TALLADEGA -- After a storied 39-year career in law enforcement, Mike McBurnett, investigator for the Talladega County District Attorney’s Office, is retiring.
During a party at the Talladega County Judicial Building on Thursday afternoon, McBurnett said he plans to “cut grass” and keep on earning continuing education units so he will still be able to help out whenever he’s needed.
And, he said, he will still be making music at Blue Eye Baptist Church every week.
McBurnett began his career in law enforcement in his native Lincoln before joining the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office in “1983 or so,” he said.
He became a detective in 1985, then made the move to the DA’s office in 1997.
District Attorney Steve Giddens praised McBurnett’s “work ethic, his sense of what’s right and his dedication to justice for crime victims. It’s hard to put into words. Mike is just a good man. We’ve been friends for more than 30 years, and it’s a special relationship. I’m happy for him, but I’ll miss him.”
In nearly four decades, McBurnett said he has accumulated a lot of great stories, but there are a couple that really stand out.
“I had a body brought to my house one time,” he said. “I was a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office at the time. It was 5 a.m., and the dispatcher said my sergeant was coming regarding a 10-92, which is the code for murder. I asked if he was coming to kill me, and she said she didn’t know.”
The sergeant said a man had told him he had killed a woman but would only talk to McBurnett about it. They went to the house “and there was blood everywhere, but I didn’t see the body. The man said he had it in his trunk the whole time and had been driving around trying to find my house.”
Although he has been involved in the investigation of an untold number of felony investigations over the years, one in particular stands out because it spanned so much of his career.
A woman’s unidentified body was discovered by a couple off a county road in Munford on April 17, 1982. DNA testing was non-existent at the time, and the FBI’s national database of missing persons was not up and running.
The young woman, a 5-foot-8-inch tall redhead between the ages of 18 and 25, died from blunt force trauma to the head, and while there was evidence of strangulation, this was not the cause of death. There were no signs of sexual assault.
The woman’s body was buried about a year after it was found, but McBurnett continued to work on identifying her at any opportunity he had. He also organized a funeral service with local clergy for her.
The woman’s identity was finally confirmed in late 2010: Cynthia Louise Hanes, of New Jersey.
Hanes graduated high school in 1976 and joined the Army the following year; she was stationed at Fort McClellan for a time, but was honorably discharged in 1978 before she was supposed to be shipping out to Germany.
After her discharge, she moved with her family to Maryland, where she became involved with drugs and alcohol. After checking herself out of a rehabilitation program for the second time, she was seen getting into a black van.
She was not seen alive again after that, and her body was discovered in Munford about three weeks later. She appeared to have been dead for two or three days when her body was found.
“I had worked on that case off and on since 1982, and we were finally able to get her identified and get some closure to her family,” he said.
The case is still officially open, and although McBurnett said he has some ideas, no one has ever been charged with Hanes’ death. He will likely stay on the case a little longer.
In the meantime, Giddens said Talladega County Sheriff’s Investigator Jeremy Hock will be starting as the new DA’s investigator Monday.