District attorney dismisses murder case against Central Texas man charged in grandmother’s stabbing death

Vera Jean Burleson (left) and Charles Emory Sedigas (KWTX archives)
Vera Jean Burleson (left) and Charles Emory Sedigas (KWTX archives)(KWTX)
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 4:31 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the murder case against Charles Emory Sedigas on Friday, more than a year after prosecutors learned that DNA evidence excluded him in the 1984 stabbing death of his grandmother.

Sedigas, 58, was arrested in December 2018 by McLennan County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit detectives in the death of Vera Jean Burleson, who was found beaten and stabbed to death at her Bellmead home in June 1984.

Sheriff’s office detectives said at the time that they arrested Sedigas after they found a “critical witness,” who identified Sedigas as the killer.

Sedigas’ attorney, Alan Bennett, said DNA analysis of biological evidence under Burleson’s fingernails was done at the request of the defense – not investigators or prosecutors.

“Chuck Sedigas insisted from day one that he was innocent of this charge,” Bennett said. “I have tremendous respect for the work the Cold Case Unit does, and it is very important. But they dropped the ball here. The team traveled to several states interviewing potential witnesses with second-hand information. But they never tested the biological evidence that had been in their possession from the beginning. The fingernail scrapings taken from the victim Vera Burleson were analyzed by the local DPS lab at our request.”

Bennett said the DNA results exclude Sedigas as the murderer, adding that the DA’s office has had those lab results in their possession for more than two years but only agreed to dismiss the charge on Friday.

“We hope that Chuck can get on with his life now, but it has been terribly disrupted since his arrest in 2018,” Bennett said. “We also hope that the Cold Case Unit will one day be able to solve this horrible crime and bring Vera Burleson’s killer to justice.”

First Assistant District Attorney Sharon Pruitt filed the dismissal motion on Friday, writing that the evidence is insufficient because “laboratory results excluded the defendant as a DNA contributor to the physical evidence analyzed.”

Sedigas was set for trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court in June 2021. Bennett asserted his client’s right to a speedy trial despite the fact that he had already been in jail at that point 881 days under $1 million bond. Prosecutor Anthony Smith asked Judge Susan Kelly to postpone the trial, but agreed to recommend in May 2021 that Sedigas be released on a personal recognizance bond. Kely approved the PR bond but required Sedigas to wear a GPS monitor.

Documents filed in the case said a witness told Cold Case Unit detectives Sedigas had “a large amount of blood on his clothes” following his grandmother’s death. When asked by the witness what happened, Sedigas replied, “I killed Grandma. I stabbed her,” according to a 2018 arrest warrant affidavit.

Sedigas threatened to kill the witness if the witness told anyone about his alleged statements, the affidavit states.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara and Capt. Steve January, the Cold Case Unit commander, did not return phone messages Friday. Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy David Kilcrease declined comment on the dismissal.