True Crime

Evil step-mum: she kept my dad’s head in her handbag

Carolyn's dad was missing for years until the truth came out

Carolyn Burroughs, 49, thought her dad was happily married… until he disappeared.

Here, she tells the story in her own words.

You need to file a missing person’s report,’ my Uncle Ray told me and my brother Danny, 39. ‘He’s been gone two weeks. Something’s not right.’

It was a surprise to me that my dad, Daniel Burroughs, 61, had disappeared.

I’d only seen him two weeks earlier when I’d visited him and my step-mum, Loretta.

We’d spent a wonderful weekend drinking cocktails and singing karaoke in the garage with Danny and my daughter Amanda, 17.

Dad and Loretta had dated each other at school, but both had gone on to marry other people.

Years later, when Dad was divorced from his second wife, and Loretta’s husband had died, she looked him up on the internet and they had reconnected and married.

Carolyn's dad Daniel Burroughs
Carolyn’s dad Daniel

I liked Loretta. As a step-mum she was always loving towards me and Danny.

I couldn’t imagine what she must be going through now.

‘Loretta said your dad drove off with a younger woman,’ Uncle Ray said.

But he hadn’t taken any clothes or even his toothbrush. It didn’t add up.

When I called Loretta, she was hysterical.

Uncle Ray filed the missing person’s report with the police and called everyone who knew Dad.

We even made posters and created a Facebook page.

But one year passed, then two… Loretta sold the house and moved away. We didn’t see or hear from her.

The story about Dad leaving just didn’t add up and we suspected Loretta had done something.

Our family asked the police to investigate but with no body, there was no probable cause to even search her house.

I tried to get on with my life as best I could.

But for six years, Dad was always on my mind.

Then in May 2013, I was having a garage sale when I found two green stones with writing on − one with ‘forever’ and the other with ‘Dad’. It felt like a sign.

Just an hour later, my mum, Carol, rang.

‘They’ve found your dad,’ she said.

My heart started to beat so fast, I could barely breathe.

‘Where was he?’ I asked.

Carolyn and Daniel Burroughs
Dad and me in our last photo together

‘In Loretta’s closet,’ Mum said.

I didn’t understand, so I got in the car and drove to Mum’s house, which was surrounded by news crews.

I found out the police had been investigating Loretta on embezzlement charges and had obtained a search warrant for her house.

While there, they smelled something horrific coming from the guest bedroom wardrobe − a smell they knew was decomposition.

In one plastic container they had found my dad’s severed head in a handbag wrapped in duct tape and plastic bags.

The rest of my dad – chopped into pieces – was wrapped in bags in another plastic container.

Loretta had regularly put scented dryer sheets and air freshener beads in with his dismembered body to try to mask the smell but there was no disguising it to the police.

Loretta was arrested and charged with murder.

In court, she pleaded not guilty, and in March 2015, her trial began.

The details that emerged were horrifying.

The court heard Loretta had stabbed Dad in the back with a butcher’s knife because she didn’t want to relocate.

She then stabbed him in the chest and pushed his dying body into the bathtub where she left him for four days while she went on holiday with her daughter, Nicole.

Carolyn with her dad and daughter
Me and Dad with Amanda.I wish her could see us now

When she got home, the blood had drained from his body so she buried him in the backyard.

Then she dug him up, dismembered his body, wrapped his head up in one bag and put his legs and torso in a container.

She had moved his body when she’d sold the house they had shared and kept it stored away.

Loretta then sold the second house and was about to move into her new place and take Dad’s remains with her again.

I was so angry. Nobody deserved that.

‘This defendant killed her husband in cold blood, eviscerated his corpse and placed him in Tupperware to rot for seven years,’ the prosecutor said.

Thankfully, she was found guilty.

Loretta Doyle Burroughs, 63, was sentenced to 55 years in jail. She’ll die behind bars.

Carolyn and her mum
Me and Mum

At her sentencing, Assistant Atlantic County Prosecutor Kathleen Bond said, ‘Her actions are unimaginable, the stuff of nightmares and horror movies.’

I feel that justice was done – she can never harm anyone else again.

For me, it was a bit of closure but it doesn’t erase the horror of losing my dad.

Still, I decided I owed it to him to get on with my life and be happy.

I’m engaged to a marvellous man, Mike.

I’m also studying criminal science inspired by what happened to Dad. And I’m soon to be a grandma
– Amanda is having my first grandchild in January, a little girl called Caroline.

I wish Dad was here to see my life now but I believe he’s watching us and he would be so thrilled.

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