A Long Island man noticed a strange taste in his drinks at home, arousing his suspicion. Then, the shocking sight he later discovered on his home security systems led to the arrest of his estranged wife.
Renee Burke of Holbrook, New York, pleaded not guilty on January 4 to an indictment charging her with second-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted assault, second-degree burglary and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, local Long Island newspaper Newsday reports. Renee had been caught on camera allegedly breaking into the home of her estranged husband, Matthew Burke, and poisoning his drinks.
Matthew had originally suspected something was awry on September 6, 2018: He had noticed a horrible taste while drinking a bottle of wine. When he spit out the beverage, he simply assumed the bottle had gone bad. But later, his child's babysitter said the 5-year-old had told her, "Mommy came in and put something in Daddy's drink," according to Newsday. Days later, Burke noticed a similarly terrible taste in a bottle of Pepsi. When a neighbor noted that they had seen a woman with a child entering the home, Matthew installed a surveillance camera in the kitchen at the suggestion of police.
A video captured on September 12 showed a woman with a small female child pouring a pink liquid from two baby bottles into a bottle of wine stored in Matthew's fridge. This led to the arrest of Renee.
An investigation of Renee's phone showed searches for antifreeze, rat poison, and the phrase "What car liquids could kill a human?" according to Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Santomartino. A bottle of antifreeze was later discovered at her home. Forensic testing of Matthew's wine showed chemicals present in the antifreeze were also in his drink.
When questioned by police, Renee claimed she had been pouring fruit juice into the wine to water it down, Newsday reports.
The Burkes had been embroiled in a divorce and custody battle during the alleged poisoning ordeal. Mathhew had been awarded custody of the children.
Joel Salinger, Renee's attorney, reiterated her innocence to State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen.
"Before you stands a mother who has fought hard for her children ... [There is] no direct evidence that what my client might — might — have put in the drinks was antifreeze ... This is mostly all about her children, OK, and making sure she can continue to be a mother to those children," Salinger said amidst suggestions that Matthew had planted the antifreeze in Renee's home to frame her.
District Attorney Tim Sini described the case as "extremely troubling."
"It's not only disturbing that the defendant attempted to murder her estranged husband," Sini said, according to New York's ABC 7, "but that she did so in the presence of children."
Mike McKie, a neighbor of the Burkes, was surprised by the news.
"As things went on police were called a few times so it raised some suspicion. But both of them respectable people, looked like great parents. Just a rough relationship," McKie said, according to New York-based Pix11. "That's a shocker, I mean that's a big shocker. To say she attempted to kill him."
Renee is being hold on $400,000 bond. If convicted, she potentially faces 25 years in prison.
[Photo: Suffolk County District Attorney's Office]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxgen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.