Car dealer left note about financial problems

Richard Burd

Jeremy Brilliant/Eyewitness News

Lawrence - One of central Indiana's best-known car dealers was found dead early Tuesday morning. Richard Burd, co-owner of Burd Ford in Lawrence, was discovered in his office at the Pendleton Pike dealership after what police say was suicide. He was 43 years old.

It was a difficult day for workers at Burd Ford. The dealership closed for the day as employees dealt with what they called a death in the family.

Burd Ford's television commercials have made their Ford dealership a household name. Their catch phrase: "Haven't you heard? Burd's the word!"

The husband and wife co-owner team are familiar faces. When Chris Burd woke up early Tuesday morning and her husband Rich wasn't at home, she drove to their dealership and found his car parked outside. That's when she called Lawrence Police. Officers went inside and found Rich Burd lying lifeless on a couch in his office.

"There's no indication whatsoever of any foul play, of any criminal activity. The preliminary indication is that it's a result of self-initiated activity," said Det. Gary Woodruff, Lawrence Police Department.

The Burds have given to numerous charities in the City of Lawrence. Richard Burd is being remembered as a businessman who frequently gave back to the community.

"Rich wanted to put back in the community because the community was helping him. They very much participated in the community. They were sponsors for our Community Day. They helped with the cancer walks that we had. And there were a lot of things that they contributed to that nobody really knew - they contributed to Shop with a Cop at Christmas time, they contributed to a needy family. I think at the end of the day if they looked at it, everyone would be surprised at how many lives they really touched," said Paul Ricketts, Lawrence mayor.

"Rich Burd was a huge supporter of Lawrence Township Schools. He and his wife donated tens of thousands of dollars to the township school foundation, which supports both extracurricular and educational activities," said Ed Freije, Lawrence Central High School principal.

Late Tuesday afternoon, authorities said Richard Burd died from asphyxiation. Police say Burd left a note indicating his concern over financial problems.

"There were some notes that were left," said Det. Woodruff. "Some indication that there was potential concern for some potential financial hardship."

In an interview with Eyewitness News in August, Burd talked about waiting for money from the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program.

"Having the government owe us $300,000 is a little nervous. Keeps you up at night," he said.

For car dealers, it's been a rough 18 months. Last year, Duke Gold of Speedway Volkswagon also killed himself. In fact, nearly a dozen dealers nationwide have taken their own lives, according to auto industry expert Nancy Phillips.

Phillips deals with troubled dealerships and writes an online column. She calls it a tragic response to a desperate situation.

"[Dealerships are] such a closed business, a family business. It's not a corporation with a multitude of people that are getting the same amount of pressure. It's very individual, it's your entire life," Phillips said. "It's totally horrifying."

Kimble Richardson, a stress counselor at St. Vincent couldn't talk about specific cases, but said, "especially for men, it's a little more difficult to ask for help. It does not mean it's a sign of weakness, people can listen and there are strategies and coping skills."

Burd's dealership will reopen Wednesday. His family issued a statement about his death late Tuesday.

"The passing of Richard Burd, 43, loving husband and father, is a great loss for our family and many friends. Rich touched numerous people as a successful businessman, community volunteer, athletics coach, and generous philanthropist. His commitment of personal time and resources was never done out of a sense of duty or obligation, but rather as heart-felt expressions of civic pride and interest in youth citizenship and development.

"Rich's love for his wife and family was deep and unyielding, and we will miss greatly his warm smile and commitment to family, friends, business associates and others. On behalf of the Burd family, we deeply appreciate the numerous expressions of sympathy and support we've received."

(Eyewitness News reporter David MacAnally contributed to this story.)