BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As the search continues on Wednesday, Michael Burham’s ex-girlfriend is speaking out, telling News 4 that Burham is well-trained and has even evaded police in the past.
Elizabeth Hensley-Sieber called Burham athletic, meticulous and smart. She says police under-estimated his abilities and now he is hiding in a place he knows like the back of his hand. She dated Burham for three and a half years and says they split amicably. She hasn’t had contact with him for more than five years.
Burham is the prime suspect in the death of 34-year-old mother Kala Hodgkin of Jamestown. He is also a suspect in a related rape and arson charge there. In Pennsylvania, he was in jail, accused of kidnapping and related charges in Warren County before he escaped last Thursday night.
When asked about the accusations against her ex-boyfriend, she says she couldn’t fathom that he would do something like that.
“I couldn’t believe that the Mike I knew did that,” Hensley-Sieber said in an extensive Zoom interview. “I think he has the upper hand. He has the knowledge he needs to evade any sort of tracking. He knows how to get rid of his scent and go through the water. He knows how to make diversion trails.”
She says he comes from a family of lumberjacks and that they were always hiking and working in the hills of Northern Pennsylvania. His father and brother worked alongside Burham in a logging company. Hensley-Sieber called Burham’s family good people.
Hensley-Sieber says he had a longtime job at Cummins Jamestown Engine Plant and before that, he entered the military as a water purification specialist and land navigation expert. She says he completed both basic and advanced training in the military. He then was in the reserves.
“He went every drill, he did the runs, and he made his numbers. A lot of times he would be out partying the whole night before and texting me the whole time, and I’d be like you have to run 10 miles first thing in the morning and he would say ‘I just need an hour to sober up’ and he would do it,” Hensley-Sieber added.
Because of his training, she is concerned he has made it out of the search area and calls him ‘dangerous’.
She also says this isn’t the first time he has evaded law enforcement, claiming he drove while intoxicated and when he crashed, he fled the vehicle. She says police never found him.
“This isn’t the first time he’s evaded police. There’s been other times that he’s done it too,” she explained.
When describing Burham, she called him detail-oriented saying he always has a plan. She says she breathed a sigh of relief when he was caught after he led police on a 13 day manhunt after Hodgkin’s death. He was later found in South Carolina after he allegedly kidnapped an elderly couple from Warren County.
“When they caught him, I felt so relieved and I think they felt so relieved and they underestimated him and put him in a low security jail and thought he would just sit there. The Mike I know isn’t going to do well in a box. He’s going to try to think his way out of it,” she said.
Hensley-Sieber says Burham was on the chess and math teams in school, even an expert at strategy games.
“He was looking at the ceiling. He was looking at every nail on the wall. He was paying attention to the guards. He’s actually really good at reading people,” Hensley-Sieber told News 4.
She is hoping authorities get Burham back into custody soon so that the entire city and her family can go back to normal.
“I’m worried that he has the ability to keep doing this and maybe he’s already too far out. He may have already made it past where they are looking,” Hensley-Sieber concluded. We need him off the streets, I guess out of the woods, so that our lives can go back to normalcy.”
Pennsylvania State Police believes Burham is receiving help. Hensley-Sieber disputes that claim saying she doesn’t think he has anyone to turn to now.
Anyone with information on Burham’s whereabouts is encouraged to reach out to Pennsylvania State Police. The tip line is 717-265-9650 or you can report information directly to a 911 dispatcher. Police stress that Burham is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached.
Michael Burham Manhunt
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- PA prison escapee, Jamestown homicide suspect facing more charges
- ‘There’s absolutely zero chance that he’s going to be able to escape:’ Burham is now held in prison in Erie, Pa
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.