YOUNGSVILLE, Pa. (WIVB) — Pennsylvania State Police on Saturday retracted a video of what was once believed to be the first confirmed sighting of Michael Burham.
The video, released on Friday, shows an unidentified person walking near a house south of Warren. On Saturday, police said that an additional tip came forward from somebody else that proved that it was not Burham.
“We still have strong reason to believe that he is in the area, but we now know not to rely solely on that particular video as we attempt to determine his physical condition or other things that we might from any particular video,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said.
Despite the mistake, Lt. Col. Bivens said that morale is still high among the members of law enforcement participating in the search.
“I would say that morale is very high. We’ve been down this road before and our people know that it sometimes takes time to find somebody,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased with the way morale is.”
Police still believe that Burham was in the area south of Warren when the video was recorded.
Burham has been on the run since the late-night hours of July 6, when he escaped from the Warren County Jail. He is the “prime suspect” in the May killing of a Jamestown woman, 34-year-old Kala Hodgkin. He is also facing kidnapping and burglary charges stemming from a separate incident.
The reward for information leading to his capture was increased to $22,000 earlier this week.
How did Michael Burham escape?
34-year-old Michael Charles Burham was last seen around 11:20 p.m. on Thursday, July 6. Officials say he used bed sheets and exercise equipment to rappel down a wall from the jail’s recreation area on the top floor of the facility.
Three other inmates were in the recreation area with him at the time of the escape. They were being watched by video surveillance in another part of the jail. He was wearing an orange-and-white jumpsuit, a denim jacket and crocs at the time of his escape, but it appears in the video he is no longer wearing that clothing. Police also say it is likely he has changed clothing. It remains unclear whether he has changed his physical appearance.
The Warren County Board of Commissioners, along with the Prison Board, held a meeting Wednesday to review the circumstances of how Burham’s escape took place, saying that repairs to the roof of the jail yard are necessary.
Why was he in the recreation area at that hour?
Warren County’s Commissioners and Jail Committee addressed this in a statement Wednesday.
“It’s important to understand that the law has changed in the past five years, and prisoners must have access to yard time and outside exercise. With a facility as small as ours that is close to full, inmates must be taken to the yard in shifts,” they wrote. “That happens all day and evening to ensure all inmates have appropriate yard time. Therefore, inmates are legally required to access the yard, and it is crucial for the Prison Board to ensure the facility is secure.”
Did Burham have a head start?
Warren County Sheriff Brian Zeybel said Tuesday that the response time at the jail “couldn’t have been quicker.”
“Literally, I would say that Burham saw red and blue lights within two minutes of leaving that jail,” Zeybel said. “They were that close. The corrections officers were literally, within two minutes, in the parking lot. The direction of [Burham’s] travel was kind of confusing. The response time couldn’t have been quicker. It was that fast.”
However, police did not see him while he escaped.
Why was Michael Burham in jail?
Burham’s crime spree has now lasted over two months.
He is the “prime suspect” in the killing of Hodgkin, whose body was found on May 11. Within the hour of the discovery, Jamestown police responded to a car fire at the home of Burham’s ex-girlfriend.
He ran from police for nearly two weeks following this. He allegedly kidnapped an elderly couple in Pennsylvania during this time and drove them to South Carolina, where he was captured on May 24. He was brought back to the area in June and was being held at the Warren County Jail on $1 million bail.
He faces kidnapping and burglary charges in connection to the alleged kidnapping. He has not yet been charged in connection to Hodgkin’s death.
See more information in our full timeline of events.
Will Michael Burham be captured?
Officials remain confident that Burham will be captured and have reiterated this point several times.
On Thursday, Bivens addressed Burham in a press conference.
“You need to surrender,” Bivens said. “Don’t do anything foolish that gets anyone else hurt, don’t get yourself hurt. We are going to capture you. We are going to bring you back into the criminal justice system. This just needs to end.”
‘Armed and dangerous’
Earlier this week, officials expressed “additional concern” that Burham is armed.
They noted that during his first time he ran from police, he came into possession of a gun. They suspect he will try to do so again.
Should I cancel my trip to the Allegany area?
Pennsylvania State Police do not believe this is necessary. While Burham is considered armed and dangerous, police said all residents and travelers need to do is remain vigilant. All doors should be locked, and weapons and valuables should not be left in plain sight.
This map shows the location of Warren County Jail, located near Allegheny National Forest.
What should I do if I see Burham?
To report info or possible leads in the case, call Pennsylvania State Police at 717-265-9650 or 717-265-9651.
If you think you see Burham, you are advised to call 911 immediately. Do not approach him.
Up to $22,000 in reward money has been offered, combined between Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers, U.S. Marshal and Warren County Crime Stoppers.
Latest on the Michael Burham manhunt
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- Warren County prison board to meet following Burham capture
- 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
- Dog fetches reward for helping capture escaped inmate Michael Burham
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.