When Loretta Doyle Burroughs moved, she took her husband with her — packed in containers, according to criminal charges filed Friday.
Burroughs, 61, was arrested at her new home on West Florida Avenue in the Villas section of Lower Township after investigators found the remains of the husband she reported missing six years ago inside a closet in the Ventnor home she was leaving.
“I knew it from Day 1,” Bob Valiante said as he stood across the street from the Mays Landing home where she allegedly stabbed her husband to death in August 2007.
He never believed the story Burroughs gave about her husband leaving her. She said he got into a yellow Hummer with Florida tags and another woman inside.
But no one listened to Valiante when he kept telling police his friend didn't just take off, leaving behind all of his most prized possessions — including a new truck, boat and tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools.
The disappearance apparently remained a missing person case until a family member came to the newly created Cold Case Unit of the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office this past February, according to information given in court Friday.
While it wasn’t revealed what new evidence was provided, more interviews were done and more information was gathered, Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy told the judge during Loretta Burroughs initial appearance. Then, an interview with the defendant provided more.
The information led Friday to two teams — including investigators from the State Police, Atlantic and Cape May County prosecutor’s offices and the Hamilton Township, Ventnor and Lower Township police departments — serving search warrants at the Ventnor and Villas homes.
Inside a closet at the Ventnor home on the 300 block of Hampshire Drive, remains were found and positively identified as belonging to Daniel Burroughs. An autopsy is pending.
Loretta Burroughs reportedly lived in at least one other home between moving from Mays Landing and then to Ventnor.
On Friday evening, investigators were inside the home and on the expansive property where the couple lived on Leipzig Avenue in Mays Landing.
“They kicked me out and said it’s a crime scene,” said Ron Roberts, who lives across the street. “That's when I said, ‘It was a crime scene six years ago.’”
Right after Daniel Burroughs’ disappearance, everything was sold, Roberts said. “It was a fire sale.”
Valiante said that when Loretta Burroughs asked him if he wanted anything, he said he wouldn't buy his friend’s things and have to explain it when Danny got back.
“He’s not coming back,” he said she replied.
That, Valiante said, is when he knew Danny’s wife had killed him.
“I didn't know how she did it, but I knew she did it,” he said.
Crying, sighing loudly and still in her street clothes, Loretta Burroughs had her first court appearance Friday afternoon on the charges of murder and a weapons offense.
She answered, “No, sir,” both when Superior Court Judge Kyran Connor asked if she needed an attorney and if she was going to hire one. He said he would make sure she got a form to apply for a public defender, just in case.
Court records show she had a public defender when she pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree charge of theft by unlawful taking in 1996.
The year before, she was charged with bank fraud and was ordered to repay $10,000 in restitution, according to court records. But her probation was ended in 2003, without the balance paid.
During her 15-month sentence served in West Virginia, her husband would visit her and sneak her the foods she wanted taped to his leg, Valiante said.
Dan and Loretta were supposed to move to Florida in 2007, his friends said. But Loretta didn't want to go.
Then, one day in August 2007, she said her husband had left her.
Valiante said he knew that wasn’t true. His friend would never have left all of his belongings. And, he didn’t have a girlfriend.
“Men tell each other those things,” Valiante's wife, Joyce, said Friday.
On Aug. 6, 2007, Roberts said he saw Dan Burroughs for the last time. He was on his riding mower, his arm in a sling from recent shoulder surgery.
A week later, Loretta would report him missing.
“She had seven days to do what she had to do,” Valiante said.
Both Valiante and Roberts said they smelled death at the house. There were moth balls on the ground and Loretta said a woodchuck died.
Roberts was helping her clean up when he saw a black tarp on a dirt mound.
“I'll take care of that,” Loretta told him.
She also had a back injury around that time.
“I was putting everything together,” Valiante said.
He said the police wouldn't listen.
“You told them,” friend George Ausby said Friday as he watched investigators’ cars come and go across the street. “He kept going down to the police station, telling them.”
At 8 a.m. Friday, Valiante and his son, Robert Jr., were heading to breakfast when Burroughs’ brother called, sobbing and incoherent.
Finally, he was able to tell them: “They found my brother.”
He then said he was in separate containers in Loretta’s closet, and she had been arrested.
Valiante said he was glad to finally have vindication in the death of the man who had been his best friend since the two met in 1973, when they lived a block apart in Egg Harbor Township.
“I called him Uncle Danny,” said Robert Valiante Jr., 40. “We used to go boating and fishing. He did everything.”
None of the men believed Loretta Burroughs’ tears in court.
“I’ve seen both sides,” Robert Valiante Jr. said.
“I think she's a sociopath,” his father said. “She’d bake you cookies then slice your throat while you were eating them.”
Loretta Burroughs’ bail is set at $2 million cash, which also accounts for a financial case in which about a half-million dollars is “unaccounted for,” Levy said.
Valiante said he believes that case is really why the warrants were served Friday morning and that the investigators “accidentally” found the body.
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