Fairfax Judge Presided Over 'Roy Rogers' Murder Case

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Burch Millsap, 85, a retired Fairfax County Circuit Court judge who in 1976 presided over one of the region's most infamous murder trials, died June 6 of lung disease at Suburban Hospital. He had lived in Silver Spring in recent years.

Judge Millsap was appointed to the court in 1968 after 18 years as a lawyer in private practice in Northern Virginia. His most notorious case was the trial of James L. Breeden in the "Roy Rogers" murders.

Breeden, a 40-year-old ex-convict who first ran afoul of the law when he was 11, was charged with robbing a Roy Rogers restaurant in Fairfax in March 1976. He was accused of herding five people into the restaurant's freezer and shooting them in the head. Four people were killed, and one survived.

The trial's proceedings stretched across four months and included several outbursts by Breeden, who clashed with courtroom personnel and once smashed a window with his handcuffed fists. In jail, he broke the jaw of a fellow inmate. Judge Millsap denied countless defense attempts to delay the trial or have the charges dismissed.

A woman who survived the incident despite being shot twice in the head, and whose husband was one of the victims, testified at the trial and identified Breeden as the killer. A jury convicted Breeden of four counts of murder and one count of malicious wounding. Judge Millsap sentenced him to five life terms, plus 20 years. Breeden died in prison a few years ago.

Judge Millsap retired from the court in 1983 and moved to Englewood, Fla.

He was born in Mansfield, Mo., and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II as an airplane mechanic. After the war, he attended the University of Maryland and worked as a clerk with the FBI. He graduated from law school at American University in 1950.

He practiced law, with a specialty in zoning and real estate law, at the Falls Church firm of Gibson, Hix, Millsap and Hansbarger until his appointment to the bench.

He enjoyed playing golf.

His wife of 56 years, Martha V. Millsap, died in 2004.

Survivors include two children, Brian A. Millsap of Sandia Park, N.M., and Carol Bryant of Bowie; a twin sister; and four granddaughters.

-- Matt Schudel

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