Murder suspect's girlfriend tripped up by lies
'I'm not sure why I lied about that,' she said
KINGMAN - The girlfriend of accused murderer Russell Shields told Kingman police detectives several different stories regarding events that transpired July 18, 2011, the day Alberto "Beto" Orozco was shot to death and his body abandoned.
By her own admissions, jurors on day three of Shield's first-degree murder trial learned Danielle Burgh failed to tell the truth in most of the statements she gave Kingman police investigators who interviewed her on a number of occasions following the killing.
Shields and another man, John Langan, were ultimately arrested for killing Orozco, a drug dealer who might have been connected to a Mexican cartel that operates in Phoenix, according to defense attorney Christian Ackerley.
They also learned Shields was a confidential informant who provided detectives with the Mohave Area General Narcotics Enforcement Team information that led to the arrest of Orozco's supplier.
And they learned that detectives with MAGNET attempted to make Orozco a confidential informant but that he refused.
A detective explained people who are arrested with drugs are often offered a chance to have their sentences reduced - or charges dropped altogether - by informing on others who buy and sell illegal drugs in Mohave County.
Some take the offer, but others refuse because they consider a prison term safer for them and their families, said the detective.
Clearly, the most damaging testimony came from Burgh.
Under questioning from prosecutor Doug Camacho, Burgh's testimony contradicted not only what she said in interviews with police that were held more than two and a half years ago, but also testimony offered by other witnesses involved in the case.
For instance, after Shields and Langan left a party at a home on Cypress Street at about midnight, she said she didn't notice him pull a crumpled wad of cash from his pocket and count it out at the kitchen table, where a group of people had been playing dominoes.
Other witnesses claim seeing Shields count the money, and claimed that the total amount was $400.
Burgh did recall former friend Larry Ellis loaned Shields an additional $300 so he could make his mortgage payment.
She told Camacho Shields did not give her any other money than the $300 Ellis loaned him until Camacho showed her bank records showing she deposited $700 in cash less than a dozen hours after Orozco was killed. The money was needed to pay their mortgage.
"He must have handed it to me the next morning before I went to the bank," she said by way of explanation.
Other inconsistencies in her various accounts to detectives:
Somebody with a cell phone registered to Burgh was one of the last people to whom Orozco ever spoke, about an hour before he was killed, according to a detective who searched his cell phone.
Detectives drove to the Apache Street home Burgh shared with Shields and she agreed to essentially follow them to the police station on Andy Devine Avenue - a relatively short drive. But she didn't arrive for the interview for more than 35 minutes.
She denied she was delayed so Shields could instruct her on what to say, saying instead she had to get dressed.
But detectives testified Burgh did not change her clothes or appear to have applied makeup when she arrived at the station.
She told detectives they attended a barbecue at the home of Larry Ellis the day of the killing and admitted on the stand Wednesday that also was a lie.
She said when Shields left the party at the Ellis home around midnight, he was gone about 15 minutes. She corrected that statement Wednesday by saying he was gone about 45 minutes.
She told detectives she was not concerned about the length of time Shields was gone, but admitted on the stand that she called him to "find out what he was doing," that night.
She also told police that she left the house with Shields that night, but later admitted she didn't.
She told police Shields and Langan left together and returned together, but later said Shields drove his car back alone to the Ellis home and Langan was on foot.
And while Burgh was at first adamant Shields did not coach her on what to say, she later acknowledged both Langan and Shields told her to tell the police that Langan was not present the entire evening.
"That's all they told me to say," she said.
Burgh owns a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol, the same type of weapon used in Orozco's murder. She told police she kept the weapon in a lockbox and routinely changed the code so Shields' couldn't have access.
He has been convicted of multiple felonies and by law is not allowed to own or have access to a firearm. She admitted in court that the weapon was kept next to her bed and was not locked up - and that Shields could get his hands on the weapon.
Burgh said she and Shields have a daughter in common. The girl was born about six months after he was arrested. She didn't learn of his record until they were together for quite a while.
"I didn't know he was a criminal or in the justice system until we were together almost two years," she said.
She said she learned of Orozco's death because she saw a note on Langan's bed saying the man had been killed- he was a roommate at the Apache Street home - and showed it to Shields. Burgh also admitted Shields gave her "his version" of what happened the night Orozco was killed, but she didn't go to police with the information for another three weeks.
Burgh even told two different stories about where she was on the night Shields and Langan returned to the party. She told police she was smoking at a backyard gate when both men pulled up in Shields' car. On Wednesday, she said she was in the front yard when Shields drove up alone and Langan arrived on foot at about the same time.
Under questioning from defense attorney Ackerley, Burgh said she was afraid of Langan and that he threatened to kill both of them in a letter he wrote a week or two after the killing.
She said Shields was "normal acting" when he returned to the party in court on Wednesday, but other witnesses testified both men were sweaty and that Burgh asked Shields why he "looked like he just ran a marathon."
When repeatedly asked why her stories differed so dramatically from interview to interview and again in court, Burgh said, "I'm not sure why I lied about that."
Kingman's drug culture
Undercover and other Kingman police detectives testified on a number of topics, most dealing with search warrants and drug arrests made earlier in 2011 involving both Shields and Orozco.
During a search of Shields' home, for instance, police reportedly found a ledger with what appeared to be the names of people who owed him money.
On that ledger was the name "Beto," which was Orozco's nickname, and an amount owed of $800.
A digital scale and paraphernalia were found. Shields was also found to be in possession of a large amount of methamphetamine and pleaded guilty last year. He received a 10-year sentence.
Another detective identified Shields as a confidential informant, telling jurors that such informants are held to a code of conduct, for lack of a better phrase, that bars them from possessing drugs or firearms.
"They can only do what we tell them to do," said the detective. "Nothing on their own." What they do for detectives, he said, was buy drugs.
A search of Orozco's home yielded more than $8,000 in cash and slightly more than 53 grams of meth with a potential street value of $5,300.
Ackerley asked the detective what typically happens when a drug dealer is arrested with a large amount of drugs and cash.
The detective, who said he routinely interacts with people who manufacture, transport, sell and use methamphetamine, said consequences will be paid, ranging from a "taxing," drug slang for getting beat up, to threats to one's family, to murder.
They can also be ordered to perform tasks for the party owed, ranging from selling more drugs, transporting a load of drugs from Mexico or Phoenix, or collecting a debt from someone else who owes the dealer money.
"You don't get a break if you're busted," said the detective. "It's a business. It's all about money and you're in debt.
"There's either payback or they work it off."
The detective said the type of horrific violence that routinely occurs in Mexico involving rival cartels - beheadings, lynchings and the mass shootings that have led to tens of thousands of deaths in just a few years - is spilling over to the United States.
The detective said Orozco did not agree to be a confidential informant, but that Shields was such an informant and that he was supposed to set up a buy with Orozco so detectives could obtain another search warrant.
The biggest fear of confidential informants seems legitimate. The detective said they fear being killed or that their families will be harmed or killed if they are found out.
They'd rather go to prison than cooperate with police, because it is presumed to be safer.
The deal to buy meth from Orozco was never arranged, said the detective, but Shields did give them information that led them to Daniel "Rodrigo" Cruz Ortiz, from whom Orozco was reportedly buying ounces of methamphetamine for $1,200 apiece.
Ortiz was eventually arrested on Interstate 17 in possession of a pound of methamphetamine in an unrelated DEA investigation.
Today's testimony from state witnesses includes experts this morning. Jurors will hear recorded police interviews this afternoon and Ackerley could begin his defense Friday. The case is expected to go well into next week.
Based on questions Ackerley has asked of state witnesses, he will argue either Langan killed Orozco or that he was killed by a Mexican cartel member for losing a significant amount of drugs and cash.
Ackerley also declined to release many of the state's witnesses from their subpoenas, saying he would likely recall them when he presents his case to jurors.