Woman Charged in Husband's Death Had Two Passions, Family Says: Art and Drugs

Kristin Kozak, a muralist and painter with a tattoo parlor in Washington, attended college on an art scholarship but dropped out as a freshman.
Kristin Kozak, a muralist and painter with a tattoo parlor in Washington, attended college on an art scholarship but dropped out as a freshman. (Family Photo - )
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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Art is Kristin Kozak's passion. When she was in the third grade in a town outside Pittsburgh, her artwork won her a chance to attend a Montessori school. Ever since, drawing, painting and colors have been her life's love.

Most recently, she put her talents to use with needles and ink at her Liquidity Jones Tattoo and Piercing shop in Southeast Washington, which was featured in The Washington Post as well as national specialty publications such as Urban Ink magazine.

Although the shop had been doing well, there was another passion in Kozak's life, police and family members say: drugs.

Federal prosecutors say Kozak had crack cocaine in her system after she was arrested this month and charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 10 death of her husband, Michael Burnette-Bey.

Police say Kozak shot him once in the left temple and in the back. At her initial hearing Aug. 11 in D.C. Superior Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Cobb said that Kozak, who stood before a judge, trembling with her tattooed arms folded across her body, had tested positive for cocaine.

Kozak, 36, had chased her dream, hoping that her multicolored abstract murals and paintings would hang in galleries and homes throughout the country. But she never let go of the drugs, family members say. She could never reconcile her two passions, and ultimately the drugs won.

Kozak always adored bright, vivid colors, and she used them wherever she could: in murals and pencil sketches, in clothes and in her hair. After her parents divorced, Kozak's mother moved to Fairfax County when she and her brother, Jeff, were in grade school. Kozak kept drawing, and after graduating from West Springfield High School, she received an art scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University.

Frustrated with the art curriculum, Kozak dropped out of VCU her first year and started using drugs, family members say. A boyfriend introduced her to cocaine when she became disappointed with her stalled career. After they broke up, she could no longer afford to pay for the drug. So she found a cheaper substitute, crack.

"Drugs kept getting in her way," said her brother, Jeff Kozak, 35.

Kozak was at the center of a high-profile crime in the Washington area in 2005. Sh e and another boyfriend spent a week smoking crack in an Alexandria motel with a prominent Harvard-educated federal lawyer before the boyfriend beat the lawyer to death with a lead pipe.

She had met the killer, Dana E. Moro, in a drug detoxification clinic. "She was always meeting boyfriends in these rehab programs," her brother said.

Kozak and Moro spent days smoking crack cocaine in cheap motels along Route 1 in the Alexandria area, according to testimony in Moro's 2006 murder trial in Fairfax. In August 2005, she and Moro met Eric N. Miller, a Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer who had begun using drugs heavily. The three spent a week smoking crack in a motel.

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