Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2014

Certain Job Led to Killing

Indications that the murder of Las Vegas' Senior Building Inspector Reed Walker stemmed from building code violations he was about to report - or had already reported - mounted yesterday in data from reliable sources in city hall.

Details of the dead official's background, key positions in Las Vegas' slum prevention program and last day on earth rapidly unfolded as City Manager Al Kennedy vowed to throw "the full resources of the city's government," if needed, behind the probe.

Doubt was cast, meanwhile, on suspect Albert H. Burke's story that he had an "appointment" with Walker that wasn't kept the morning of last Friday - the day the 56-year-old inspector was shot to death on a lonely road some three miles southeast of Burke's trailer home.

Walker may have been killed because he "knew too much" about code violations and thus threatened profits of "slum landlords," sources said - or past official actions may have triggered a "revenge" slaying, a theory of sheriff's and police detectives who are working around the clock on all possible leads in the vicious murder.

The murder day followed a meeting of the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) Thursday night that involved Walker and Burke.

A report by Walker on code violations by Burke, read by Don J. Saylor, deputy planning director, was a factor in the BZA's denial of Burke's request for a variance to turn a single-family house into a duplex at 72 N. "B" St., and angered the local businessman.

Lack of proper bath and toilet facilities, junk and trash in the yard and "general lack of maintenance" by Burke was alleged by Walker, said Saylor, who added that he (Saylor) declined argument when Burke rose and claimed he did have proper bath and toilet facilities.

Saylor said he told Walker first thing next morning, a little after 8 a.m. Friday, to see Burke and check the bath-and-toilet matter again before the City Commission meeting set for the following Wednesday.

"Reed said he would do it right away, early that morning," said Saylor - "and he didn't mention already having an appointment with Burke that same morning as I'm fairly sure he would have if he had had one."

Walker left and phoned Saylor at about 9 a.m., saying he was at 117 Gass St., a dwelling recently fire-ravaged that he and Saylor were to check for fire code violations - but had found locked the day before - and saying it was open then, and for Saylor to meet him there.

Saylor left at once, met Walker at the Gass St. dwelling a few minutes after 9 a.m. and inspected it with him "for maybe five, 10 or 15 minutes." Then they both left, with Walker under orders to go see Burke - though Walker didn't mention any "appointment," said Saylor.

Burke had two previous run-ins with the city, said Director Art Trelease of the Building and Safety Dept., Walker's ex-boss before the inspector was transferred to Planning to work under Saylor on slum prevention.

He was found guilty of a trailer violation on one occasion and seemed angry about it, recalled Trelease - and once threatened a neighbor who complained about his burning trash in an open drum, a city ordinance violation, "though he cooperated later when the city told him to stop."

Backing the theory that Walker was murdered because of his official actions was heavy discounting yesterday by city sources of any personal-enmity motive - and particularly any idea that the handsome building inspector might have been playing a "ladies' man" role leading to his death.

"Reed and Leila (his wife, who also works for the city, as a blueprint operator in the Public Works Dept.) were very happy together since they married about two years ago," said a source who knew them both very well for four years, "and they were always together nights."

Walker's hobby was rock-collecting, "and Leila was once looking for rocks to trim her trailer yard, and that brought them together."

"Reed was very kind and well-liked," the source added.

Victor Uehling, deputy public works director, said meanwhile it was "very unlikely" Walker had personal enmities that could lead to murder.

Kennedy said if Walker had any kind of private life likely to lead to murder, "we probably would have known about it."

"No city employee, moreover, makes enough money to be much of a playboy," the city manager added dryly.

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