A sheriff’s deputy, who had been free on $25,000 bail after being charged with the June 2 fatal shooting of his girlfriend, was remanded into custody Monday, with bail reset at $500,000.
“It is beyond me how bail could be set at $25,000,” said Los Angeles Municipal Judge Candace Beason. “The gravity of the offense dictates that it should be substantially higher.”
The judge noted that the district attorney’s office had not been notified of the deviation from usual bail, nor had the court commissioner who originally set bail specified any reason for the low amount.
William Joseph Burke, 30, a six-year veteran deputy most recently assigned to the sheriff’s West Hollywood station, is accused of shooting his girlfriend, Brenda Berndt, 25, in the face during an argument in his mobile home on Heathercliff Road in Malibu.
At Monday’s hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph Shidler had asked that Burke be held without bail.
Burke posted the $25,000 two days after his arrest, prompting an outcry from the victim’s family and friends, who say he was treated leniently because he is a law enforcement officer.
“Look at Marlon Brando’s son,” said Berndt’s stepfather, David Arney of Palmdale. “He got no bail. But Bill (Burke) slides through--because he’s a deputy. Even now they (Burke’s family) can raise bail.”
Municipal Court Commissioner William Jacobson did not return reporters’ calls Monday.
But Assistant Dist. Atty. Curt Livesay speculated that Burke’s “cooperation (with investigators), coupled with longstanding ties to the community and a lack of previous criminal record probably led the commissioner to grant his release.”
Burke’s father, Patrick, is also a sheriff’s deputy, assigned to Malibu.
The defendant showed no emotion and said nothing as he was escorted out of Beason’s downtown courtroom Monday on his way to Men’s Central Jail.
The victim’s mother, Candy Arney, close to tears, said afterward that she is “not happy with even $500,000 bail. This possibly could be raised. I do not want him out; I want him to get what he deserves. We don’t have a daughter anymore.”
She said her daughter met Burke at the Pitchess Honor Rancho, a county jail facility, where Burke had been assigned and Berndt worked as a payroll timekeeper.
The Arneys say they had tried to discourage the romance, saying the defendant had “violent tendencies.”
For example, they said, Burke once told them about his participation in a beating incident at the jail. And when the couple broke up in 1988, the Arneys recalled, Burke “grabbed her and threw her against a wall, causing her to tumble down the stairs, and then ran over her things (with his car).”
Several months ago, however, the Arneys said Burke began courting their daughter again, deluging her with phone calls and flowers. She had just announced that she was moving in with the deputy the afternoon before her death, they said.
That night, Burke’s parents gave him a birthday party. The invited guests included Burke’s ex-wife and three other girlfriends, one of whom claimed he had fathered her child.
That made Brenda mad and they started arguing, the Arneys said investigators told them.
“We feel she was moving out when he shot her,” Candy Arney said.
“I just wish she wasn’t such a devoted little girl,” her stepfather said. “Trying to make the relationship work cost her her life.”
Burke’s lawyer, David Ogden, entered a not-guilty plea for his client Monday. A preliminary hearing was set for June 26.