these people gave details about the case that were not made public at the time.

Holland also asked about Burns’ alibi. Dryden said that Burns claimed he was with his girlfriend the weekend that Coco was murdered, but that woman told police that Burns left that weekend and she didn’t see him until after Coco was reported missing.

In an attempt to lower his bond, Burns himself was sworn in, sharing that he and his family do not have the $500,000 to bail him out of jail. Burns asked that the bond be dropped to $50,000, sharing that if he was released, he would move back to Boyce and start work again.

Holland then gave Burns’ criminal record to Judge Mary Doggett, sharing Burns’ involvement in 37 crimes stemming from 20 incidents, including three felonies.

Judge Doggett denied the motion to reduce bond, stating that $500,000 is “well in line with similar cases.” Doggett cited Burns’ criminal record, Dryden’s testimony, and the grand jury indictment as reasons to deny.

Burns’ bond remains at $500,000 for second-degree murder. He’s set to be back in court in August.

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