Overview – Ronald Huff Convicted of Ronald Burnham’s 1968 Murder
Ronald Huff, 19, was arrested, and charged with first degree murder on April 30, 1968 for the murder of Ronald Burnham. Three months prior, Huff had been released from the state reformatory. In his statement to police, Huff said that he became angered when Burnham made sexual advances and called him a “punk”. Huff said that he did not intent to kill Burnham, but just beat him up.
Huff plead guilty to a reduced charge of second degree murder on June 7, 1968, and was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 25 years in the state reformatory.
Two accomplices were also convicted in Burnham’s murder: Huff’s brother, Myron, 17, and David Lee Moureau, 17. They each plead guilty to aiding and abetting in the commission of a second degree murder, and were sentenced to 10 years in the state reformatory.
Related Murder & Mayhem Podcast Episode
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Ronald Burnham – Murdered April 29, 1968
The body of Green Bay barber Ronald Burnham, 29, was found at 3:30pm on April 29, 1968 in a milkhouse on the abandoned Milton Peters farm south of Seymour by two men from the Seymour Flour Mill who stopped by to retrieve their grain. Burnham had been stabbed to death through his abdomen and heart. His wrists and ankles were bound in twine, and the corpse had been decomposing for a week.
In the course of nine hours, with the cooperation of Seymour police and Brown County authorities, the Outagamie County sheriff’s office was able to identify the victim and determine the likely killers. A positive identification came from Burnham’s sister.
Burnham’s wallet was found in a nearby field, a three-inch knife was found in a creek two miles away, and Burnham’s car was found abandoned in Green Bay with bloodstains inside.
Ronald and Myron Huff, David Moreau Arrested
On April 30, one day after the body was found, authorities arrested three suspects in Green Bay. Ronald Vernon Huff, 19, had been released from the state reformatory three months prior after two years. Also arrested was 17-year old David Lee Moureau and Huff’s younger brother Myron, who was found sleeping in a car a block from his home with other kids. Ronald was charged with first-degree murder and the other two were charged with aiding and abetting. Ron Huff did the stabbing after Myron tied the twine and Moureau held a flashlight during the incident. All three were held on $25,000 bond each.
On May 7, Juvenile Judge Raymond Dohr waived jurisdiction, transferring David Moreau and Myron Huff’s cases from juvenile to adult court. Judge Dohr said this was because they had juvenile records, and they “cannot be rehabilitated as juveniles so they must receive a different type of punishment.”
There was only one month between the arrest and the trial. What further investigation was done by the police is not known. For one reason or another, the heat on the boys quickly decreased.
Court and Reduced Charges
On May 22. preliminary hearings were held for all three of the accused. Judge Schaefer admitted Ronald Huff’s statement to police into evidence, overruling Defense Attorney Stanley Chimel’s challenge that Huff had not been advised of his constitutional rights immediately after his arrest.
Dr. Pierce Meighan, who performed Burnham’s autopsy, testified that there were multiple lacerations and bruises on Burnham’s face, bruises on his right hand and extremities, and lacerations in his mouth. The cause of death was determined to be a stab wound to the heart. He also noted that there was a stab wound to Burnham’s abdomen, but it hadn’t punctured any internal organs.
The hearings were recessed late that afternoon when Myron Huff suffered an epileptic seizure during the proceedings.
On June 7, District Attorney George Griesch reduced the charges to second-degree murder for Huff and second-degree aiding for his two companions. He told the media, “If any of these three was convicted of first-degree murder, it would be a miscarriage of justice.” With the reduced charges, all three switched their plea to guilty. “I am absolutely convinced Ronald Huff is far and away the worst offender of the three… the ringleader and dominant personality.”
Evidence and Defense
The evidence suggested that Huff was alone with Burnham for ten minutes before violence broke out, and first it was with fists before the knife. This suggested to Griesch there was no plan or premeditation to murder. Ronald Huff claimed he was only going to beat Burnham, but changed his mind after Burnham called him a “punk” – seeing the rage in Huff’s eyes, Burnham offered him $7,000 to not kill him. Griesch explained, “My job as district attorney is to see that justice is done, not merely to get convictions.”
In his client’s defense, defense attorney Stanley Chmiel said that the victim had made unwanted sexual advances towards the young men while the four shared a car. Burnham was “obviously suffering from homosexuality and sex deviations.” Huff was “easily angered” and “loses his limits of control.” The problem was “The wrong victim meeting the wrong defendant” because one was “a man bent on deviation… and a man easily angered and not interested in deviation.” Attorney Don Jury, representing Myron, said his client had attempted to hold back Ronald, not aid in the killing.
Regardless of the truth, on June 24, Ron Huff was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Myron Huff and David Moureau were each sentenced to ten years. Perhaps this was justice, having saved taxpayers a trial. Moureau served his time in Green Bay and was paroled in 1971, a mere three years.
Gavin’s Observations and Questions
I have questions about this case and how it was handled. First is the press. Victims are usually treated in a positive light, with family members speaking glowingly and the deceased described as someone who loved family or animals (or both). I found no background or commentary on Burnham whatsoever. [Though, to be fair, I have limited access to Green Bay newspapers]
Second is the prosecution. We are told that the killing wasn’t premeditated. Myron held his brother back. Burnham made unwanted advances. But all these claims come from the only witnesses – the killers. Was any of this true? I am willing to accept that Burnham was homosexual, and this was offensive to one or all of the killers. But did he make advances on all three of them at once? It seems just as plausible that no advances were made and the killers lured him to the barn and made up the story to cover their butts. Even if Burnham made advances on them, this is not an invitation to murder. Saying “the wrong victim meets the wrong defendant” as an excuse is hogwash. Straight men make unwanted advances towards women every day, but we don’t expect the women to kill those men, no matter how slimy and odious they may be.
David Moureau Murdered
David Moureau was married, had a son, but could not stay out of trouble. He had an extensive police record throughout the 1970s, was later divorced and was frequently unemployed. He lived with his mother at 1017 Grignon Street, Green Bay.
In June 1981, members of the Drifters motorcycle club broke the windows out of Kenneth Phillips’ car, ransacked Phillips’ home, and beat Phillips. On October 16, 1981, Phillips, David Moureau, Phillips’ wife, Crystal, and Bob Vertz were drinking in various bars and private residences in and around Green Bay. During that evening, Phillips allegedly told a friend that he wanted to kill Moureau because Phillips believed Moureau had disclosed the whereabouts of his home to members of the Drifters.
On October 21, 1981, the body of David Moureau, now 30, was found in a swamp in Howard (just outside of Green Bay) alongside Deerfield Avenue (a Highway 41 frontage road) by two grouse hunters. He had two .25 bullets in his head, and had been in the swamp for a few days. A lack of blood suggested he had been shot elsewhere and dumped in the marshland.
After the discovery, Phillips went to the police, but the police sent Phillips away because he had been drinking. Phillips returned the next day and told the police he had last seen Moureau at the bar on the day he disappeared. Phillips told police that he and Moureau separated and that he did not know where Moureau went or what happened to him. On October 24, police talked to Phillips at his house and Phillips told police that the Drifters might be involved in Moureau’s murder.
On October 31, Phillips again went to the police. He repeated he had seen Moureau at a bar and “I threw my arms around him because we were such close buddies.” Phillips told police after leaving the bar he did not see Moureau again until he saw Moureau’s body at the funeral home. Phillips also told police his handgun had been stolen on October 2 or 3, before the murder. The next day, a police officer telephoned Phillips and asked if he wanted to come in and give a written statement, but Phillips declined. Phillips was not a suspect; and Miranda warnings were not required.
On August 4, 1982, Phillips testified at a John Doe hearing about the murder. He denied any connection with the murder and repeated he last saw Moureau at a bar on the night of the murder.
Convicted: Kenneth Phillips and Bob Vertz
The next day, Bob Vertz was charged with first degree murder and Phillips was charged with aiding and abetting. They were tried separately in Brown County. The prosecution entered evidence that after the murder Phillips bragged about his involvement in the murder. He also said that if his friends told authorities about his involvement with the murder of Moureau, “the same thing would happen to” them. Phillips admitted to his brother, Ralph, that he murdered Moureau. Then Phillips allegedly attempted to frame Ralph for the murder.
At trial Phillips testified on his own behalf and denied his part in Moureau’s murder. He said that while Crystal, Vertz, Moureau, and he were driving around, Vertz and Moureau got into a fist fight. Phillips testified that Vertz told him that he wanted to kill Moureau because Moureau had arranged to have Phillips beaten up by members of the Drifters. Phillips testified that he told Vertz this was not true and refused to assist Vertz with the murder, but that Vertz shot Moureau, after obtaining Phillips’ gun from the glove compartment of Phillips’ car.
Phillips testified that he tried to break up the altercation between Moureau and Vertz and that Vertz murdered Moureau while Phillips was on the way back to his car. Phillips denied any involvement in the murder and denied assisting Vertz in any way. He testified that he did not come forward to tell authorities what he knew for fear of harm to his wife and child. Phillips admitted that he threw the murder weapon in the river. He also acknowledged that his trial testimony was inconsistent with his testimony at the John Doe hearing. Phillips admitted that during his pre-trial contacts with authorities he had “ample opportunity” to tell the story he told at trial. Ultimately, Phillips and Vertz were sent to prison.
The Drifters motorcycle club may come up again. They were involved in a notorious Green Bay murder of Margaret Anderson featured on America’s Most Wanted and thoroughly documented in Mike Dauplaise’s book “Torture at the Back Forty : The Gang Rape and Slaying of Margaret Anderson”. (affiliate link)
The second accomplice, Myron Huff, though never learning to read or write, moved to North Carolina and devoted his life to Jesus Christ and collecting vintage pornography magazines.