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Police arrest teen suspect in Etowah teen's July, 2017 homicide

Images: Used with permission by Burnette's family / WTVC / McMinn Co. Jail

Authorities have made an arrest in the murder of Kelsey Burnette, a teenager from Etowah who's body was discovered in July, 2017.


Burnette's murder shocked the community, and left the family waiting for answers and justice for months.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) confirms to NewsChannel 9 that a teen suspect is now charged with felony murder and aggravated rape in the case.

The TBI would not identify the suspect, but the arrest report obtained by NewsChannel 9 Friday morning identifies the suspect as Joseph Wielzen. Jail records confirm Wiezlen's charges and that he is in custody. According to Tennessee law, if a juvenile is over 14 and is charged with certain violent offenses like murder and rape, some court documents can be released. That’s how we were able to get these documents in this case.

Burnette's body was found near an alley July 4, 2017, just days after she was reported missing by her family. An affidavit obtained by NewsChannel 9 Friday morning provided more details in the case.

The report says Kelsey's mother reported her missing on July 1st, 2017. She had not seen her since the previous afternoon.

Officers went to an address the mother suggested where she might be, but did find Wielzen and another person at the home. The report says Wielzen told officers Burnette had been at the residence on June 30th and the early morning hours of July 1st. He later said he had been alone with Burnette, talking with her on the front porch until about 5 a.m.

Wielzen told officers he then went inside to take a shower, and said when he got out, Burnette had left. The report says Wielzen told other witnesses that she "had gotten upset and went for a walk" that morning.

A short time later, the report says witnesses found a SIM card, later determined to be from Burnette's phone, in the toilet of the bathroom where Wielzen had taken a shower. The report says officers officially determined Wielzen was the last person to see Burnette alive, based on that testimony and evidence.

Authorities found Burnette's body on July 4th about a block from that residence on Athens Pike.

The report says Wielzen later told officers that he had sex with Burnette in the home on June 30th. Wielzen told officers the sex was consensual, and happened inside the residence, while Burnette's boyfriend and others were outside. But the report says Burnette's autopsy revealed signs that she had undergone sexual trauma, and there was evidence that it had happened outside, not inside.

The autopsy revealed Burnette's official cause of death was severe cranial injury due to "blunt force head trauma," specifically due to "multiple severe blows to the head." Red paint was found on her skull, and that matched red paint on a metal baseball bat that was recovered in the back yard close to where Burnette's body was found.

The TBI took on the case shortly after it Burnette's identity was confirmed. Investigators confirmed three months after her death that she was a victim of homicide.

Wiezel was booked into the McMinn County Jail on Thursday, where he is still being held on an open court bond.

This is a developing story. Depend on NewsChannel 9 to bring you updates as we learn more.

More | Etowah pastors come together to pray after teenager found dead

More | Family of deceased Etowah teen demands justice and answers


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