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Boyfriend charged with murder in balcony fall

Authorities say a witness' account of the two-story tumble indicates it was not an accident.


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 31, 2000

DUNEDIN -- The account of a witness resulted in a second-degree murder charge Tuesday against the boyfriend of a woman who died Monday in a fall from a balcony at a Dunedin house.

Richard Earl Burns, 50, also was injured in the fall. He was arrested at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where officials would not release information about his condition.

Burns is accused of causing the death of Marilyn Jane Lovejoy, 48, who lived with him at 540 Beltrees St. She and Burns fell 13 feet from a second-floor balcony at the house about 5 p.m. during an argument.

Pinellas County sheriff's Sgt. Michael Ring said the charge was a result of testimony from an eyewitness who indicated the fall was not an accident. Ring, who would not describe what the witness saw, said a prior domestic violence charge against Burns also played into the decision.

"It is testimony from an uninvolved witness that's contrary to what Burns says," Ring said. "There also is a history of domestic violence."

According to an arrest affidavit, Lovejoy called for help to an unidentified neighbor before she fell and died from injuries, including head injuries. Burns fell on top of her and has leg injuries, said sheriff's Deputy Cal Dennie.

"They'd both been drinking and arguing all day," he said. "They were pushing and shoving each other."

Lovejoy was a reservationist for Continental Airlines, said her brother, Douglas Lovejoy. She was divorced and the mother of two daughters in their 20s. She moved here about eight years ago.

"She was a very loving mom. She was very sensitive and very fragile," he said, declining to comment further. The scenario Monday that ultimately resulted in Lovejoy's death was similar to one early last year, sheriff's records show.

Lovejoy called 911 on Jan. 23, 1999, to report a domestic battery. A deputy went to the Palm Harbor apartment she and Burns shared and found her upset and crying. Burns had a "strong odor of alcohol," and both were intoxicated, the report said.

When the deputy asked Burns what happened between him and his girlfriend, Burns said there had been "a lot of pushing and shoving" involving them both, according to the report.

Lovejoy told the deputy that during an argument that started because she wanted him to move out, Burns lay on top of her to hold her down when she tried to use the telephone, the report says. Burns said she had hit him several times.

Neither had injuries. Burns was arrested on a charge of domestic battery, but prosecutors did not file a formal charge against him for that incident last year. According to court records, Burns, who is unemployed, has been convicted of disorderly conduct several times, DUI, having an open container of alcohol, resisting arrest without violence and possession of cocaine. Lovejoy was convicted last year of DUI.

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