Crime & Courts

Pennsylvania Jailbreak, Multi-State Manhunt Has A South Carolina Connection

A fugitive apprehended in the Palmetto State seven weeks ago has escaped from a Pennsylvania prison …

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Less than two months ago, state and local law enforcement agencies in South Carolina collaborated with their federal partners to apprehend 34-year-old Michael Charles Burham – the prime suspect in a murder that took place earlier this year in Jamestown, New York.

Burham, of Ashville, N.Y., is believed to have shot and killed 34-year-old Kala May Hodgkin inside her William Street home in Jamestown on May 11, 2023. Two weeks prior to Hodgkin’s murder, a warrant had been issued for Burham’s arrest on charges that he allegedly raped and unlawfully imprisoned her.

Hodgkin left behind three children – aged eight, eleven and fourteen. One of the three children is a daughter born to her and Burham.

As police were pursuing Burham on the murder charge, they received a call that he had attempted to break into an ex-girlfriend’s home – and had set her vehicle on fire. He is facing burglary and arson charges in connection with that incident.

On May 20, 2023, authorities in Sheffield, Pennsylvania – approximately 30 miles southeast of Jamestown – reported an elderly couple (and their Honda sport utility vehicle) as missing from their residence. The following day, the couple were discovered unhurt in a cemetery in North Charleston, S.C.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the couple claimed Burham kidnapped them from their home at gunpoint, “drove them in their vehicle to North Charleston, and released them physically unharmed.”

(Click to View)

Michael Burham (FBI)

Burham was captured on May 24, 2023 near United Drive and Halfway Creek Road in the Huger community of South Carolina (near the Berkeley-Charleston county line) – following a days-long manhunt which included at least one foot pursuit on May 23 initiated by taser-wielding deputies of the Berkeley County sheriff’s office.

Those deputies encountered a “suspicious suspect” on a bicycle on Halfway Creek Road but were unable to bring Burham into custody. He did drop a backpack, however, containing materials which confirmed his identity.

Police also recovered a note Burham wrote to his father, Wally Burham, apologizing for “all the problems I caused the family.”

“I’m not sorry for what I did, however I do feel terrible about the children,” Burham wrote to his father.

Burham was able to evade capture initially by fleeing into the Francis Marion National Forest … but was spotted later that evening in Awendaw and ultimately apprehended the following afternoon after a pursuit involving multiple K9 units.

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According to sheriff Duane Lewis, Burham was “not in good shape” at the time of his capture.

“He was dehyrdated,” Lewis told reporters at the time. “You could tell from his clothes that he’d been in the woods a long time.”

Burham was extradited to Pennsylvania and on June 19 he arrived at Warren County Prison in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he was being held on a $1 million bond.

He didn’t stay locked up for long, though …

At approximately 10:41 p.m. EDT last Thursday (July 6, 2023), Burham and three other inmates entered the prison gym and began working out. At 11:26 p.m. EDT, surveillance video showed Burham standing on top of a piece of exercise equipment used for doing pull-ups.

According to prison officials, he “elevated himself” using this piece of equipment and “exited the yard” through a roof with a metal gate. Once atop the roof, Burham produced a makeshift “rope which consisted of multiple sheets tied together” and proceeded to tie the “rope from the roof” – allowing it to “hang (down) on a portico.”

“The defendant slid down the rope, land(ed) on the portico, and jumped from the portico to the ground,” officials stated. “He then took off on foot.”

The escape was captured on video surveillance cameras …

(Click to View)

(Warren County Jail)

Where is Burham now?

That’s an excellent question – one U.S. Marshals, officers of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and more than a dozen local agencies are eagerly hoping to answer sooner rather than later.

According to a news release, marshals in the western districts of New York and Pennsylvania are working with their federal partners, PSP and numerous municipal and county-level law enforcement agencies in at least two states as part of a massive manhunt for Burham – whom they have described as a “dangerous escapee.”

Burham stands 5-foot-10 and weighs approximately 160 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He has a pair of tiger tattoos – one on his right bicep and another on the inside of his left forearm. He was last seen wearing a prison-issued blue denim jacket, an orange-and-white-striped prison jumpsuit and jail-issued orange crocs.

(Click to View)

(Via: Warren County Jail)

“The public is asked to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious,” Warren city police wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday morning. “Burham is considered dangerous and should not be approached.”

Warren residents were urged to lock their doors …

“He is considered dangerous by his past actions,” Warren County spokeswoman Cecile Stelter told reporters at a press conference on Friday. “And the public is asked not to approach him, but if they see anything unusual to call 911.”

Should South Carolinians be concerned about Burham paying our fair state another visit? No … at least not yet.

“We have no reason to believe that Burham has left the general area,” PSP lieutenant colonel George Bivens told reporters on Saturday.

Bivens did say Burham is a “self-taught survivalist with military experience and could be potentially holed up in a wooded area” – and that he demonstrated his survival skills during the previous manhunt.

Anyone with information on Burham’s whereabouts is urged to call 814-728-3600 or visit the USMS Tips App. There is a $9,500 reward for information leading to his apprehension, according to authorities.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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