Suspect, Keith Lee Stewart, leads Soddy-Daisy police to body

Suspect, Keith Lee Stewart, leads Soddy-Daisy police to body

October 17th, 2012 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Keith Stewart

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Casey Burgiss

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

For months, Casey Burgiss' family searched for answers.

No one had seen or heard from the 24-year-old father of three since July 21.

On July 29, his mother, Karen Payne-Crawley, went to Soddy-Daisy police to report him missing.

"I have heard, we will never find you. Then I guess we all will have to spend the rest of our lives looking for you," she posted on a Facebook page on Sept. 29.

But on Monday night, Burgiss was found.

His remains were still intact, protected from the elements in a cave on Montlake Mountain.

The man who led police to his body, 19-year-old Keith Lee Stewart, faces a criminal homicide charge.

As of Tuesday afternoon, he remained in the Hamilton County Jail on a $750,000 bond.

Stewart told Soddy-Daisy police that Burgiss was shot in the head numerous times. The Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office had not determined a cause or manner of death by late Tuesday, but investigators made a preliminary observation that Burgiss most likely was slain around July 21.

"The family just needs prayers right now," said Billy Snyder, a family friend of Burgiss'. "They're holding, but they're upset. They're going through a rough time."

Payne-Crawley did not make any new Facebook posts Tuesday afternoon. In the previous post from Sept. 29, she described the effects of his disappearance on Burgiss' son, whom she keeps, and two sisters.

"My dear Casey, your son pretends he is talking to you on the phone. He says, 'Daddy you gonna come for a visit today, when are you gonna come play with me again, daddy?' Kiara, every night she says a prayer for you, and she says, 'Momma tomorrow will we find Casey.'

"Sometimes when we are at church, and people are praying, she begins to whine and whimper, 'Casey, Casey, Casey' over and over. Jade is having anxiety attacks as well."

The post grows more emotional.

"WE LOVE YOU CASEY, WE LOVE YOU, WE MISS YOU AND WE NEED ANSWERS. HELP US PLEASE!" she writes.

Stewart, who lives at 233 Layne Road, led police to Burgiss' body in the cave, which is behind 242 Layne Road. He said Burgiss was killed during a robbery, according to the police report.

Burgiss struggled with drug use and his criminal record shows prior traffic and narcotics offenses. He was transient, never staying in the same place for long, according to friends.

The arrest report mentions two other men, Jason Doss and Lebron Lewis, but neither has been arrested.

Lewis, 24, who met Burgiss when they were in the seventh grade, said the last time he saw Burgiss was on July 20.

"I didn't have any involvement in it. I was not there. I had my tooth cut out that morning," he said.

When asked about Burgiss, Lewis said, "He was just like any other kid. Troubled home. He wasn't a bad person. But at the same time he wasn't really a good person either. I had heard of him and known of him to try and to screw a lot of people over. He never done anything like that to me, though."

Sandy Lewis, Lebron Lewis' mother -- who lives one street over from where Burgiss was found -- said Burgiss stayed with her family for a while. Doss also stayed at her residence.

"He had been coming in and would disappear for two to three days," she said sitting on her front steps Tuesday afternoon as tears rolled down her face. "He would then come back, and it was obvious something was wrong."

When Burgiss picked up new drug charges, she said he had to leave, though.

"We didn't see or hear from Casey for a while," Sandy Lewis said.

Authorities searched her residence Monday night. She said they found nothing.

Snyder, who worked to organize walks to raise awareness about Burgiss' disappearance, said, "He was up for whatever his friends did -- no matter if it was right or wrong."