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Judge: Fayette man's statements admissible at trial in death of toddler daughter

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 11:09 p.m.
Domer Wade Burkholder Jr. of North Union pleaded guilty on Wednesday to third-degree homicide in the death of his daughter, Caylee Burkholder.

Statements made to police by a Fayette County man charged in his daughter's 2013 death are admissible at trial, a Fayette County judge ruled on Wednesday.

Judge Steve Leskinen ruled that evidence gathered through three search warrants obtained by state troopers investigating the November death of 20-month-old Caylee Jo Burkholder would be admissible.

Domer Wade Burkholder, Jr., 31, was seeking in pretrial motions to have the statement and evidence dismissed. He is charged with homicide and endangering the welfare of children.

Prosecutors allege that Burkholder punched his daughter in the stomach on Nov. 14 because she was misbehaving. She suffered a lacerated liver, perforated intestines and internal bleeding, according to police.

Burkholder has denied the accusations and said he wasn't at home at the time of the alleged beating.

Mother Jessica Marie Burkholder, 28, of Mill Run, is charged with child endangerment and is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Monday in exchange for testifying against her husband.

Police allege that the girl vomited several times and Jessica Burkholder later put her to bed. More than 12 hours later, Caylee was found unresponsive by the parents, who were reluctant to seek medical treatment, police said.

Caylee died in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at 3:25 p.m. Nov. 15.

Leskinen ruled that Domer Burkholder was read his rights before he made a statement to police on Nov. 15, based on testimony during a hearing earlier this month from Trooper Heather Clem-Johnston.

“... The Court cannot find that the defendant's constitutional right against self-incrimination was violated by law enforcement,” Leskinen wrote.

The judge ruled that troopers had probable cause to file search warrants in the case and ruled against Burkholder's bid to have the evidence seized suppressed at trial.

A warrant application requested numerous items from the Burkholder home, including electronic devices, medications, drugs and blood evidence. Troopers secured warrants to obtain records relating to past dealings with the Burkholder family from Fayette County Children and Youth Services and for the contents of Burkholder's cellphone.

Domer Burkholder is being held in the Fayette County Prison without bond. A pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 2.

Jessica Burkholder is free on $25,000 unsecured bail.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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