A Long Island woman is charged with attempted murder after she allegedly put antifreeze in her estranged husband’s drinks -- while their two children were present.
Renee Burke, 40, of Holbrook, is also charged with burglary, assault, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of criminal contempt, according to NBC News.
"It's not only disturbing that the defendant attempted to murder her estranged husband, but that she did so in the presence of children," Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement Thursday.
Sini, who spoke at a brief news conference following Burke's arraignment, said the defendant, who is locked in a bitter custody battle with her estranged husband, Matthew Burke, is accused of breaking into his apartment at least three times in September and poisoning his wine and soda with the chemical coolant. Matthew Burke has primary custody of the couple's 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and, according to Newsday, a family court judge limited Renee Burke's visitation and issued protective orders to stop her from harming the children.
Sini said that Renee Burke enlisted the help of her young daughter in at least one of the incidents. Both children allegedly witnessed the drink tampering, NBC News reported.
“Mommy put something in Daddy’s drink,” the 4-year-old told a babysitter after one incident, prosecutors allege.
NBC News said Matthew Burke drank from a glass of wine and a glass of soda on two separate occasions but spit the drink out after noticing a strange taste and odor.
He called police on Sept. 10 to report his suspicions, the network reported. Investigators took the drinks for testing and asked Matthew Burke to install a surveillance system inside his home.
The cameras recorded Renee Burke inside the apartment two days later. Sini said the footage of that final incident showed the couple's daughter holding baby bottles filled with antifreeze for her mother as Renee Burke poured the chemical into a wine bottle.
"When questioned by police, the defendant claimed she poured fruit juice into the victim's wine bottle to water it down," Sini said.
Detectives recovered multiple beverage bottles from Matthew Burke's apartment that, when tested, showed the presence of ethylene glycol, a chemical in antifreeze that is deadly when ingested, according to the district attorney.
Sini said a search warrant for Renee Burke's home turned up a bottle of pink-colored Prestone antifreeze. Investigators also searched Renee Burke's cellphone, on which they found searches for "antifreeze with alcohol," "what liquids for cars can kill a human" and "can antifreeze kill a human," the district attorney said.
“The evidence in this case is strong and we will prosecute this dangerous individual to the fullest extent of the law,” Sini said.
Renee Burke was booked into the Suffolk County Jail, from which she was released after posting bond. If convicted of the attempted murder charge, she faces up to 25 years in prison.
A judge issued an order of protection Thursday banning the defendant from having contact with her children.
She wrote on her Facebook page Thursday that she'd had "an eventful day."
"I have spent the entire day being reminded that evil and lies never win," she wrote. "I have once again been reminded that if you have faith in God, he will never let you down even when it seems like there is no hope. I want to remind my friends and family that I love them with all my heart and my children are my life and (I) will pray that they will one day understand that they never have to be afraid to tell the truth."
Matthew Burke’s attorney, Rick Stafford, said his client is grateful the charges have been filed.
"He feels he can sleep at night now," Stafford told Newsday.
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