Thursday night, July 18, Kimberley Burgess was hosting a birthday party for her fiancé, John W. Lee Jr. As part of the celebration, she wanted to reach out to Lee's stepson. 'We were trying to put the past in the past and have him rejoin our lives,' she said. 'This is the result.' John Lee, 38, was beaten to death at the party and his former stepson, Robert Wyatt Walter, 21, is facing a murder charge. The tragedy developed quickly. ‘This all happened in a matter of five minutes,’ she said.
Burgess said Lee was protecting her after Walter hit her in the face and knocked her to the ground outside the house at 570 Lilac Street. She hit her head on concrete. It wasn't the first time Walter had hit her, she said in a phone interview. He had beaten her three months earlier. Plus, he had destroyed the inside of her house, she said. She and Lee obtained a criminal trespass charge filed to keep Walter away from the house, she said.
The conflict between Burgess and Walter wasn't new. 'This has been going on and off for the past year because John was with me and not his (Walter's) mother,' Burgess said.
Lee talked with Burgess about whether to invite Walter to the party. She agreed because Walter and Lee had been close. She said Lee instructed Walter that he didn’t want any ‘drama’ at the party and that if Walter misbehaved, they would call police. Burgess said only seven other people, family and close friends, were at the party. They had played beer pong, a drinking game, inside the house, but the game was over when the fight started, she said.
Walter simply started screaming, yelling and calling her names. He was asked to leave. People got him outside and were trying to get him to his car to leave. Burgess said he hit her outside, knocking her to the concrete. That’s when Lee, her fiancé stepped up to protect her. Walter hit Lee in the face and the back of his head hit the concrete. She said Lee was unconscious. Walter ‘straddled (Lee) like a horse and just beat him,’ she said. Someone inside had already called police. ‘I tried to stop it (the beating) and it didn’t work,’ she said. Others also tried to help. Burgess said Lee’s uncle uses a wheelchair and got up out of it to try to get Walter to leave. Police arrived quickly because of the call. Walter had left moments before officers arrived to find Burgess sitting on the ground, cradling Lee’s bloody head in her arms. Lee was taken by ambulance to the hospital emergency room, only blocks from the hospital. He was pronounced dead.
Burgess said Lee had lived in Orange County for about 14 years though he had come from New Jersey. Orange police reported he was from that state because they found his New Jersey driver’s license and used it as identification. Lee had been working at Hydrochem for five years, Burgess said.
Police arrested Walter a short time after the attack when he stood at the front door of a residence on Gunstream Street. Walter is still in the Orange County Jail. Peace Justice David Peck set his bond at $250,000. Burgess said she hasn’t talked to Walter since the attack. ‘We need to be focused on John and taking care of his arrangements,’ she said.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-