Officials Confident Burham Will Be Captured “Sooner Rather Than Later”

July 10, 2023

YOUNGSVILLE, Pa. – While the search for Michael Burham continues, officials are confident they will capture him “sooner rather than later.”

There are now more than 150 local, state, and federal law enforcement agents involved in the search for Burham, who escaped from the Warren County Jail on Thursday, July 6.

See Monday’s press conference:

As to whether law enforcement feels it is any closer to catching Burham today than yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens, Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the Pennsylvania State Police said police “won’t know until we capture him just how close we really are.”

“We’ve conducted many of these types of investigations of various size and scope over the years,” Bivens said during a media conference Monday at the Youngsville Fire Department. “It’s always impossible until you actually capture the person to know just how close you are. What I can tell you is, as I’ve said, we are pushing him hard. You know, I’ve talked about the resources that are committed. We continue to ramp that up. We continue to make sure that we are putting pressure on him. And we won’t know until we capture him just how close we really are.

“But I am convinced that the approach that we are taking will be successful. There is no doubt in my mind, we will capture him at some point. I can’t, obviously, make a promise when that will be. But sooner rather than later and we are working diligently to make that happen.”

Bivens added that law enforcement’s approach to the search is designed to give Burham little time to rest.

“I believe we are putting significant pressure on him,” Bivens said. “We’re actively pushing him in these areas. If he is here, he’s not getting any rest. And we are using technology to our benefit, and again I don’t want to go into all those types of technology. But I believe, at some point, we will force him to make a mistake and when he does, we will use that to our advantage.”

Bivens later clarified that law enforcement is not just waiting for a mistake to happen.

“Please, to be clear, we’re not sitting and waiting for that mistake we’re trying to make our own luck, we’re trying to force that mistake, we’re trying to bring this to a conclusion as rapidly as possible,” Bivens said. “And that’s why you see the significant resources that have been brought to bear. If you’ve spent any time at all here, you’ve no doubt seen patrol cars with uniformed troopers. You’ve seen other special operators from various state and federal entities working through wooded areas or clearing buildings and you’ve seen aviation assets overhead. And there are many other things in play that you haven’t seen.

“And so, again, what I would point out is we are doing everything that I believe we reasonably can at this point, trying to be as unobtrusive in the community as possible, while at the same time giving this our full effort. We are committed to ending this as quickly as possible.”

Though several sightings of Burham have been reported, Bivens would not say whether any of the reported sightings had been confirmed to be Burham.

“There have been a number of sightings,” Bivens said. “I cannot rule out conclusively every one of those. And so, again, we follow up on each and every one of those. And all of those factor into the next steps of the investigation.”

Bivens reiterated the police’s belief that Burham is getting assistance from someone.

“We do believe that he is getting some assistance,” Bivens said. “From where, or what that type of assistance is, I’m not prepared to comment on. But as I’ve previously indicated, we are investigating that and we are prepared to prosecute anyone who does offer him assistance.”

While Bivens wouldn’t unequivocally say that Burham is receiving assistance, he did say it is a “distinct possibility.”

“We do believe that’s a distinct possibility and we’re thoroughly investigating that with the hope of prosecuting that,” Bivens said.

Warren County Assistant District Attorney Cody Brown said anyone who is found to have assisted Burham would be committing a felony.

“The main charge would be Conspiracy to Commit Escape,” Brown said. “Anyone who aids him, or helps him, in that escape would be liable for that. They are felony charges so they would be looking at possibly significant prison time.”

Bivens said the investigation has also allowed police to rule out whether Burham was connected to other crimes that have taken place in the region since his escape.

He was specifically asked about a burglary in the Sugar Grove (PA)/Busti (NY) area that resulted in the homeowner’s dog being hit and killed by a vehicle.

“That has been investigated, as have several other burglaries, not only here but in adjacent areas across the border in New York,” Bivens said. “To this point, we’re not aware of any of those that are directly associated with Burham. We have found no indication in any of those break-ins that they were directly related.”

Bivens said the police activity on Water Street in Warren on Sunday came as a result of a tip from the public.

“That particular one was in regard to a tip or phone call,” Bivens said. “I don’t want to go any further than that, but he was not located at that residence. But there had been a reported sighting and our people responded accordingly.”

Without getting into specifics, Bivens provided additional information regarding the stockpiles he said police had found in the area during Sunday’s media conference.

“I won’t go any further than to say some supplies that would assist him with a prolonged stay in a wooded area,” Bivens said.

Burham is the primary suspect in the May 11 homicide of Kala Hodgkin in Jamestown (N.Y.), as well as the kidnapping of a Sheffield couple that he transported to the Carolinas using their car before being captured in North Charleston, S.C., and being extradited back to Pennsylvania.

*Andy Close contributed to this report

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