By MICHAEL LaFORGIA
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
BOYNTON BEACH — Carol Anne Burger killed her former lover by stabbing her 222 times with a Phillips-head screwdriver and then took pains to hide her crime, police said Wednesday.
Jessica Kalish, who shared a house with Burger despite breaking up with her more than a year ago, was found last Thursday stuffed in the backseat of her gun-metal BMW sedan, abandoned behind a medical office at 2300 S. Congress Avenue. Her blood was splashed around the rear end and undercarriage of the car, as if her killer had tried to load her into the trunk. The driver-side window was shattered.
Examining the body, detectives absorbed what had been done to her. Stab wounds were clustered around the back of her head and stitched across her back and arms and face. Most were between an inch and an inch-and-a-half deep. A blow to Kalish's neck probably killed her, investigators determined.
At a news conference Wednesday, police laid out what they'd learned during a week of investigation. They said the evidence pointed to one conclusion: Burger killed Kalish, a 56-year-old software executive whom friends described as worldly and intelligent, and then tried to throw investigators off her trail.
What pulled the trigger in Burger?
Her friends, the ones who can bring themselves to believe what police said about her, turn the question over in amazement.
If this could happen to someone like her, they said, what does it mean for the rest of us?
Burger, a 57-year-old writer, did yoga, had a fondness for Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and preferred to watch musicals in theaters with Dolby Sound. She recently stopped drinking coffee. She thought Jackson Browne's For a Dancer was good to listen to when you were sad, and she refused to take anti-depressants despite her relationship problems with Kalish.
Their situation really was a bad one, friends said, but for financial reasons Burger and Kalish had continued to share the house they'd bought together in 2000.
Burger, who on Oct. 7 was tapped to cover the election for the Web site, The Huffington Post, still sometimes felt sad and isolated. Kalish, whom Burger had married in Massachusetts in 2005, had met another woman.
At 3300 Churchill Drive, Burger had her half of the house, a room and office where she would write and read and surf the Internet, and Kalish had hers, where she would spend hours absorbed in cyber dates with her new companion, friends said.
All in all, the former couple seemed to be doing the best they could as their lawyer drew up plans to sell the house and divide the money. But secretly, police said, something was building up in Burger that would explode in a sudden, sustained burst of rage.
Minutes after someone called their home and said he had found Kalish's wallet and keys near 548 E. Gateway Boulevard, Burger reported Kalish missing Thursday afternoon. She told police Kalish left for a workout Wednesday night and never came home.
As investigators studied the case, several telltale signs, including the ferocity and personal nature of the attack, pointed to Burger, they said.
But before they could question her, Burger walked out into her back yard, pressed a gun up under her chin and pulled the trigger, police said. Detectives found her body there last Thursday but couldn't locate a suicide note.
In the days that followed, detectives and crime scene investigators put together this theory:
On Wednesday night, Kalish exercised at LA Fitness at 2290 N. Congress Ave. and was home by 9:30 p.m. A confrontation ensued, and she probably was dead by midnight.
After stabbing Kalish, Burger put her in the BMW and drove her to the Congress Avenue site. She walked home, a distance of about 2 1/2 miles.
Burger cleaned up the garage and used the washing machine and bathroom sink, where traces of Kalish's blood were later detected. She got into her Toyota Celica, drove to Gateway Boulevard and tossed out Kalish's keys and wallet.
On Tuesday night, detectives proved their theory, said Lt. Gary Chapman, who heads the department's major crimes squad.
Using Luminol, a chemical agent that causes blood traces to fluoresce under ultraviolet light, they found a "tremendous amount of blood" splattered throughout the garage, where the attack must have taken place, Chapman said. The Luminol also revealed Burger's glowing sneaker prints on the garage floor, mapping her steps after she walked through her old flame's blood.
"We believe the process of killing Jessica was pretty lengthy, in and out of the car," Chapman said. "She obviously was out of her mind."
Some of Burger's friends at first refused to believe she was capable of such savagery.
"My gut tells me that it's impossible and that something else is going on," said Helen Gale, Burger's close friend and confidante. "This is just beyond belief."
During the past several months, Burger e-mailed Gale, who often visits Delray Beach from California, in a series of messages that charted her ups and downs.
"I'm feeling pretty isolated myself," Burger wrote on Aug. 13. "Part is simple depression, I suppose. The other part is simple withdrawal whenever I'm depressed. I just can't bring myself to punish people with my sad self whenever I'm down. But I usually bounce back in time."
Other messages offered insight into her strained relations with Kalish.
"I was really annoyed when I found out that Jess let her life insurance lapse for lack of payment," Burger wrote on Oct. 15. "She's the beneficiary of everything I own and I have insurance on me that she would collect if I should drown in that triathlon I'm doing this weekend. But if she had a car crash I'd be up a creek!
"Today when I told her about it, she just said too bad and said she'd pay me back. (I won't hold my breath)."
Scanning those e-mails now, with everything police discovered still spooling in her head, Gale reflected on the horror of it all.
"It's horrendous," she said, "what human beings are capable of doing to each other."
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