Inmate with ‘survivalist skills’ who escaped Pennsylvania jail is in custody after manhunt

July 15, 2023, 7:32 PM EDT / Updated July 15, 2023, 7:42 PM EDT

By Doha Madani

The manhunt for the escaped Pennsylvania inmate who is suspected in several crimes, including the murder of a New York woman, ended Saturday evening, state police said.

Michael Charles Burham, 34, was taken into custody Saturday in Warren County, Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said.

Bivens said the escapee was ensnared in a perimeter of law enforcement officers that was closing in on him in woods about 5 miles north of the city of Warren.

“As he approached Logan Road, he encountered perimeter troopers there, attempted to prone out and hide, and was apprehended” by law enforcers who closed in from behind him, Bivens said.

He was taken into custody at gunpoint at 5:50 p.m. and will be arraigned on an escape charge, he said.

Burham escaped from the Warren County Jail on July 7 by climbing through the metal grates of the jail yard’s roof. He then climbed down using tied together bedsheets, authorities said.

Staff realized he was missing within minutes and authorities began an eight-day manhunt that involved 15 federal and state agencies.

Bivens cautioned that area residents that it is “entirely likely” that Burham is armed, and no one should approach him if they see him. He said Saturday that he was not armed when he was captured.

“In the past he has sought and been successful in obtaining firearms when on the run,” Bivens said during a Monday press conference. “I expect that he will have tried the same thing.”

Cecile Stelter, a spokesperson for Warren County, noted that Burham is known to have “survivalist skills” and comfortable living in wooded areas.

Authorities said earlier Saturday they believe the escapee remained in the Warren area. Bivens said police conducted at least one search in the region that was promising but ultimately inconclusive.

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Burham was being held in the county on kidnapping and other related charges. He is accused of having kidnapped a Warren County couple while on the run from authorities in New York, where is a suspect in the May 11 murder of Kala Hodgkin.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said last month that there are currently no state charges against Burhman in the murder case.

He was charged with flight to avoid prosecution in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in May. The case was dismissed without prejudice in on June 16, according to court records.

A federal criminal complaint alleges that Hodgkin was found fatally shot at her home. At the time of the killing, there was an active arrest warrant charging Burham with raping the woman, according to the complaint.

While police were en route to Hodgkin’s home, a separate call came in that Burham had allegedly tried to break into an ex-girlfriend’s home and then proceeded to set her car on fire, the complaint says.

Burham went on the run, leading authorities on a multi-state manhunt before his capture on May 24 in South Carolina, the Jamestown Police Department in New York said.

The complaint said that Burham kidnapped a couple at gunpoint at their Sheffield, Pennsylvania home while on the run. They were found alive in a cemetery in North Charleston, South Carolina.

There was a note in their vehicle allegedly written by Burham telling his father he was “safe for now” and apologizing “for all the problems I caused the family,” the complaint says. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Doha Madani

Doha Madani is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News. Pronouns: she/her.

Minyvonne Burke, Julianne McShane and Yasmeen Persaud contributed.

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