NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WYTV) – The man charged with the murder of 22-year-old Brandon Sample was arraigned in Newton Falls Municipal Court Thursday morning. Afterwards, his friends came to his defense.
Austin Burke, 18, is in the Trumbull County Jail on $1 million bond. He was arrested during the investigation of an armed robbery at Pizza Joe’s in Cortland on Tuesday night.
On Cortland Police Department’s Facebook page, investigators said they recovered a gun and money on Wednesday, believed to be evidence in the robbery. They also expect to file an aggravated robbery charge against Burke at some point on Thursday.
Sample, of Warren, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in a wooded area in Bristolville last Thursday. He had been reported missing by his family last week.
Burke is expected to appear in Newton Falls Municipal Court again next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
His friends spoke kindly of him Thursday afternoon.
“I honestly don’t think he would do this,” Darien Chaplin said. “”It could have been someone else just putting the blame on him because I know he does have a lot of haters and people don’t really like him.”
“Keep your head up,” Brittani Merten added.
Warren detectives said they’re still actively investigating this case. They’ll speak with more possible witnesses, including a juvenile who said this on Facebook:
Lol I know all of it i was with him the night he did it there’s more than what u people think”
This incident isn’t the first time Burke has been in trouble.
Digging deeper into his past, WYTV learned that not only is he suspected in a few burglaries in Warren Township earlier this year, but he’s also facing charges in Mahoning County for theft.
Additionally, he was arrested in 2014 after police say he was involved in a burglary in Girard where eight guns were taken from a home. According to police documents, Burke — who was still in high school at the time — was called to the principal’s office, where he was arrested.
His friends say they realize these past troubles.
“I tried helping him stay out of trouble,” Chaplin said. “I know he’s a good kid, just hangs around with some wrong people.”
WYTV reached out to Sample’s family. They said it’s still hard for them to speak but knowing the amount of people who cared about Brandon is “amazing, overwhelming, and unbelievable.”
This story is corrected to show the number of guns Burke was accused of stealing in 2014. A ninth gun had been reported stolen but, according to police documents, it was later found hidden in the home.