Justice for Dorthea Burke: What Finally Solved Her Case

Nearly four decades is a long time to wait for justice. In the case of Dorthea “Dot” Burke, time proved to be exactly what detectives needed to secure that justice, bringing key witnesses forward to tell their story. You might assume DNA is the key to closing out cold cases, but more often than not, it’s all about getting people talking. 

It was a 36-year long investigation into Dot’s death. I’ll walk you through it. In collaboration with the Maine State Police Unsolved Homicide Unit and with the consent of the immediate family of Dorthea “Dot” Burke, this is her story on Dark Downeast. Press play for the full episode on your favorite podcast app.

Your information could help the Maine State Police revive a long-standing unsolved case.


June 23, 1984

It was Maine summer Friday night and it was going to be a fun one, at that. Dot Burke’s niece was getting married, and Dot herself was celebrating her 63rd birthday. Since the wedding would occupy the evening, Dot’s daughter, Ruth, planned to throw her mother a birthday party the next day… And family members had a plan to make sure Dot had a special moment at the wedding, too.

Dot’s sister Pearl dropped her off at Ruth’s house that afternoon. She didn’t drive so hitching a ride with friends and family was how she got around. Dot stepped out of the car and slung her black purse strap over her shoulder. It had all the evening essentials inside, including a new carton of Bright 100 cigarettes. 

According to the affidavit, Ruth’s house wasn’t the only place Dot had been that day. Dot’s granddaughter later told investigators that they were in town together at the Calico Shop. Her granddaughter remembered Dot talking to two guys – “Kirk” and “Mike” she thought their names were. For whatever reason, Dot handed the men 20-bucks for beer and gas.

Back at Ruth’s house, Dot got herself fixed up for the wedding, removing two ties from her maroon blouse that were used to secure the sleeves, maybe preferring the look or comfort without them. Dot wasn’t sure where the night would bring her after the wedding – she liked to have a good time and it was her birthday, afterall – so she told Ruth that if she didn’t make it back to her house that night, she’d be staying at her sister’s place also in Stockton Springs.

The wedding of Dot’s niece was held in Stockton Springs and the reception was just down the road at Prospect Hall in Prospect. It was a town hall used for gatherings and functions on the second floor, located just above a general store along Route 1A and Fort Knox Road. 

The space was filled with family and friends celebrating the nuptials of Pat and Danny Eaton, but the family didn’t let Dot’s birthday go unnoticed either. They called Dot up on stage and sang her happy birthday, tossing confetti up in the air and watching the pastel colors cascade down and settle onto Dot as she smiled. She brushed some of the confetti off her shirt and sweater, but confetti has a funny way of sticking around. Pieces lingered in Dot’s hair.

Among the wedding reception guests was a man named Kirt Damon Sr. Dot was social and she chatted with nearly everyone at the reception that night, according to witnesses, that included Kirt. At some point during the evening though, Dot took a break from socializing to pop into the convenience store on the first floor of the building to pick up a 6-pack of Michelob Light. 

According to witness statements collected by Detective Richard Cook, Kirt Damon was beginning to cause a problem at the reception and was in a “fighting mood”, so he and two other wedding guests left the reception. The crowd was beginning to thin with Dot, too, saying she wanted to go dancing. At least one guest saw her leave around 9:15 p.m. 

Meanwhile, Kirt and his two friends were out looking for their next move, and ended up at D&K in Frankfort, a local bar and lounge about 3 miles away from the reception hall. When they left that bar, they drove Kirt to The Square in Stockton Springs, an area between four cross streets near the center of town. It sounds like this area was a typical hang out spot, but when Kirt got out of the car, he told the two others that he didn’t see anyone he knew. But the woman in the car pointed ahead at a person sitting on the game room steps, part of Worcester’s Store, saying, “Dot’s right there. You know her.”

A witness in the square later told Detective Rex Kelley that he saw an interaction between a woman sitting on the steps of Worcester’s Store and a man who approached her after getting out of a vehicle that night. He said the woman, who he later identified as Dorthea Burke from a photo, was drinking a beer as a man approached her. According to the witness description, the man was heavy set and about 5 foot 9 inches tall with dirty blonde hair, wearing a chamois shirt that might have been blue; it would’ve been hard to tell at night. 

The witness could overhear the conversation between the man and the woman. The man told Dot he was headed to the Cape Docks, another hang out spot near Cape Jellison. This witness would later pick a photo from a line-up, identifying the man talking to Dot as Kirt Damon Sr. 

Captain Jack’s and Priscilla’s

Every great wedding has an afterparty, and that was the case for Pat and Danny Eaton. As the festivities at Prospect Hall wound down, the new Mr. and Mrs. found their way to Captain Jack’s around 11:30 p.m. They didn’t stay long – 15 or 20 minutes maybe – but while they were there they saw Dot come into the bar to use the restroom. 

Another witness said they saw Dot hanging out with a few men at Captain Jack’s that night, one of those men described as 20 to 23 years old, heavy set with sandy brown hair and a dark color chamois shirt on. He would later identify this man as Kirt Damon Sr. in a photo lineup. The witness said Dot left Captain Jack’s with Kirt that night. They were headed to Priscilla’s, another bar in town. Someone announced, “Dot is buying” so they’d “provide the transportation.”

Just after 11:30pm, Dot walked out the door with Kirt and two other guys.

According to the Affidavit in Support of Probable Cause, one person saw Dot at Priscilla’s on the night of June 23, 1984. She rolled up in a red compact car driven by a stocky young man around 25 years old, the witness estimated. That was the last reported sighting of Dot Burke by any witnesses that night.

The Next Morning

When Dot’s daughter Ruth woke up on Sunday morning, June 24, 1984, she realized her mother wasn’t there. She remembered that Dot said she might stay at her sister’s house that night instead, so Ruth called her Aunt Buelah to see if Dot was there… But Dot never showed up at her house that night either.

Two days passed. There was no sign of Dot, no calls for a ride home. Dot’s family called the Stockton Springs Police Department to report Dot missing on Tuesday, June 26, 1984.

Two days later, a passing motorist driving from Meadow Road onto Old County Road saw something unusual in the tall grass between the Y-intersection of the two roads. When he was able to get a closer look, the man realized what he was seeing. 


Trooper Craig Handley arrived on the scene to find the body of a woman lying on her back in the tall grass. Her clothing was disheveled and displaced. She had wounds to her face. A family member arrived at the scene to confirm that the body was that of Dorthea “Dot” Burke.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Dot suffered several facial and skull fractures, lacerations to her face, partial disruption of the brainstem and multiple rib fractures. The medical examiner reported the cause of death as multiple facial and skull fractures with hemorrhage and subdural hematomas due to blunt force trauma. The death was ruled a homicide.

The timeline of the investigation into the death of Dorthea “Dot” Burke continues on Dark Downeast. Press play for the full story on your favorite podcast app.