The Deck - Kyle Byrtus (8 of Hearts, Florida)

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Our card this week is Kyle Burtis, the Eight of Hearts from Florida.

Today’s episode is a special one to me for two reasons.

One, because Kyle’s mom, Lynn, actually reached out to us about covering her son’s


And two, because I’m going to tell you his story differently than I typically do.

Today we’re going to walk through Kyle’s case the way Lynn had to, remaining in the

dark for years about so many things, and then finding out information about her son

and his murder the way no victim’s loved one should.

I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.

Around 5.30 in the evening on August 15, 2013, Lynn Krieger and her husband Gary were at

a restaurant in Laurel, Mississippi, enjoying a nice dinner after visiting with some family,

when Gary got a text from an unknown number.

He just looks at it and says, I don’t know who that is, because it just said, please

call me.

We didn’t know who it was.

The phone rang.

He ignored it.

And it was a text message, again, if this is Kyle Burtis’ parents, please call us.

Lynn told Gary she’d take care of it, so she stepped outside and called the number.

The man who answered identified himself as a detective with the Lee County Sheriff’s

Office in Florida, where Lynn and Gary lived.

He asked where we were.

And I said, we were in Mississippi visiting family.

I said, what’s wrong?

He said, well, where exactly are you?

And I said, we’re in Laurel, Mississippi, at such-and-such restaurant.

What is the problem?

Can you tell me?

I mean, at this point in time, I started crying.

I said, is my son okay?

What’s going on?

Well, where are you staying?

So I told him the hotel we were staying at, because we will have two local officers to

meet you there.

And I said, by this time, I was frantic.

I didn’t know what was going on.

Their phone call ended with Lynn still in the dark.

Her head was spinning.

She knew her son was struggling recently with substance use disorder, so she was immediately

worried that he had overdosed.

That worry gnawed at her as she and Gary quickly returned to their hotel and waited for law


Lynn’s stomach sank further with every passing minute.

After an hour of waiting for someone to knock on their hotel room door, she was tired of

waiting, so she called the detective back.

I said, nobody’s showing up.

I said, what is going on?

I said, please, I can’t, you know, we have to know what’s going on.

So he said, let me call you back.

After another 30 minutes of waiting, the detective called Lynn.

He apologized and told her what he was about to do was a bit unconventional, but he didn’t

want her to have to wait any longer.

After the phone, he delivered the devastating news that her 25-year-old son, Kyle, her only

child, was dead.

And my first thought was, was it, I said, was it a drug overdose?

And they said, no.

The second thought was, is it a self-infliction?

And they said, no, we believe it to be a homicide.

The detective asked to interview her and Gary once they got back into town so they could

hopefully start figuring out what happened to Kyle and why.

Of course, Lynn was gutted and overflowing with questions and emotions, but she wanted

more than anything to help find her son’s killer.

So right then and there, she and Gary hopped in their car and drove the 11 hours through

the night back to their home in Lee County, Florida.

Once there, investigators came over to interview Lynn.

Police told her that Kyle had been found by a Lee County electric cooperative worker just

before 12.30 p.m. on the 15th.

He had been fatally shot and was lying in a secluded field in rural Lee County.

Detectives asked Lynn if she knew of anyone who had it out for Kyle recently or wanted

him dead.

But Lynn hadn’t spoken to Kyle in two months.

And even then, it was just a quick call from jail.

He’d been arrested for petty theft, and he was asking Lynn to bail him out.

Since Lynn hadn’t spoken to Kyle in so long, she couldn’t offer specific information about

if he had enemies or had gotten into any fights recently.

But she was able to shed some light on the lifestyle that he’d been living for the past

few years.

Lynn explained that in January 2012, she got a call from a friend of Kyle’s who said that

Kyle was struggling with substance use disorder and had been abusing oxycodone.

This was the first we ever heard of it.

We never, ever knew he was on any type of drugs.

After that, Lynn convinced Kyle to move back home and live with his grandparents for a


And it seemed like things were looking up.

But it wasn’t long before one of Kyle’s close friends suddenly passed away, and he turned

back to drugs to cope with the pain.

Kyle’s struggles with oxycodone morphed into heroin use, and soon he was committing petty

theft to finance his addictions.

Lynn said he even went as far as stealing two of their guns and some of her jewelry.

She told investigators that the last she knew, Kyle was living in the Pine Manor area of

Lee County, possibly on the streets in a tent.

According to Southwest Florida Crimestoppers manager Trish Raut, Pine Manor is known as

a particularly crime-challenged part of town.

So Pine Manor is a part of Lee County where you’ve got a lot of low-income families that

just can’t afford to live anywhere else.

Unfortunately, it’s also an area of Lee County that drug dealers tend to gravitate to.

Some people have called it Crime Manor because of the people that tend to live there.

And, you know, it’s kind of sad because there’s a lot of really good families who live in

that neighborhood, and they just don’t have the financial wherewithal to get out.

And Pine Manor is literally a very small area.

We’re talking maybe six, seven blocks.

I mean, it’s not like this big swath of Lee County.

It’s a very small neighborhood.

But there’s a lot of bad stuff that happens in that neighborhood.

Now having a good understanding of who Kyle was and the people he associated with, authorities

kicked off their investigation.

And this is where the timeline gets kind of muddy.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office backed out of doing an interview with us, so unfortunately,

we weren’t able to walk through every step of the investigation with them.

As far as Lynn knew, her son’s case was creeping along at a snail’s pace, if that.

Police weren’t sharing anything with her unless she called them first.

So naturally, she was growing frustrated.

In the months following Kyle’s death, his face disappeared from the newspapers, and

his story faded from the minds of the public.

Lynn worried that his case had been thrown to the wayside because of the high-risk lifestyle

that he was leading up to the point of his death.

But that’s not the Kyle that Lynn had loved for 25 years.

Before his life became consumed by drugs, Kyle spent his days pouring love and laughter

into the world.

Lynn told us one of her favorite memories of Kyle is from elementary school.

He was nominated for president of his class in second grade.

And so he got up and stood on his chair at his desk.

And being that elections were right after Halloween, he had his Halloween candy.

And he was taking his Halloween candy and throwing it out at all the class and saying,

I’ve got more where this comes from.

Just vote for me and I’ll share my candy with you or something like that.

It was really kind of funny.

That charm and charisma would follow him into his teenage years.

He was the kind of guy who got along with anybody.

His classmates in high school would say that he was inclusive of everyone.

Lynn told us that Kyle’s friends from high school would send her messages and letters

detailing how big of an impact he had on their lives.

One friend wrote to her in part, quote, I continue to run through countless memories

where something would happen or someone would make a joke and we would be on the ground

laughing until we were crying.

He was almost always smiling, happy and fun to be around.

End quote.

Long before Kyle’s death, Lynn felt like she had lost the son she knew and loved to drugs.

A world that he quickly got swept up in after going off to college about three hours away.

But in the months leading up to his death, Lynn had a feeling she was so close to getting

the son she treasured back.

He had expressed interest in recovery in the past and he was on the right track until his

friend passed away.

Lynn hoped that it was just a matter of time before he was ready to turn things around


But whoever killed Kyle stole that opportunity from him.

And Lynn knew that the only way she’d ever identify that coward was to make sure the

community never forgot about Kyle’s case.

So Lynn started meeting with Southwest Florida Crimestoppers, specifically Trish Rout, looking

for ways to renew the publicity and keep Kyle’s story in the spotlight.

Over the next few years, Kyle’s family and Crimestoppers did everything they could

think of to get answers.

They increased the Crimestoppers’ reward twice, they put up a billboard in Pine Manor

hoping the right person would see it, they did media blitzes, and they mailed out postcards

about Kyle’s case to every mailbox in Pine Manor.

But they got nothing.

The families pleased the community seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Lynn remained determined but was growing increasingly frustrated with the pace of the investigation.

And that frustration only grew in 2021 when she got a call.

A year ago, I got a call from Lee County Sheriff’s Department, the evidence room, and they asked

me if I had reported a gun stolen.

And I said, yes.

I said, well, we have it here in the evidence room.

Do you want it back?

We’re getting ready to destroy it.

And I’m like, has it gone through forensic, you know, just in case?

I said, my son stole that from us back in 2013.

And he was murdered.

She’s like, oh, he was?

She goes, who’s your detective?

So I gave her detective information.

And I said, how long?

I said, what do you mean you’re destroying it?

How long have you had it?

How long has it been sitting here since 2015?

To say Lynn was speechless is the understatement of the century.

I mean, one of her guns that her murdered son had stolen just before his death that

she thought all this time was still MIA had been in evidence at the sheriff’s office

since 2015.

And not only had no one told her, which in and of itself is troublesome, it seemed like

no one thought of the possibility that the stolen gun could maybe be connected to her

son’s 2013 homicide.

Like, did anyone check to see if that was the gun that killed her son?

Lynn did some asking around.

And although she never really got answers as to how this thing was overlooked, she did

get her biggest question answered.

Long story short, they did send the gun off for forensics.

It wasn’t the gun that killed Kyle, which part of me is glad.

I didn’t want it to be our gun that killed him.

It was good to have that answer, but the whole fiasco really rubbed Lynn the wrong way.

If that slipped through the cracks, what else had?

The answer to that question came one year later, when she learned that the gun was only

the tip of the iceberg of things that she hadn’t been told about.

In October 2022, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office released an episode of their podcast

Seeking Closure, Lee County’s Cold Cases.

The episode went in-depth about Kyle’s case, releasing more information than ever before.

And most of the information released was brand new to Lynn.

Here’s the story that their podcast told about Kyle’s final days and homicide.

In the weeks leading up to Kyle’s death, he was living in a home in Pine Manor that

was a well-known drug house.

He lived there with a few other people, but the Sheriff’s Office specifically named

two of his roommates, Jesus Torres, who went by the nickname Choo-Choo, and Choo-Choo’s

girlfriend, Tatiana Martinez.

Choo-Choo was kind of the boss of the drug house, but he answered to two other guys who

lived elsewhere, Luis Santiago, aka Bebe, and Bebe’s younger brother, Carlos, who

went by Bebo.

Bebe was the underboss and Choo-Choo’s supplier.

Now Choo-Choo himself struggled with substance use disorder, so at some point he started

using his own supply, which turned into quite the problem.

Since he was using the drugs he was supposed to be dealing out, he kept coming up short

on the money that he was supposed to be paying Bebe and Bebo.

As time went on, Choo-Choo was racking up quite the debt, and he simply didn’t have

the money to pay.

So Choo-Choo came up with a plan to just steal the cash that he needed.

He wasn’t going to rob just anybody, though.

He wanted to rob Bebe’s house, which he knew was ripe with wads of cash.

And who did Choo-Choo recruit to help him with the robbery?


Near the beginning of August 2013, Choo-Choo and Kyle made their move.

In the middle of the night, they broke into Bebe’s home and stole $3,000 cash, along

with roughly 400 bags of heroin.

Choo-Choo was smart, though.

Before using the money he stole from Bebe to pay back his debt, he checked the bills

for any kind of markings that would give it away.

Now, he didn’t find any such markings, so he took some of the cash and paid back his

debt right away.

But just an hour or so after that transaction, Choo-Choo got a call that left him, Kyle,

and Tatiana shaking in their boots.

It was Bebe’s brother, Bebo.

And basically, he said, the jig is up.

Bebe had marked the bills in a specific way so he knew that they’d paid him back with

stolen money.

Choo-Choo, Tatiana, and Kyle were freaked out.

They packed up everything and moved into a hotel, hoping Bebe wouldn’t be able to find


But it turned out that that $3,000 they stole would become the least of their worries.

Because they had robbed Bebe, they also got blamed for another recent robbery of a different

big boss.

In the podcast episode, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office didn’t specify who the other big

boss was.

In a soundbite from an interview with Tatiana, it sounds like she says Danny or Daddy, but

it’s hard to tell.

Because the Sheriff’s Office declined to participate in an interview for this episode,

we simply don’t have the answer as to who the other boss was.

But whatever the case, whoever he was, the big boss’s house was robbed of more than


Tatiana told the Sheriff’s Office that she, Choo-Choo, and Kyle had nothing to do with

that robbery, but they were still blamed for it.

For days, the three of them remained on the run, hopping from hotel to hotel.

But eventually, they ran out of money and eventually had to return to their drug house

in Pine Manor.

As the days passed, Tatiana was getting the impression that Bebe wasn’t mad at them

anymore for stealing the $3,000.

It seemed like he was more concerned about protecting them from the wrath of the big


Tatiana told the Sheriff’s Office that she even got a friendly call from Bebe on August

14, inviting her over, but she declined.

She said that she was at the house with Kyle and that the two of them needed to figure

out what they were going to be doing the following day.

Little did Tatiana know, she made a grave mistake on that phone call by divulging that

Kyle was back to living at the drug house.

She was dead wrong about Bebe not being mad anymore.

Choo-Choo got a call from either Bebe or Bebo, and they told him that they were going to

hunt him down and kill him.

After that, Choo-Choo had had enough.

He fled southwest Florida immediately.

Tatiana took that as her cue to leave, too.

But as she was on her way to the airport, she was stopped by law enforcement and taken

into custody.

Now, it’s not clear what she was arrested for, like, did she have an outstanding warrant

for her arrest?

If so, for what?

Again, these are questions I don’t have answers to since the Lee County Sheriff’s

Office refused to participate.

But even though Tatiana was arrested, the podcast indicates that Choo-Choo is still

on the run to this very day.

Now, it was the very next day, August 15, that that electric worker found Kyle.

That man was driving around in Lee County when he saw a bunch of buzzards all gathered

around in a field.

He thought it was just a dead animal, but as he got closer, he saw a tennis shoe.

So he called 911.

Kyle’s hands were bound behind his back, and he had gunshot wounds to the head, torso,

and right forearm.

The Sheriff’s Office concluded their podcast episode with theories about what happened,

like that Kyle was killed by the big boss for the robbery.

Or possibly during one of his smaller thefts, maybe he’d stolen from the wrong person

and they came after him.

Listen, there’s a long list of questions I have for the Sheriff’s Office after listening

to their podcast.

Like have they ever tracked down Bebe and Bebo and talked to them?

What about that big boss?

All questions I’m sure Lynn had as she was listening to the podcast, hearing all of this

information for the very first time.

I did not know there were multiple gunshots.

I did not know his hands were tied behind his back.

None of the names that were mentioned in the podcast, I’d never heard them before.

There was one I had heard, and that was only because she put a post on Kyle’s Facebook

page that says, I can’t believe you’re gone, I just saw you last night.

But yes, all of that information is mind-blowing.

They never called me ahead of time to tell me any of that information.

As a mom who spent nearly every waking moment of the last nine years thinking about her

son and his case, Lynn was furious that she had to learn all of this information through

a podcast at the same time as the rest of the world.

About a month after the episode was released, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office did end up

having a meeting with Lynn where they apologized for publicly releasing information that she

didn’t know.

And get this, they told her that they simply didn’t know that she didn’t know.

Now, in all fairness, Lynn did say that there’s been quite a bit of turnover as far as Lee

detectives on Kyle’s case.

So it is very possible that something could have been miscommunicated or lost in all of

the shuffle.

But that does little to cool her frustration.

It’s just like, don’t you have notes of, you know, what people told me and what they didn’t

tell me?

The way the sheriff’s office handled their podcast episode remains a point of irritation

for Lynn.

But ultimately, it was more publicity and more media attention for her son’s case.

Something that she is always grateful for and always seeking out in hopes of getting

justice for Kyle.

Lynn lives every day of her life thinking, what can I do today?

What you know, who can I talk to?

You know, she’ll email me and she’ll go, hey, you know, have you heard about this organization?

You know, what do you think?

Should we send her?

She’s always looking for another venue, another outlet, another person to talk to, another

group to talk to.

I do admire Lynn so much and I admire her strength and I admire her tenacity.

She’s never going to back down.

That is to the case’s advantage.

You know, and I pray for Lynn to finally get to a place where she sees justice served and

the person responsible in prison for life and she can start focusing on the healing

process because until that day happens, she’s not going to be able to heal.

She’s going on with her life as best as she can, but she can’t go on to that next chapter

until this one’s finished.

Right now, we’re not there.

We’re not at a place where we’re moving forward.

We’re standing still and that is extremely frustrating.

I know for me, I can’t even imagine, you know, Lynn’s pain and I talk to Lynn quite often

and, you know, I just, as a mom, I cannot imagine the pain that she goes through.

Lynn told us the reason that she pushes so hard for justice and never lets up is because

she doesn’t have any other option.

There’s no one else that’s going to do it but me.

Is the grief overwhelming?

I don’t really believe I have fully grieved yet because I’m so focused on keeping this

out there.

I’ve had my moments and the last couple of weeks have been really rough, but now I just

try to find ways to keep this out here, to keep it out, you know, in the forefront.

Lynn and Trish hope that when people remember Kyle and think of his case, they don’t just

think about his struggles.

They hope he’s also remembered for all the good that he brought into the world and the

lives of those around him.

Kyle was a good kid.

Kyle made some bad decisions, but he was a good kid.

He had a family and friends that loved him insanely.

Somebody needs to do right by Kyle.

With every year that passes, we hope people change, you know, people that were hanging

around Kyle and doing some things they shouldn’t have been doing nine years ago, you know,

that’s a lot of growing up to do in nine years.

And we know that the answers are out there, but the people that were involved in Kyle’s

circle aren’t ones to be good citizens and to speak up about things that they see or

hear or know are going wrong.

So that’s been a point of contention in this case, because when you’re dealing with people

that aren’t necessarily on the up and up, it’s very difficult to get the truth.

And, you know, every year that passes, every August that passes, you know, we always hope

we don’t want to be here next August talking about it’s the anniversary again, but every

year we find ourselves in the same position and it’s beyond frustrating and upsetting.

Lynn and the rest of Kyle’s friends and family have waited nearly a decade for justice.

It is time they get some answers.

If you know anything about the murder of Kyle Burtis in 2013, please reach out to the Lee

County Sheriff’s Office at 239-477-1000 or you can call the Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers

at 1-800-780-TIPS.

That’s 1-800-780-8477 and you can remain anonymous.

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