Jury finds Kenneth Burns guilty of first degree murder

A jury has found Perry man Kenneth Burns guilty of first-degree murder. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:22 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A jury has found Perry man Kenneth Burns guilty of first-degree murder. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Burns was arrested in May 2020, a day after his ex-wife Lori Carlton was found dead in Burns’s home on Foley Cutoff Road. Burns is accused of stabbing Carlton multiple times.

A deputy said he found Carlton lying on the bedroom floor in a pool of blood. He described seeing Carlton’s eight-month-old son Ely crying, covered in his mother’s blood.

Burns took the stand Wednesday, claiming he killed his ex-wife in self-defense.

He said Carlton and her baby son were staying at his house for the weekend. The night of the murder, Burns said he went to a friend’s house for a bonfire, returning home around 3 a.m. Burns said Carlton was still awake and started arguing with him when he got home.

“It started out arguing about how late I stayed out,” Burns testified. “I told her I was tired of all the arguing and stuff and I wanted her to leave.”

Burns said Carlton refused to leave and instead asked Burns about the money he owed her.

“I told her that if she kept messing with her, I wasn’t going to pay her a thing,” Burns said. “I turned to walk away, and that’s when she struck me in the back of the head with something. When I turned around, she had a knife in her hand and was coming toward me swinging.”

Burns said he grabbed the knife from Carlton and started swinging and stabbing until Carlton stopped coming at him.

“It all happened so fast,” Burns said. “I was scared she was gonna take the knife and stab me again.”

A forensic pathologist said there were no injuries on Carlton’s arms or hands, suggesting she didn’t try to fight back. The prosecution said that’s because Burns completely overwhelmed her with his attack. Burns’s lawyer, on the other hand, argues Carlton wasn’t defending herself because she was the attacker.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours before reaching a verdict. After the verdict was announced, Lori’s mother Patricia Shiflett spoke directly to Burns.

“You sit there like a model citizen, all dressed up in your nice suit,” she said. “But you are a murderer.”

Shiflett spoke about the moment deputies found Carlton and her son.

“You left him there with his mother’s dead body, crying and covered in her blood,” Shiflett said. “What he must have thought in his little mind. Why won’t mama pick me up? Why won’t she hold me?”

Shiflett said that experience traumatized Carlton’s son.

“It took me about a month to get him to sleep all night,” Shiflett said. He would wake up in his sleep whimpering and crying out.”

Before Burns was led out of the courtroom, Shiflett told him he got what he deserved.

“You don’t deserve one day of freedom.”

WCTV was present for the first day of the trial and has a recap here.