Inmate Charged in Murder of Officer Found Dead at Pendleton Correctional Facility

PENDLETON, Ind. – The suspect in the killing of Richmond police officer Seara Burton has been found deceased at Pendleton Correctional Facility. Phillip M. Lee, awaiting trial for Burton’s murder, was discovered unresponsive in his cell early Thursday morning by Indiana State Police. Despite efforts to resuscitate him, Lee was pronounced dead.

Indian State Police, in collaboration with the Madison County Coroner’s Office and Indiana Department of Correction, are conducting an investigation into Lee’s passing. While toxicology results and an autopsy are pending, authorities do not suspect foul play in his death.

Lee faced charges of murder and attempted murder following an incident in August 2022 when he shot Officer Burton and exchanged gunfire with other officers. Burton and her K9 companion were responding to a call for a traffic stop, where they encountered Lee on a moped. The K9 signaled drugs, prompting Lee to fire shots at the officers, ultimately injuring Burton who tragically passed away in September 2022 after an extended hospital stay.

Lee’s trial had faced delays due to legal complications and at one point, he had planned to represent himself. Court records had indicated that his trial was scheduled for February 2025. The loss of Officer Burton had profoundly impacted the community, leading to an outpouring of support and tributes in her honor. Her dedication to serving and protecting the public will forever be remembered by her colleagues and loved ones.

The circumstances surrounding Lee’s death at the correctional facility have raised questions about the safety and security measures in place for inmates. The tragic outcome has underscored the risks faced by law enforcement officers in the line of duty and the importance of ensuring their well-being and protection while carrying out their responsibilities.

As the investigation into Lee’s death continues, authorities are striving to provide answers and closure to the family, friends, and colleagues of Officer Burton. The legacy of Officer Burton serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those in law enforcement and the impact of their service on the communities they serve.