Judge rejects lawsuit over deaths of 2 women

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Associated Press

Posted on May 25, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Updated Sunday, May 25 at 5:08 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the federal government by the family of two women killed by a Fort Campbell soldier.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III found that the government could not be held liable for the actions of Army Sgt. Brent Burke when he shot and killed his estranged spouse, Tracy Burke, and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer, in Rineyville in 2007.

The family sued in federal court and claimed that Army officials should have confiscated Burke's weapons and warn the women of any potential danger.

Simpson found that the Army lacked a legal duty to control Burke's actions outside of his employment.

"Although Burke was employed by the government, the harm under these facts occurred outside of the scope of his employment relationship," Simpson wrote on May 19. "Absent such a special relationship imposing a duty to protect or control, the United States has no common law duty to protect Tracy or control Burke's actions taken outside the scope of his employment."

Prosecutors said Burke traveled from the military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line to Rineyville and killed the women while three children were in the home. Prosecutors said the shooting came after a stormy relationship between the couple. A military jury found Burke guilty on two charges of premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison.

State charges against Burke were dropped after four juries failed to reach a verdict in his case. Although his enlistment ended while he was in the custody of civilian authorities, Burke was never processed out of the Army was still considered to be on active duty.

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