Richard E. Burke, the top aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass), has been the target of a campaign of terror in the last two weeks, including death threats, a bullet that narrowly missed his head when it was fired into his sports car, and a break-in at his Northwest Washington Home by an intruder armed with a butcher knife.
Although no motive has been determined for the incidents, which have included a letter, two written notes and seven telephone calls, the Secret Service entered the investigation because one of the notes also contained a threat against President Reagan's son, Ron.
Burke, a wealthy 27-year-old bachelor, has hired the private detective agency of Charles F. Vance, husband of Susan Ford, for around-the-clock protection.
"It's absurd. It's like a bad dream. It's very scary," Burke said late last night in a telephone inteview. "Iconsider myself a nice guy. I go to church on Sunday, and all that. There's no rhyme or reason to it."
Kennedy, who has been out of town all week and was visiting his ailing mother yesterday in Palm Beach Fla., has been kept fully informed of the developments invloving Burke.
Law enforcement and Capitol Hill sources yesterday sketched a series of incidents that have led to the creation f a task force of investigators, including the D.C. police, Secret Service, FBI, Capitol Police and private investigators, who say they are baffled and have no suspects.
The threats escalated last week.
Early Sunday morning as he arrived home, Burke said he found a note on his door form a D.C. police sargeant who had been watching Burke's home.The sergeant's note said he had stopped by that evening and found a threatening note on the door and had taken it to be analyzed.
A short time later, someone heaved a rock, shattering a window. Burke called the police. Officers checked out the sprawling home that sits in the 3700 block of W Street on a large wooded lot in a fashionable section of Glover Park. The officers found no one and left.
Then, about 4 a.m., as Burke was turning out the lights in a gym and office upstairs adjacent to his bedroom and going to his bed, his burglar alarm began emitting a low warning hum. A minute later, someone climbed the stairs and began pounding on a locked door to a small sitting room that leads to his bedroom from the opposite direction of the gym. At the same moment his present alarm switched to loud, piercing screeching, Burke heard a "thud" at the door and hid in a closet.
The intruder fled. When police arrived, the officers found a butcher knife from Burke's kitchen stuck in the door and found open a lower-floor door leading to a deck and swimming pool. But the intruder escaped.
Last Monday night, as he left his house and got into his blue, two-door 1978 BMW 320-I to go out for the evening, someone fired a bullet, which came very close to his head, Burke said.
A search of the car failed to recover the bullet, which entered the left back seat window and passed through a panel on the right front door.
On Wednesday, Burke received a letter at his Capitol Hill office, but a secretary did not open it until Thursday. Although Burke declined to discuss its contents, associates said the typewritten letter said, "We missed you with the knife, we'll get you with the gun." The letter had been mailed in the District. The letter made references to Burke's "wealthy father" and payments to "keep you breathing." The FBI was called in because of the possiblilty of extortion attempts.
The Secret Service also entered the investigation Thursday after someone threw a pipe against the side of Burke's house. A note wrapped around the pipe said that "we" would "get" both Burke and President Reagan's son.
Burke said last night he can't tell whether it is a person or group of persons who are threatening him. He said he was not aware that his tormentors knew he worked for Kennedy until the letter came to his office.
A Secret Service spokesman said last night that no extra Secret Service protection has been provided for Reagan or his family because "we are always prepared for any eventulity."
Law enforcement officials said yesterday that while public periodically receive death threats, it is unusual that one would result in any overt action. "In this case you've got a shot through a car, a break-in, a butcher knife plus the notes and phone calls -- you're about 10 steps beyond the normal nut calls," said one law enforcement official.
Kennedy, whose most recent Secret Service protecton ended when he withdrew as a candidate for president last summer, has not asked for renewed protection, according to sources.
Threats have been a routine of life for the youngest of the Kennedy brothers since president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
Tom Southwick, a former Kennedy press secretary, said two years ago that mail to the office routinely included threats on the Senator's life, and that an average of one a week was considered serious enough to refer to authorities.
President Jimmy Carter ordered Secret Service protection for Kennedy in September 1979, saying growing reports that Kennedy was considering a presidential campaign had raised the fear of an assassination attempt like those that struck down two of his brothers.