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3 missed clues: The dropped cell phone
Author: WXIA Staff
Published: 7:21 PM EDT June 19, 2017
INVESTIGATIONS 2 Articles

A school log-in sheet, a cell phone and a set of palm prints -- all found at the scenes of three separate crimes. All belonging to a man who would later be implicated in shootings of two women who made desperate calls to 911 from closets. Could these crimes have been prevented by basic police work? This 11Alive Investigation retraces the steps that could have led police to a convicted killer -- before the tragedy happened.

“There are so many ‘what ifs’ ... you’ll just keep spinning in a circle,"

– Erica Williams talking about the incident which left her sister Pamela dead.

EXPLORE

3 missed clues: The dropped cell phone

INVESTIGATIONS
Chapter 1

January 3, 2013

911 dispatchers receive a call from a terrified woman.

Listen below (Warning: Call contains violent sounds of a woman being shot. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Melissa Burke: I’m in the closet right now.

Dispatcher: OK, just stay on the line with me. As long as they’re prying, they’re not in there with you.

Burke: And they’ve come back is what happened. They’re trying to kill me.

Dispatcher: Be quiet for a minute because I’m trying to see if I can hear them. I thought I heard banging or something.

Burke: Hurry, hurry.

Dispatcher: Ma’am?

Burke: I can hear them trying to get in. I can definitely hear them trying to break down the door. (Whispering) I think they’re probably taking the stuff from outside..(inaudible)..I can hear them outside of the bedroom.

Dispatcher: You can hear them where?

Burke: Outside of my bedroom. I’m in the closet.

Dispatcher: (To someone else) She can hear them outside of her bedroom. (To Burke) OK, just try to stay as quiet – don’t move around. Just talk to me if you hear anything else. They’re upstairs?

Burke: Yeah, they’re dragging stuff out.

Dispatcher: Do you know if they made entry through the front or the back of the house?

Burke: [A rustling sound is heard]

Dispatcher: You’re not sure?

Melissa Burke's home

Burke: I know they’re off…in front of my bedroom.

Burke is heard screaming loudly. What sounds like gunshots are heard.

Dispatcher: Ma’am.

The phone hangs up.

Burke calls back.

Burke: I’m shot.

Dispatcher: You’re shot?

Burke: yes.

Dispatcher: Where are you shot? Just stay with me OK?

Burke: What’s taking them so long? They shot me four or five times. I can’t believe…

Dispatcher: Is there any serious bleeding? Where were you shot?

Burke: Oh God. Thank you. Why nobody’s there to help me? It’s been so long since I called you.

Dispatcher: OK, we have them on the way. Just stay with me, OK?

Burke. Oh God.

* * * * * *

After Melissa Burke was shot, the suspects fled the scene in a stolen Honda Accord. A short police pursuit ensued, and the vehicle crashed. Five suspects jumped out and escaped.

But not before one of the suspects dropped a cell phone.

Police later traced that cell phone to James Calhoun.

In an interview with police, Calhoun claimed that the cell phone had been stolen. Still, it had not been turned off in the six months since he said it had been taken.

Melissa Burke survived.

“I don’t know if I thought I was dead, or if I was playing dead,” Melissa Burke later testified. “I heard at least at two footsteps come behind this person and he said, ‘Man she dead. Let’s just get out of here.”

She testified that she sustained 12 bullet wounds, four in right leg, five in her left leg as well as two in her room. Her femur, knee and thigh were shattered. She survived.

In court, Burke was asked if she saw her shooter in the courtroom.

“I think I do,” she said.

Burke pointed at the “dark-skinned young man in the light blue shirt.”

She pointed at James Calhoun.

* * * * * * *

Pamela Williams was a popular corporate manager of a Target store on Camp Creek Parkway in Fulton County.

On November 30, 2013, Williams called 911 during an apparent break-in at her home in Amhurst subdivision. She told dispatchers that she was hiding in her closet.

When police arrived, they found Williams with a single gunshot wound to the head. She died several days later. She was 43.

Neighbors and colleagues of Williams quickly raised money to offer as a reward for information in the shooting.

Police developed leads in that led to the arrests of a so-called “Death Squad” responsible for more than 100 burglaries – and at least one other shooting – in the South Fulton area.

Among those arrested – and later convicted – in Williams’ murder was James Calhoun.

Amhurst burglary crew

* * * * * *

Chapter 2

NEXT:

Police arrive at the scene of a burglary at a home on Amhurst Parkway.

A responding officer find that an alarm panel had been removed by the burglars and thrown on the floor.

Two days later, police take the alarm panel into evidence. Palm prints found on the panel are developed and placed on file in the evidence room but not immediately checked through prints on file.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation later confirmed that the prints on the alarm panel belonged to future convicted murderer James Calhoun.

3 missed clues: The log-in sheet

3 missed clues: The palm prints

3 missed clues: The ignored evidence that could have stopped a killer

Don't miss the full investigation Thursday night after the game on 11Alive.