The brutal death and by most accounts, savage torture of Nicholas Burdge, 23, of Main Street in Wellsville March 21, 2020 left plenty of broken hearts and a community in shock. Family was devastated, as were friends and community members, law enforcement and prosecutors. So to, was Shannon Ozzella, Crime Victims Coordinator for the Allegany County District Attorney’s Office. “This is probably one of the worst I seen,” Ozzella said during a one-on-one sit-down interview Wednesday afternoon…fresh from court after another guilty plea to manslaughter. In her nearly twenty-one-year career in Belmont, she somberly said “this is by far one of the worst. There were so many (people) involved and what they did…”
Burdge was restrained in a chair, beaten and stabbed for hours, before his young lifeless body was wrapped in a bag, dumped in a truck on Main Street and tossed in the Genesee River.
Ms. Ozzella began her career as a rape crisis counselor for Community Action in 1998. In 2000, she joined the Allegany County District Attorney’s Office. As Crime Victims Coordinator, she meets with victims and explains the criminal justice process, preparing them for testifying before grand juries and a trial. She assists victims with victim impact statements; writes orders of protection; speaks on behalf of victims at sentencing, assists with restitution orders; notifies victims when perpetrators are released from prison and makes sure victims receive counseling services when needed. She noted, “we’re not robots – we take this stuff home.”
Reflecting on the Burdge case to date, one of Wellsville’s most brutal crimes, Ozzella reflected on her interaction with Nick’s mother Teri Stanton of Olean. She noted that “the mother is struggling with the not knowing…the why…what possessed anyone to do that.” Stanton told Ozzella that she only knew one of Nick’s attackers…his good friend, which added to the sorrow.
We were provided with a 14-line victim impact statement from Stanton regarding one of the defendants, a young man who was later classified as a “youthful offender.” Stanton wrote, “I struggle with my feelings about your part in the murder…Nick thought a lot of you…I pray for you.” Ozzella called it one of the most “impacting” statements she has ever read. There have been other family members in the courtroom throughout this case. The pain in their face in evident as well.
In Shannon’s words: “I won’t lie to you. There has been plenty of crying on the way home. Sometimes that drive back to Olean where I live, is needed.” She added, “the struggle for me is I often don’t have the answers. I can give them justice, but I can’t bring a loved one back.” She ended with, “I’m the hand to hold and the shoulder to cry on.”
Courtroom action will continue next week, with another sentencing.