Alice Burgess: A Family Walks With Ghosts
Posted: Jan. 9, 2008 11:27 a.m.
Updated: Jan. 9, 2008 11:28 a.m.
VANCE COUNTY Michael Burgess spent much of his teenage years at the cemetery, but no matter where he is, he walks among ghosts of his past.

They loom large – his father, who died in prison, his sister Amanda, who died of cancer at 16, and his mother, who was brutally murdered when he was 9.

He left Henderson at 17 and didn’t look back. At some point, the town had become an emblem of everything he hated – chaos, loss and despair. But he goes back every so often because the town holds secrets, kept from him for 30 years.

He wonders who his mother was. When he was 9, she was all he had. She was pretty and strong-willed, twice divorced and hard-working, he doesn’t remember wanting anything when she was around. Then she was gone, and he wonders who killed her.

He has plenty of people from which to choose – in the decades since she was killed suspects have come and gone and some have stayed around. Self-deprecating and broken, Michael admits he doesn’t know what an arrest would solve for him. He’s so used to not knowing, he doesn’t know what justice is, much less what it would change. But it’s not about that, he says. It’s what his mom deserves.