An Amherst man who has already been sentenced to nearly nine decades in prison for dozens of burglaries in central Virginia is about to learn the final part of his punishment in Albemarle County.
Kevin Burchardt has already been convicted of countless burglaries and robberies across central Virginia, several where he held his victims at gunpoint. He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Albemarle County Circuit Court.
He reached out to us to talk about his crimes in an attempt to start making amends. But after showing the interview to one set of victims, they say they still don't believe he feels true remorse for his actions.
From the Albemarle – Charlottesville Regional Jail 34-year-old Burchardt told us that this situation boils down to a mental health issue that got out of hand. Though he says that is not an excuse for his actions, he offers it as an explanation to the many victims he acknowledges he has scarred forever.
“As it stands right now, I’ll spend the rest of my life in prison, so if that's any retribution to them, then I hope that that's enough by itself,” he stated.
Burchardt, who stands at a towering 6-foot-8 in his striped prison jumpsuit, says a lapse of judgment is what landed him nearly a century behind bars. “Basically I stopped taking medication. I have bipolar disorder and I stopped taking medication and went into hypermania and decided to start breaking into houses,” he said.
He explains that his condition is not an excuse, but spotlights his lack of education: “Had I educated myself more on what the disorder is, then I would have never gotten to this level. I would have never stopped taking medication. But there is such a stigma on mental health issues, and as a man we have a lot of pride and we don't want to take medication, let alone for mental health reasons.”
But after we showed our interview with Burchardt to a pair of his victims, Vickie Walker and Jarrett Catlett, they say they are not convinced of his story and feel like Burchardt is spinning the situation to make himself look like the victim. “What he displayed there just doesn't show that he has any feeling for what he has truly done to all of his victims,” Walker stated.
According to investigators, Walker and Catlett's home in Scottsville is one of five separate cases - four of those residential burglaries - with nine total victims in Albemarle County. Catlett first encountered Burchardt on the morning of November 7, 2012 when he came home early to find a car he did not recognize in the driveway.
“I was here for maybe three or four minutes before I figured out somebody's robbing us. I was on the phone with her and seeing the upstairs blind was ripped off the window - somebody is here,” Catlett said.
Catlett then retreated to his car to grab his black powder gun for safety. When he turned back toward the house, Burchardt was coming out the front door dressed in uniform.
“That was my first impression, was when he came out that door with a military looking outfit and a pistol, it looked kind of like a police officer,” Catlett said.
Catlett says Burchardt then walked closer, armed and holding the couple's safe. “He came out the door. I mean, I didn't get a chance to ask if he's mentally ill or anything, he's got a gun in my face."
As Burchardt held Catlett at gunpoint in front of the house, he took the victim's phone and told Catlett to turn around. Then Burchardt made Catlett walk toward a tree and fence while pointing the gun at the back of his victim's head. It's a moment both parties vividly remember.
Burchardt said, “I will never forget I was walking out of his house and he was getting out of his vehicle, and I pointed a weapon at him and remember him saying, 'But this is my house.'”
Burchardt stole thousands of dollars worth of belongings from the home - including the engagement ring Walker's father gave to his mother and a camera that Burchardt later used to take photos at a wedding.
“It makes no sense why he says that he didn't benefit from his robberies. He was only doing it for the high. That's just crap is what I feel about it – everything,” Walker said.
Burchardt says he randomly chose the homes at first, but then started using Google Earth to target his victims. “Lying in bed at night, my wife would be reading her book and I would be on the iPad, looking at Google Earth, finding different regions of Virginia and I would target a particular house.”
Walker says she doesn't believe his tactic and still questions why he targeted the home. “I want to know why we were targeted and how I can prevent it from happening again and how to maybe educate other people. That would be one of the best things he could do is educate people as to how these things are thought out.”
The victims also wanted to know whether Burchardt had ever put himself in their shoes to feel the emotional suffering they have endured.
“I’ve had my vehicle broken into, I was devastated just to have a book of CDs stolen, so if somebody broke into my house and betrayed my safety and security and everything, then I would probably want that person to never get out of prison. That's how I felt sitting on that side,” Burchardt said.
Catlett says the bottom line is Burchardt continued breaking into house after house anyway. “He said he got robbed. He didn't feel good about getting robbed, but it sure didn't stop him. He knew what he was doing. He knew right from wrong.”
So far, Burchardt has been sentenced to 88 years in prison, including 43 years from Fluvanna County, 10 years from Campbell County and four years from Nelson County. Burchardt says he hit at least 11 jurisdictions in a six-week span. But, as spelled out in his initial letter to NBC29, he feels his total sentence is "extreme overkill.”
“I think that probably 20-30 would be fair, but that's easy for me to say sitting from this perspective,” he stated.
Burchardt says there was never a point where he thought what he was doing was right and he knew it was only a matter of time until he got caught. “I’m glad I got caught when I did because even though I’ve been sentenced to so much time, I’m still alive.”
Burchardt has taken responsibility for all the break-ins. “It’s not my fault that I have bipolar disorder, but it is my fault that I wasn't proactive about my treatment,” he stated.
Walker and Catlett stress that after all this they still have absolutely no sympathy for Burchardt and believe he needs to stay behind bars where he belongs.
“I thoroughly believe there's an inherent evil there,” Walker said.
Burchardt’s sentencing hearing is set to start at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday at Albemarle County Circuit Court. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elliot Casey says a judge can hand down up to life in prison plus 100 years for the six charges he faces in the county.