Murder suspect described as 'survivalist' escapes from jail weeks after being captured following prior manhunt

Michael Burham is a suspect in a homicide in New York state.

July 8, 2023, 5:16 PM

Authorities have expanded the search area for a homicide suspect described as a "self-taught survivalist" who escaped from a Pennsylvania jail just weeks after he was captured following a dayslong manhunt.

Michael Burham, 34, is a suspect in homicide and rape cases in Jamestown, New York, police said. He was being held in the Warren County Jail in northern Pennsylvania on arson and burglary charges and was also associated with the carjacking and kidnapping of a Pennsylvania couple while trying to evade capture in May, according to Jamestown police.

The Jamestown Police Department released this booking photo of Michael Burham.
Jamestown Police Department

Burham escaped from the Warren County Jail late Thursday night, state police said. He was last seen around 11:20 p.m. Thursday wearing an orange-and-white-striped jumpsuit, a denim jacket and Crocs, though it is possible he has since changed, state police said.

The search had been focused on the city of Warren though has since expanded into the surrounding areas, state police said Saturday.

"At this time, we have no reason to believe that Burham has left the general area," Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a press briefing Saturday afternoon, adding that Burham is being considered armed and dangerous.

Bivens described the inmate as a "self-taught survivalist" with military experience who "could be potentially holed up in a wooded area near the city," he said.

The search is challenging due to the rugged and steep terrain, Bivens said, adding, "It is taking a lot of time and effort to search those areas."

Burham escaped from the recreation yard by "elevating himself" on top of exercise equipment and exiting the yard through a metal-grated roof, Warren County spokesperson Cecile Stelter told reporters during a press briefing on Friday. He then used bed sheets that had been tied together to lower himself to the ground and flee on foot, she said.

Burham normally would have been restrained while moving through the jail, but would not have been restrained in the recreation yard, according to Stelter.

Officials asked residents to review any home security camera footage between 11:30 p.m. Thursday and 12:30 a.m. Friday to help locate Burham.

Jamestown police also urged residents to lock their doors and "stay vigilant" amid the search for the homicide suspect.

"He is considered dangerous by his past actions and the public is asked not to approach him, but if they see anything unusual to call 911," Stelter said.

Burham previously led authorities on a multi-state manhunt and had three warrants for his arrest by the time he was apprehended on May 24.

Burham was initially wanted after being charged with the rape and unlawful imprisonment of a woman for an incident in Jamestown on March 13, authorities said. Local police had issued a warrant for his arrest in that case on April 27.

Amid that manhunt, Burham allegedly kidnapped an elderly couple at gunpoint on May 20 in Sheffield, Pennsylvania, and drove them to North Charleston, South Carolina, according to the FBI. He was charged with kidnapping and a warrant was issued for his arrest out of Warren County, Pennsylvania.

Burham was eventually captured in South Carolina on May 24 after a resident spotted him in their backyard, police said. "On Patrol: Live," a program that airs on Reelz, included a segment about the manhunt for Burham, which the New York law enforcement credited for helping the investigation.

Stelter told ABC News that Burham was able to successfully live in the woods for multiple days during that manhunt, demonstrating his survivalist abilities.

Michael Charles Burham, 34, was arrested after an exhaustive weeks-long search in South Carolina, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, which released this image, May 24, 2023.
Berkeley County Sheriff's Office

Burham was previously named a person of interest in the killing of 34-year-old Kala Hodgkin on May 11 in Jamestown. Amid the latest manhunt, Jamestown police are now referring to Burham as a suspect in that case.

Federal, state and local resources are being utilized in the search.

A combined $9,500 reward through the U.S. Marshals Service and Warren County Crime Stoppers is being offered for information that leads to his apprehension, state police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police Warren station at 814-728-3600.

ABC News' Jianna Cousin contributed to this report.