Witnesses: Phillip Geans admitted he killed, raped Theresa Burns


Phillip Geans was obsessed with Mishawaka High School student Theresa Burns in 1988 and wanted to be her boyfriend, one of Geans' former friends told police two years ago.

The friend, Thomas Doty, said in court Wednesday he also remembered telling a detective Geans thought Theresa had cheated and he had animosity toward her.

In day three of testimony in Geans' cold case murder trial, jurors heard from several of the defendant's former friends and inmates at the St. Joseph County jail about things Geans said and did in the weeks, months and years after Theresa's murder - including admissions that he killed and raped her and was carrying a gun with "a major crime."

Theresa's older brother found her dead on the floor of their home in January 1988. She'd received permission to leave school that day to change her clothes.

Geans' ex girlfriend, who dated him from 2002 - 2010 testified her current boyfriend contacted homicide detectives about the case a month ago. She told jurors when they dated, Geans talked about Theresa burns "at least two or three times a week." He also admitted he used a stolen gun to commit the murder in 1988, she said, recalling a conversation that happened while she andGeans fished underneath the Ironwood Bridge in South Bend.

But defense attorneys are trying to lead jurors to a different suspect in the case.

James Lewis, who was subpoenaed by the state to testify Wednesday, testified he was with Geans when Geans stole a .22 caliber revolver from a friend's grandmother in 1987. Lewis testified he and Geans had been best friends since the third grade.

After Theresa's murder, Lewis told investigators he remembered seeing Geans at a party with the gun, wanting to play Russian Roulette.

Later, Lewis told police Geans said, "Yeah, I killed her. What the f**k does it matter?"

But defense lawyers reminded Lewis he had been questioned by police several times in the case as a suspect, including a time after he fought with an ex-girlfriend.

"Do you recall [a] detective asking you if you told [your girlfriend at the time] you were going to kill her just like you killed Theresa Burns?" asked defense attorney Mari Duerring.

"No," Lewis recalled. "I believe I didn't say it but I don't remember. I was young."

Other friends and acquaintances also testified they saw Geans with a .22 revolver weeks after Theresa, who was 16 at the time,was found murdered in her Mishawaka home. But some of the witnesses in the case are apparently struggling to remember details, mostly from statements they gave police 27 years ago.

Also Wednesday, a gun expert testified he's "100 percent certain" bullets found in Theresa Burns' body were fired from a .22 caliber revolver Phillip Geans' mother found in her son's bedroom.

The state could rest Thursday afternoon, after calling more witnesses.

It's not clear how many witnesses the defense plans to call or if Geans will choose to take the witness stand.

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