Justin Burns
Justin Burns

Justin Burns, Former Cal State Fullerton Hoops Star, Arrested in Ex-Girlfriend's Murder

Yesterday, Gustavo brought the sad tale of Bobby Joyce, a former Santa Ana High School basketball star and University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) Running Rebel arrested for allegedly robbing a Vietnam War vet confined to a wheelchair.

Now comes word that another young Orange County hoops standout has been arrested--for murder.

Justin Burns, who at least one scout pegged as the top prospect on the Cal State Fullerton Titans in 2006-07, was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, Wednesday on suspicion of killing a West Covina woman in Las Vegas last November.

Burns, 27, had been a suspect ever since the nude body of 25-year-old Michele Carson was found by target shooters in the Nevada desert under a stack of blackened rocks, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

One of those who found her said part of the woman's arm was sticking out from the pile, which appeared to have been set on fire with a flammable liquid such as gasoline. Her fingertips were missing, and her right arm and some of her hair were badly burned.

According to police and her family, Carson had an on- and off-again relationship with Burns since both attended Cal State Fullerton. He left school shortly before graduation, returned briefly to try to get his degree, and then ultimately dropped out for good, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, which characterized Burns as nearly homeless at the time of his arrest.

He and Carson, a 2008 criminal-justice graduate, had tried to rekindle the romance sometime before she and a companion went to Las Vegas to visit friends. The companion returned after about a week, but Carson remained, changing hotels at least three times before she went missing, according to the Trib.

Burns was arrested after a search warrant was served at the home of a family member in Mississippi, say police, who declined to state what evidence led them to their suspect.

Nicknamed "Spiderman" (but not to be confused with UC Irvine's Darren "Spider-Man" Moore), Burns attended Central Park Christian prep school in Birmingham, Alabama, and Cypress College before transferring to Cal State Fullerton, where he played from 2004 to 2007. Michael "Spider" Burns, Justin's father, played basketball for UNLV.

Though small for a center at 6-foot-5, Justin Burns could "jump out of the gym," Titans athletic director Brian Quinn tells the Trib.

"It is so unlike his personality," Burns' coach Bob Burton also told the daily. "He was a really bright kid, fun to coach, did a great job for us. I was always disappointed he didn't graduate."

Later, he added:

"He was never a violent person. People really liked him. This is really depressing news for me."

"Burns is one of the most likeable guys to ever play at Fullerton," reads Scout.com's 2006-07 preview. "You root for Justin Burns. I hope he has the senior year that he wants out of himself. He is the only proven commodity out of this bunch."

At the time of the Trib report, Burns was awaiting extradition to Las Vegas, where he was expected to be held without bail while awaiting trial for his ex-sweetheart's murder.


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