In a case overflowing with reality show drama, 44-year old Houston pastor Tracy Bernard Burleson was recently convicted of capital murder for the execution style killing his wife, 56- year old Pauletta Burelson. Reports say the pastor’s son William Fuller shot his step mother in the back of the head – in the family garage.
“Tracy Burleson is guilty of capital murder as surely as if he had pulled the trigger himself,” prosecutor Kari Allen told jurors.
The motive for the killing was convoluted among a web of conflicting stories. But, it captivated the Black church community in Houston for months. The Texas oil town was set ablaze with rumors. The city’s ABC 13 affiliate reported that the murder-for-hire plot involved a love triangle with 32-year old Tyonne Palmer, the pastor and his son.
Palmer and Fuller met when the former took care of the latter following his sickle cell anemia diagnosis and, according to detectives, dated both Fuller and his father at the same time. Some believe Fuller framed his father in order to date Palmer. For her part in helping Fuller destroy the murder weapon, she was also charged with capital murder.
Early last week Fuller testified in his father’s capital murder trial, describing a volatile and abusive home environment where his father spent
years trying to convince him to kill his step-mother:
Prosecutor: “Would you call it a happy home?”
Fuller: “No. “
Prosecutor: “How would you describe it?”
Prosecutor: “Was there abuse?”
Prosecutor: “How long was it like that?”
Fuller: “Up until Pauletta was killed.”
Prosecutor: “Is it fair to say you didn’t like Pauletta?”
Fuller: “I still hate her.”
The brazen love triangle and family dysfunction were not the only underlying scenarios of the May 2010 slaying. There was also a $60,000 life insurance policy taken out on Pauletta Burelson. Reportedly, Fuller confessed to an undercover informant that his father promised to give him part of the insurance
money and a place to stay in exchange for killing his step mother.
Prosecutor: “How would you describe your dad and Paulette’s relationship?”
Fuller: “Shredded. Like a broken mirror. I used to have to break them up from stabbing each other all the time. I was stabbed.”
Prosecutor: “Who was the aggressor?”
Fuller: “She was.”
The victim’s son, John Ross, stated his mother was trying to leave her husband.
“She was on the verge of exposing him and he knew it.” stated John Ross in an interview with Fox 26 News. “She was tired of the women and the lying.”
His wife was not alone in her frustration with the pastor. In March, church members filed suit to get the pastor removed from the church. Part of the suit alleged the pastor’s wife caught him having sex with a choir member in the church.
And just a week before the murder, Burleson’s church, First New Mount Calvary Baptist Church, was mysteriously burned down in what fire investigators allege was arson. Burelson denies involvement with the church burning and has not been charged with the incident.
The Houston Chronicle reported Burleson’s defense lawyers argued there was no evidence the pastor offered to pay William Fuller to kill his wife, other than the word of the killer.
“They did not prove William was hired,” attorney Laine Lindsey said.
Burleson was sentenced to life in prison without parole by state District Judge Susan Brown.