District Attorney's Office


Conasauga Judicial Circuit of Georgia

   Serving Murray & Whitfield Counties


March 25, 2022 (Chatsworth) – Billy Ray Burke (38), formerly of 2916 Smyrna-Ramhurst Road, Chatsworth, entered a guilty plea on Wednesday, March 23rd, to all charges in his indictment including homicide by vehicle in the first degree, serious injury by vehicle, driving under the influence and reckless driving. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, Burke was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks to serve a total of 13 years in prison followed by 12 years on probation. Burke was represented by Micah Gates of the Public Defender’s Office.

On June 14, 2021, Burke drove his vehicle, a 2013 Hyundai Genesis, at speeds over 100 miles per hour on Smyrna-Ramhurst pursuing Adam Lamar Harrington who he incorrectly believed had stolen his wallet and cell phone. As Burke caught up to Harrington’s 1999 Mazda pickup truck, going over twice Harrington’s speed, it appears that he misjudged the distance and the speed difference, applying the brakes moments before impact. The collision caused Harrington’s vehicle to literally cartwheel off the roadway, coming to rest in a tree. Harrington was ejected and died from injuries sustained in the collision. Harrington’s passenger, James Aubrey Martin, remained in the vehicle and suffered serious life-threatening injuries including a broken neck. Burke’s vehicle also left the roadway, striking a landscaping boulder and flipping completely over to land back on its wheels. Burke suffered less severe injuries, but did have to be hospitalized.

Previously, the two victims, Harrington and Martin, had been at Burke’s residence and all had gone swimming in Burke’s pool. Martin later described Burke as being extremely intoxicated. After Harrington and Martin left, headed north on Smyrna-Ramhurst Road, Burke apparently could not locate his wallet or cell phone and came to believe that Harrington had taken them. The cell phone later turned up at Burke’s residence. It is not known if Burke ever located his wallet. The wallet was not found in Harrington’s vehicle or at the crash scene.

Burke appeared intoxicated to Deputies and Troopers at the scene who also observed on odor of alcohol coming from him. Because of his injuries, no field sobriety tests were performed and he was transported to the hospital as soon as possible. Burke ended up at Erlanger and by the time blood was drawn for testing, several hours had passed and the test came back negative. Nevertheless, Burke admitted through his plea that he was under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it was less safe to drive, and that his high-speed pursuit constituted reckless driving and that both offenses caused the death of Harrington and serious injury to Martin. At sentencing, Burke stated to Harrington’s family how sorry he was for what he had done. Burke had one prior DUI conviction from 2011.

Billy Ray Burke, September 14, 2021

Bert Poston
District Attorney
Conasauga Judicial Circuit

News Archive

Bert Poston,
District Attorney

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