GPS tracked ‘Wooded Rapist’ suspect 5/12/08

GPS tracked ‘Wooded Rapist’ suspect 5/12/08

GPS tracked ‘Wooded Rapist’ suspect

May 10, 2008

Lawyer says hidden device may have jeopardized case


Staff Writer

BRENTWOOD – Police hid a global positioning system on the Jeep of the suspected “Wooded Rapist” and tracked him for two days.

Brentwood officers, who identified Robert Jason Burdick as a suspect during a traffic stop after a prowler complaint, also followed him to La Vergne restaurant Tee Gees, where they took silverware, a plate and a cup he used. Police wanted the items to get samples of his DNA.

Brentwood Police Chief Ricky Watson said the DNA matched evidence discovered at the “Wooded Rapist” crime scenes.

Burdick, 38, has been charged with four rapes and two attempted rapes in Davidson County. He was arrested May 1 and is suspected of committing 13 rapes in Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties between 1994 and 2008. Most of those crimes were committed in homes that were near wooded areas.

Burdick was identified as a suspect on April 28 after police received a report of a masked man in the Meadowlake subdivision and an officer saw him walking through the neighborhood and getting into a Jeep. The officer questioned Burdick, who refused a search of his vehicle. Later, Brentwood officers, who were conducting 24-hour surveillance of Burdick, placed the GPS tracking device on his Jeep, Watson said.

“It’s an amazing piece of technology,” Watson said. “We don’t use it very often. This may have been the first or second time we’ve ever used it.”

Police didn’t have warrant

Watson said police did not have or need a warrant to place the tracking device on Burdick’s vehicle. He would not say when or where the GPS unit was hidden on the Jeep, but said it was done in a public place.

“It’s absolutely legal to do it,” Watson said. “You can’t do it when it’s on private property.”

But Nashville defense attorney David Raybin said police might have jeopardized their case by using the tracking device without a warrant. Raybin said that if the use of the GPS unit is determined to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects U.S. citizens from unlawful searches and seizure, all evidence connected to the device could be inadmissible in court. Raybin does not represent Burdick.

“They put their case at great risk by doing that without a court order,” Raybin said. “To me that is just absolutely illegal, whether it’s the Wooded Rapist or a terrorist.”

Kim Helper, acting District Attorney General in Williamson County, said she has not reviewed the case, but she also believes what Brentwood officers did was legal.

“I don’t think, quite frankly, that there is a problem,” Helper said. “It sounds like an issue that may be litigated. It would not surprise me if a defense attorney tries to litigate it.”

On May 2, police searched Burdick’s home at 314 Ash Grove Court in Nashville.

Investigators found five guns, boxes of ammunition, ski masks, flashlights, tools to open locks, night vision binoculars, black and camouflage clothing, a dog-off remote and an anti-barking device, gloves, knives and several cameras, according to court records.

Burdick remains jailed without bond. No court hearings have been scheduled.

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