People who knew Bruce Burt testify in Damm trial - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

People who knew Bruce Burt testify in Damm trial

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GALENA, Ill. --- Jurors in David Damm's murder trial were only seated for about a hour and a half as the defense closed out its second day of witnesses Tuesday.

KWWL's coverage partner, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, has reporter Jeff Reinitz in the courtroom covering the trial.

Between behind-the-scenes hearings and delays because of witness scheduling issues, the jury heard from acquaintances of accused hit man Bruce Burt.

Damm is accused of paying Burt $2,000 to kill 13-year-old Donnisha Hill to cover up a molestation investigation in October 2006.

Hill was found beaten to death Oct. 28, 2006, in rural Jo Daviess County, a day after she disappeared after getting off a school bus.

The defense said Damm wanted Burt to help Hill run away and not to kill her. They suggested Burt was coming down from a crack cocaine high and a struggle broke out between him and the girl as they drove to Chicago.

During Tuesday's half-hour afternoon session, jurors heard from a mother and daughter who knew Burt and are now both in prison for theft.

Virginia Tensley said she had been living with Burt until she was arrested in early October 2006. She told of a drug debt that Burt owed to a guy with the nickname of "New Orleans." She said she argued with Burt because he didn't think she was doing enough to help him with the debt.

Tensley's daughter, Sonya Harmon, said she was at Burt's crack house on Sumner Street when he returned from what she and others thought was a drug run the weekend of Oct. 28, 2006.

Harmon said Burt took a shower and had a little blood on his Dickies pants.

"It was like drips," Harmon said, like someone cut a finger.

She said she also noticed Burt had an injury to his leg, possibly a scrape "like somebody kicked you," she said.

Harmon said she later called police when she became suspicious Burt had something to do with Hill's disappearance.

During a hearing when the jury was away, Harmon and Tensley described incidents where Burt was violent with Tensley, who had a relationship with him.

"He jumped on her, tried to choke her," Harmon told the court. "He likes choking. He's a choker."

Tensley said Burt almost struck her with a chair Oct. 6, 2006.

"He started hitting me ... He used a chair. He held it by its legs and was going like this," she said, noting he swung it at her head.

A discussion in the judge's chambers followed, and the testimony wasn't presented to the jury.

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