Father goes after daughter's accused murderer during court appearance

Hartley with Whitney photo courtesy Whitney Luchau

VANCOUVER, Wash. – A man accused of killing a 5-year-old girl in Vancouver appeared in court Monday.

According to court records, 37-year-old Ryan Burge has been in a relationship with the girl's mother for about three months. He was in charge of watching 5-year-old Hartley Anderson on Friday (Nov. 2) while her mother was at work and siblings were at school.

Police say around 5 p.m. that evening, medics found the girl unconscious and "bleeding badly" with severe head trauma at her home at the Madison Park Apartments in Vancouver. Police say they were told the little girl injured herself while having a tantrum.

Hartley was taken to the hospital and immediately transferred to Randall Children's Hospital, where she died of her injuries. A neurosurgeon told police the injury could not be self-inflicted, a probable cause document states.

Burge was arrested and booked into the Clark County Jail on second-degree murder.

The courtroom was packed with friends and family of the little girl on Monday (Nov. 5) as Burge made his first appearance on the charges. Just about everyone there was wearing a "#JusticeforHartley" t-shirt. Family friend and co-worker of the child's mother, Lisa Balch, took time to pass out the shirts and take donations for the family before court.

"She was at our Halloween party at work on Wednesday, and I got my last hug from her. And it's heartbreaking to see someone go through all this," Balch said.

The court proceedings were interrupted by a man running toward the bench. Peter Anderson, Hartley's biological father, was trying to get to Ryan Burge as he faced the judge. He did not say anything, but was quickly grabbed by Clark County Deputies who took him out of the courtroom by force and put him in handcuffs in the hallway.

As the proceeding ended, and Burge was escorted out of the courtroom, someone in the group of family and friends, could be heard to yell, "Burn! Burn in Hell!"

After Burge's appearance the group left the courtroom and Hartley's mother, Nataasha Luchau, was seen being carried down the hallway to an elevator in tears. The group then gathered on the courthouse steps as Nataasha could still be heard sobbing. Her sister, Whitney, told KATU that the holidays will be hard without Hartley.

“She would have been a great person. An impactful person. She loved everything and everyone,” said Whitney Luchau.

Tim Luchau is Hartley's grandfather, he added, "I’ll never get to see her graduate from high school or get married or anything. He took that from us. He took the joy we had with her away. I just hope the system works. I hope the system works."

He and Hartley's uncle, TJ, issued one last promise.

"Every day when he's in court we will be here. We will be here in force. Until there is justice for Hartley," the men told KATU News.

Burge pleaded guilty in 2008 to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit arson. He admitted to setting his Longview duplex on fire in hopes of collecting a rental insurance payout.

Burge is being held on $5 million dollars bail. His next court appearance for his arraignment is Thursday, November 8th at 9 a.m.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off