Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: William Burns

William Burns
William Burns
Executed on 11 April 2002

William Kendrick Burns, 43, was executed by lethal injection on 11 April in Huntsville, Texas for the robbery and murder of a worker at a plant.

In March 1981, William Burns, 22, his brother, Victor Burns, 17, and Danny Harris, 20, went to an East Texas wood preserving plant where William used to work. William was carrying a .22-caliber Winchester rifle and a .22-caliber pistol, which was hidden in his pants. It was almost midnight. As they approached a large tin building, William Burns looked through a crack and saw Johnny Lynn Hamlett, 18, working inside. He then gave the rifle to Harris and drew his pistol. Burns fired two shots through the crack at Hamlett. Harris fired a large number of shots from the rifle through a different opening. Then Burns and Harris went inside and took Hamlett's billfold. They came outside and divided the money -- about $110 -- with Victor Burns, who remained outside the building. William Burns also decided to keep the billfold. The next day, he emptied the contents of the billfold into a coffee can and threw the can onto the side of a road.

Acting on a tip, authorities investigated William Burns. He directed them to the discarded coffee can containing Hamlett's drivers license and other personal papers. The coffee can also contained a traffic ticket issued to Burns. When Burns was arrested, he was still carrying Hamlett's billfold, which contained a newspaper clipping about the murder. Burns also directed police to the rifle, which was confirmed to have fired at least seven of the eleven rounds recovered from Hamlett's body. Testing also showed that two of the .22-caliber bullets recovered from the body were not fired by the Winchester rifle. Burns told police where to find the pistol he used, but that weapon was never recovered.

William and Victor Burns were also believed to be responsible for an incident in February 1980 in which Leon Calahan was shot to death and Bryan Keith Sanders was abducted for the purpose of being murdered. A Department of Public Safety trooper interrupted the Sanders abduction in progress, and William and Victor Burns were arrested. They were free on bond and awaiting trial when they killed and robbed Johnny Hamlett.

William Burns was fired from the wood processing plant two months before Hamlett's murder and Hamlett had the same job formerly held by Burns. After he was fired, Burns left the president of the company a note saying that he would be sorry.

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