When we’ve known someone for a long time, we get the impression that we know everything there is to know about them. Spending countless hours with someone spread out over many years, you get to know their likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, and how they react in a ton of different situations.
But as the saying goes, “you can never truly know someone.” Despite all the time spent with them, you can never listen in on someone’s thoughts and there are always times apart where you can’t truly be sure what someone is up to. One woman’s friends and family who thought they knew everything about her would eventually be shocked to find out about the secret life she was living…
From a young age, Nicole was the kind of girl who was always interested in the beautiful things that people make. She had a love and fascination for all things art, architecture and design. That’s why it came as no surprise to her mother Diane when, after high school, Nicole wanted to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
Encouraging Her Passion
Nicole’s mother had always encouraged her daughters interests and when she graduated from the College of Art, Diane couldn’t have been prouder. She had decided to apply her talents to a career as an interior architect and designer…
Due to Nicole’s hard work and passion she had built herself a thriving business after putting over a decade of her life into it. “She’d just landed a big job with Marriott,” Diane said. “Her specialty was restaurants, but she worked for several high-end companies here and in Italy… Her love was design.”
But for all of the long distance and international work Nicole did, she was never one to travel far from home. In fact, she still lived in the single family home she’d grown up in in Davidsonville, Maryland. “I gave her that home,” Diane said. “She’s lived there all her life.”…
Because she’d lived in the town her whole life, Nicole had deep roots in her community. Some of the friendships she maintained had begun way back in elementary school. It would be a strange day if she went into town and didn’t run into somebody she knew.
Firing on All Cylinders
Things were also going well for Nicole in her romantic life. She had a steady boyfriend that she was getting pretty serious with. He spent so much time over her house that the two were in the midst of him moving in officially. With a thriving business, social, and romantic life, it was safe to say that things were going very well for the 37-year-old…
Closely Held Secret
But unknown to most of Nicole’s friends and family, not everything in her life was as it seemed. While carrying on with her successful design business, Nicole Burgess had a second business that was even more lucrative, though not exactly something her mother could be proud of.
Big Time Trafficker
Nicole’s second business was the sale of marijuana and she was no small-time dealer. In fact, she was purchasing and reselling huge amounts, about 30 pounds — yes pounds — of weed every 2 weeks. That meant Nicole was selling about $240,000 worth of marijuana each month…
High Risk Business
Of course, dealing drugs carries certain risks, especially when moving such a high volume of contraband. “With that much money, with that much product in an illicit business, it’s dangerous,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Miller. Not only did Nicole have to worry about the law, her business made her a tempting target for other criminals.
The danger would apparently come to a head for Nicole Burgess in March of 2013. At 11:30am a couple of acquaintances came by her home only to find a grisly sight. They saw Nicole and her boyfriend’s pitbull mix dog, each lying in a pool of their own blood with multiple stab wounds…
Nicole’s friends immediately called the police, but by the time first responders arrived, there was nothing they could do to save her or the dog. Diane was devastated, as were members of the community. “She was so well thought of,’ the bereaved mother said. “She was loved by everybody.”
The funeral service for Nicole was attended by a huge crowd of friends, family, colleagues and business associates, including a representative of one of the Italian companies she worked with who came all the way from Milan. Her death came as a complete shock to her community but as police investigated her death, they would be shocked again as her illegal activity came to light…
As investigators uncovered evidence of her criminal operation, it became clear that “this was a crime of opportunity,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Miller. Whoever had killed Nicole had also made off with roughly $28,000 worth of marijuana from her home.
Nothing To Go By
Unfortunately, there was very little evidence left at the scene that would aid in identifying Nicole’s killer. It would be over a year before investigators had enough evidence to make any arrests. When they did, it was of a suspect named Terrence Proctor…
“Several forensic examinations of both physical evidence and digital evidence were analyzed,” said a police spokesman. “The evidence obtained by homicide detectives supported probably cause in securing an arrest warrant for [Proctor].” That evidence was based on 3 main things.
First, a small amount of Proctor’s DNA was found on a sliding door at Nicole’s home. Second, there were a number of text messages between Proctor and Nicole that the prosecution said demonstrated he was at the scene during the murder. Third, on the day of the murder, Proctor had turned off his phone or placed it in airplane mode during the period of time when Nicole was killed…
But for all the circumstantial evidence investigators produced, there was no “smoking gun,” so to speak. That left room for William Cooke, Proctor’s defense attorney, to poke holes in the prosecution’s narrative.
Cooke argued that while the DNA evidence showed that Proctor had been at Nicole’s home, it didn’t show that he’d been there when she was killed. “Their own DNA expert said ‘I can’t say when that DNA was left there,’” he said. Furthermore, “It was such a tiny amount… they couldn’t say if it was from a sneeze or skin cells or whatever.”…
Not Seen at the Scene
He also demonstrated that there were no witnesses who claimed to have seen Proctor in the area and no video footage from surveillance cameras at nearby businesses showed Proctor or his car at the time in question. Furthermore, a shoe print found at the scene didn’t match any of Proctor’s shoes.
With all of that in mind, the judge in the case agreed with Cooke that Terrence Proctor should be acquitted. Some, like Nicole’s godmother Wendy, believed that despite the holes in the evidence, Proctor was still responsible for the woman’s death, though she didn’t blame prosecutors or police. “I do believe the state did what they could,” she said. Regardless Proctor would go free and Nicole’s death would be officially unsolved.