Genesee Co. sheriff offers new details on Lennon cold case

Michael Bur is accused of killing Mary Prieur in Lennon in 1997.
Michael Bur is accused of killing Mary Prieur in Lennon in 1997.(Genesee County Sheriff's Office)
Updated: Nov. 17, 2021 at 10:40 AM EST
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LENNON, Mich. (WNEM) - Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson offered new details about Mary Prieur’s life and the forensic information that led to solving her 24-year-old cold case.

In a press conference Wednesday, Swanson credited the solving of Prieur’s cold case to forensic evidence and DNA.

“Science is a great partner in solving cases, and that’s what we did,” he said.

According to Swanson, evidence was taken in 1997 from Michael Bur, the man who has been arrested in connection to the death of 88-year-old Prieur, which Michigan State Police crime labs compared to evidence found at the scene.

“Not every police officer wears a gun and a badge. They many times are behind the scenes, including the labs,” Swanson said. “They wear white lab coats.”

According to Swanson, the DNA taken from Bur matches the DNA found at the scene to the nearest one in 1.9 octillion.

“That’s 26 zeros for this guy,” Swanson said.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton echoed Swanson’s sentiments, calling science “the great equalizer.”

“The best piece of evidence that we have is that one in octillion chance that it’s not this individual, and while we’ll do our talking in a courtroom, I think it’s a proper statement for me to tell you that we have that DNA evidence,” Leyton said. “We have evidence that I am convinced comes from the victim, comes from the accused, match up, and in fact, we will be able to present that in a courtroom.”

Swanson and Leyton also confirmed drag marks were found at the crime scene, leading from Prieur’s house to the swampy, wooded area where she was found, just behind her home.

They also confirmed they have a witness to the crime who is available to testify, though no additional details regarding that witness are available.

Swanson also offered additional details about Prieur’s life prior to her murder.

She was married to Leonard Prieur, and they lived together in Flint where they owned a candy store called Sweet Marie’s Candy before they closed it and moved to Lennon.

Swanson also said she was a devout Catholic and attended mass six days a week for the six years she lived in Lennon, splitting her time between Saint Mary’s in Swartz Creek and Saint Michael’s in New Lothrop.

“Mary loved people and she loved her little dog, Poopsie. She went everywhere with this little dog,” Swanson said. “Mary also was a fixture within the town. She was very routine, and she would be seen walking back and forth through the small town of Lennon to what used to be the Lennon Café. Every day for lunch and dinner she would get half a sandwich and a cup of soup with her little dog Poopsie. So when it happened, it shocked the entire town of Lennon.”

Swanson and Leyton hope a conviction will bring a sense of closure and peace to Prieur’s family.

“Ultimately, what we all want here is closure for the victim’s family,” Leyton said. “When you lose a loved one in such a brutal manner, it never goes away from your mind. You never have a peaceful day where you can stop thinking about it, and the only way we can try to provide some peace of mind is through the courtroom, the presentation of the evidence, and hopefully a conviction.”

If found guilty, Bur faces convictions of felony murder, kidnapping, and criminal sexual assault, each carrying potential life sentences.

“I kept an obituary on my desk for decades so I never lost focus,” Swanson said, insisting he never forgot about Prieur and he worked hard since first coming onto the case in 2002 to bring her killer to justice.

“When you have a case like this that has so many details and so many different trails that you have to go on, it takes a lot of time,” Swanson said. “What got us here is years and years of persistency, consistency, and hope.”