Sallee gets maximum sentence in killings

For two years, Daniel Burton has been thinking each day what he would say to the man who murdered his family.

When the only surviving resident of a Waynesville home where a quadruple homicide took place finally spoke to Samuel E. Sallee on Thursday, Burton said he agreed with him on one thing.

“You say you are not a monster?” Burton asked Sallee in Bartholomew Circuit Court.

“Well, you’re right. You are far worse than that.”

Burton spoke to the convicted killer moments after Judge Stephen Heimann sentenced Sallee, 57, to four consecutive sentences of life without parole, the maximum allowed.

A Bartholomew County jury took about two hours Feb. 25 to find Sallee guilty of four counts of murder for the May 11, 2013, killings of Katheryn M. Burton, 53; Thomas W. Smith, 39; Aaron T. Cross, 41; and Shawn L. Burton, 40.

The four had been shot, and Katheryn Burton — Daniel Burton’s mother — also had been stabbed.

The bodies of all four victims were found inside 2634 E. Main Cross St., Waynesville, where Katheryn Burton and Smith lived, and where Cross and Shawn Burton were visiting.

With about 35 people in the courtroom gallery, Daniel Burton was the only surviving family member of the victims to publicly speak to Sallee.

“I lost my family, and for what?” Burton asked Sallee.

Burton glared intensely and spoke with a firm voice as he reminded Sallee that his mother was asleep in another room when Smith, Cross and Shawn Burton were killed.

“My mom was a helpless old lady who didn’t see anything, but still, you had to go in there and slaughter her,” Burton said. “You had no right or reason to do that.”

In handing down the maximum sentence, Heimann noted that Sallee has accumulated 18 convictions since 1970, when he was 13 years old.

They include multiple burglaries and battery charges, as well as escape and robbery, the judge said.

“These are very aggravating circumstances,” Heimann said.

Outside the courthouse, Kelly Cross, the widow of Aaron Cross, said she chose not to speak to Sallee because she was certain she would break down in tears.

“Sam Sallee is never going to see me cry again,” Cross said. “Besides, what’s the point? He has no remorse. He doesn’t care.”

But Cross said she will make sure that when her 5-year-old son, Hunter, turns 18, he will be given the opportunity to see Sallee in prison and tell him what he thinks.

During a March 24 interview with The Republic, Sallee maintained his innocence and cited three grounds he plans to use to appeal his conviction and sentence:

Sallee was not in the courtroom Feb. 20 when jurors reviewed photographic evidence.

The defense team did not hire an investigator to work on Sallee’s behalf.

His two court-appointed attorneys did not represent him to the best of their ability.

Regarding Sallee’s first point, Heimann said the jury is allowed to review all evidence after it is submitted to the court.

The judge said authorized funds that could have been spent on an investigator were instead spent by the defense to hire a firearms expert who never testified in court.

Heimann said he would appoint an attorney for Sallee to consider for his appeal, which would likely be submitted within 30 days.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.