WARREN, Pa. (AP) — A man who was the subject of a manhunt in two states last month after his escape from a northern Pennsylvania jail is facing more charges in both the escape and in the original case alleging he kidnapped a couple and forced them to accompany him on his cross-country flight to avoid authorities.
District Judge Raymond Zydonik ruled during Monday’s preliminary hearings there was enough evidence to forward both cases against Michael Burham to the Court of Common Pleas.
Burham, 34, is accused of having abducted the couple in Pennsylvania while trying to evade capture in New York, where he was wanted in a rape case and for questioning in a murder case. A 68-year-old Mead Township woman testified that she and her 89-year-old husband were driven 18 hours to South Carolina before they were dropped off in a cemetery.
She said she was accosted in her garage May 20 by an armed man she recognized as someone wanted, and he insisted on taking her and her husband although she begged him to just take their car. The woman said Burham showed her an aerial photograph of her home and said he had stashed supplies near the house, the Erie Times-News reported. He said he targeted the couple because they lived in an isolated area, were elderly and did not have a large dog, she said.
The woman said she asked Burham at one point if he was going to kill them and was told “not if you cooperate.” Asked the same question later, he again replied in the negative, saying he had too many charges against him already, she said.
Burham, arrested May 24 in South Carolina, was initially charged with kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, assault, terroristic threats, theft, burglary, and many other counts. District Attorney Rob Greene brought additional charges Monday in that case including four more kidnapping counts, The (Warren) Times Observer reported.
Burham also faces more charges stemming from the July 6 escape from the Warren County jail, which officials said Burham fled by climbing on exercise equipment, going through a window and scaling down a rope fashioned from jail bedding. He was recaptured July 15 after a barking dog alerted a couple to his presence on their property.
Deputy Attorney General Heather Serrano alleged in bringing another criminal conspiracy count that Burham “conspired with another inmate” or other inmates to escape from the county jail. Public Defender Kord Kinney unsuccessfully argued there was no evidence of a conspiracy beyond Burham’s possession of more bedsheets than he was assigned.
During the manhunt, more than 200 state, federal and local officers took part in the search and up to $22,000 in reward money was posted. People in northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York were asked to regularly review doorbell and surveillance camera footage and to make sure vehicles, structures and anything else useful to a fugitive was secured.
Greene said he has asked the state attorney general’s office to handle the escape case, citing reports from the Warren city police investigation he said included information that “could possibly implicate” county jail inmates and staff as well as others. Burham is now being held at Erie County Prison.
District Attorney Jason Schmidt, of Chautauqua County, New York, said in June that Burham was the prime suspect in the May 11 killing of Kala Hodgkin, 34, and a related arson in Jamestown, New York, where authorities said they opted to let Pennsylvania handle the initial prosecution as they probe the killing and arson.