Former Miami-Dade commissioner killed; wife arrested on murder charge

Police believe Sonia Burke shot husband during domestic dispute at Georgia home

By Alexandra Fruin - Producer, Erica Rakow - Reporter, Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - The body of  former Miami-Dade County commissioner James "Jimmie" Burke was found in his Georgia home and his wife has been charged in his death.

Burke, 68, died from an apparent gunshot wound inside his Waycross, Georgia, home Saturday. 

The Waycross Police Department was called to the home after a woman called 911 saying she was having trouble breathing. When they arrived, police said Sonia Burke, 58, who was sitting on the couch, directed them to a second-floor bedroom that was locked from the inside, where the former commissioner's body was found. 

Sonia Burke was arrested on a murder charge. Police believe she shot her husband during a domestic dispute. She was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for a possible overdose. 

The Miami Herald reports that the pair married in 2014 and that Sonia Burke was the former commissioner's seventh wife.

"He was very, very concerned about the standard of living for American-Americans here in Miami-Dade County," Retha Boone-Fry, of the Miami-Dade County Black Affairs Advisory Board, said. 

Jimmie Burke was known for being a grassroots politician with a lot of energy. His political tenure ended after an FBI bribery and kickback investigation in the late 1990s.

He served 21 months in federal prison after being convicted. 

"He grew up in a disadvantaged community; he rose well above that," Ed Shohat, who served as Burke's attorney, said. "He did great things for this county, and he made a mistake, and he paid the price for that mistake."

Bonne-Fry agrees that Jimmie Burke made a positive impact when he was elected in 1993 in the first district-specific ballot, which increased African-American presence on the board. 

"As is in public office, whenever someone makes a mistake like that, people often remember," she said. "But those who knew him and knew him best know that he had the community's best interest at heart."

In Waycross, Jimmie Burke, stated a new life where he was involved in theater and married Sonia Burke.

Brianna Burke said that the family doesn't have "any hate" toward Sonia Burke.

"He'll be very missed," Brianna Burke said. "He was always there for the family."

Jimmie Burke's body was taken to the Savannah crime lab for further investigation.

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