Between 4:30 and 5:00 PM, one day short of the four-year anniversary of the death of James Zeiger, Correctional Lieutenant Peter Beckett Burd was supervising about 125 inmates in the Stateville CC dining area when he was stabbed in the neck, severing the carotid artery, by a passing inmate. An eight inch shank was found hear the site of the attack, which occurred on January 10, 1977, also the day Governor James R. Thompson was inaugurated.
Burd, a 33 year-old father of three and an eight year veteran of the Department, worked in D House. The attack on Burd was one of three incidents in two days, according to Warden David Brierton, who explained that a Lieutenant was struck by an inmate the day before Burd's death. Another Lieutenant was stabbed several times in F House the day of Burd's death. Line staff attributed the attacks to inmate gangs trying to exert control and claimed they were timed to coincide with the gubernatorial inauguration.
Will Co. State’s Attorney Edward Petka said the stabbing demonstrated the need for return of the death penalty in Illinois. “I certainly would testify for it, especially for killing prison guards. I believe it would have a very definite impact. They (inmates) would have to consider it,” Brierton said. Legislation was passed in the spring and Thompson signed the current death penalty statute into law June 21, 1977. According to Burd’s brother-in-law, they had talked about Burd returning to work the previous evening after a two week vacation. “He had the feeling all summer that something was going to happen in there,” Lynn Crosby said. “He didn’t even want to take his vacation. He thought something was coming down.”