Carla Mae Burns

Carla, circa 2016; Brian Burns

  • Missing Since 03/08/2016
  • Missing From Harrisburg, Illinois
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 03/25/1966 (54)
  • Age 49 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'4, 125 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes.

Details of Disappearance

Carla was last seen in Harrisburg, Illinois at 3:30 p.m. on March 8, 2016. She has never been heard from again. Less than two weeks later, her estranged husband, Brian Burns, was charged with her murder. Investigators believe he shot her to death, burned her body and spread the ashes. A photo of Brian is posted with this case summary.

Carla was a nursing instructor at Southeastern Illinois College and lived in Marion, Illinois; Brian was a doctor and lived in Harrisburg. They married in 2009, but were in the process of a divorce when Carla disappeared.

Carla had filed for divorce in 2014, citing irreconcilable differences. She later filed multiple petitions for temporary relief and restraining orders, claiming Brian verbally abused her and he feared he would turn violent. She also stated he had taken $63,058, both of their life savings, from their joint bank accounts. Brian, in turn, accused Carla of "economic blackmail" and "verbal harassment" and claimed he'd stolen two handguns and various documents from him, including his passport.

In September 2016, he was additionally charged with solicitation, aggravated kidnapping and conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping after he allegedly offered to pay an undercover police officer $1,000 to kidnap Mike Henshaw, the prosecutor in his murder case. In 2018, he was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison for that crime.

Eight days after Carla went missing, Brian told police she had died in a "tragic accident" when she shot herself between the eyes with his 9 mm pistol, and that he burned her body and scattered the ashes on their property. He claimed he had not remembered her death until then, because of the emotional trauma. Brian maintained this story at his trial in December 2019. The prosecution argued Brian had planned Carla's death several days in advance. He was convicted of murder and concealment of a homicidal death in Carla's disappearance.

Carla left behind two sons who live in Texas; she planned on returning to live in Texas after finishing out the semester at Southeastern Illinois College. Her remains have never been located, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

Investigating Agency

  • Saline County Coroner's Office 618-252-6402

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 14, 2020; details of disappearance updated.