YOUNGSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A couple who controlled a barking dog on their property in northwestern Pennsylvania led to the arrest of a murder suspect who had used sheets to escape jail, authorities said.
Michael Burham, 34, was captured nine days after he fled Warren County Jail in the late evening hours of July 6 by climbing onto exercise equipment, going through a window and climbing down a rope made from prison bedding, according to the authorities.
A tip from Conewango Township residents about a suspicious individual came in just before 4 p.m. Saturday, and Burham was taken into custody shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday, said Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens, the Pennsylvania State Police’s deputy commissioner of operations.
The residents went to see why their dog was barking, went to the back of their property and met Burham, who mentioned something about camping during a brief conversation, Bivens said.
“The owner of the property recognized him, put his wife back in the golf cart (which they were using) and drove off from there so he could contact us immediately when Burham fled into the woods,” Bivens told reporters Saturday night. This happened in an area where searchers had been “pushing hard,” Bivens said.
“That has been our strategy all along, to push him hard, to make him make a mistake – he finally did,” said Bivens.
Burham, then followed through the woods by searchers with the help of two dogs, encountered troopers on a road that were part of a set up perimeter, Bivens said. He lay down and tried to hide, but was approached from behind by federal marshals, border patrol and state police and taken into custody at gunpoint, Bivens said.
Burham looked “tired and worn, as we thought he might” and was dirty and wet, still wearing his prison shorts turned inside out. Authorities have not found a weapon they feared he had since ammunition was found in small caches linked to him via DNA, but the area was searched to make sure he hadn’t hidden any, Bivens said.
Just hours earlier, Bivens had issued a call for people in northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York to regularly review doorbell and surveillance footage, and also once again urged people to ensure that vehicles, barns, houses and anything else useful to a fugitive is safe. .
Burham has served time in prison on $1 million bail and has been charged with kidnapping, burglary and other counts. Authorities warned while he went missing that he was considered armed and dangerous. More than 200 state, federal and local officers participated in the search for Burham, and up to $22,000 in reward money had been posted, Bivens said.
Authorities were still trying to figure out where he will be held after arraignment, but it won’t be the Warren County Jail, where an investigation into the escape is ongoing.
Whether Burham received any help is still being investigated, and authorities will talk to the prosecutor if they believe they have evidence to warrant charges against anyone, Bivens said.
Bivens thanked residents of the county and surrounding area for their patience during the manhunt.
“I know they were nervous, I know they were scared, but they remained kind to all of our people,” he said. Authorities had feared that a civilian or even an officer in the Burham hunt could take some damage, who “really had very little to lose,” he said.
“To not let that play out, it’s a good day,” said Bivens.
District Attorney Jason Schmidt of Chautauqua County, New York, said in June that Burham was the prime suspect in the May 11 murder of 34-year-old Kala Hodgkin and a related arson attack in Jamestown, New York. Authorities also accused him of kidnapping an elderly couple in Pennsylvania while trying to escape arrest in South Carolina. New York officials said they chose to let Pennsylvania make the first prosecution as they investigate the murder and arson.