North Charleston, South Carolina – Newly released court documents shed light on the events leading up to a four-day manhunt spanning the Lowcountry region. Michael Burham, a 34-year-old individual, now faces federal charges following his alleged involvement in the rape and unlawful imprisonment of a woman in Jamestown, New York. Furthermore, Burham was wanted for the abduction of two victims at gunpoint from Sheffield, Pennsylvania, who he subsequently drove to North Charleston, as stated by the FBI.
On Monday, a U.S. District Court judge issued a federal arrest warrant charging Burham with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
According to court documents, law enforcement officers in Jamestown, New York responded to a report of gunshots on the morning of May 11. Upon arrival at the scene, they discovered a woman, later identified as Kala Hodgkin, who had sustained gunshot wounds. Hodgkin’s death was subsequently ruled a homicide. It is worth noting that, at the time of her demise, there was an active arrest warrant for Burham in connection with the rape of Hodgkin.
While investigating the homicide, officers were summoned to another domestic incident in Jamestown. The victim reported that her ex-boyfriend, Burham, had attempted to break into her residence and had proceeded to set her vehicle on fire. Documented evidence reveals that the incident was captured by the victim’s Ring doorbell.
Additional court records indicate that Burham rented a vehicle from an Enterprise in Warren, Pennsylvania, prior to May 11. The same vehicle was later spotted in the vicinity of Hodgkin’s murder and the subsequent car fire. During this period, Burham also rented a hotel room in Warren, Pennsylvania. No further sightings of Burham were reported after the homicide.
Around May 20, the Pennsylvania State Police received a call from a concerned woman who informed them that her parents had not attended her daughter’s soccer game, and she was unable to reach them. Additionally, the victims’ vehicle, a 2022 Honda CRV, was reported missing. In response, the state issued a missing/endangered persons alert for the victims.
The following day, the North Charleston Police Department contacted Pennsylvania authorities to relay the news that the victims had been found alive in a cemetery in North Charleston. During an interview, the victims revealed that they had been forcibly abducted from their Sheffield, PA residence at gunpoint.
Investigators also discovered a note believed to be written by Burham. The note contained the following statement:
The search efforts continued throughout Monday afternoon with limited updates until the North Charleston Police confirmed an increased presence of law enforcement personnel in the Rivers Avenue area.
By Tuesday, a sighting had been reported in Berkeley County, triggering a substantial response in the vicinity of Huger and eventually extending into the Francis Marion National Forest.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from various agencies collaborated in the extensive search for Burham, scouring the rural regions of Berkeley and Charleston Counties.
On Tuesday afternoon, Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis informed the media that deputies, while patrolling the area following a 911 call from Huger, encountered what he described as a “suspicious suspect” riding a bicycle on Halfway Creek Road.
“They were asking questions. He was being real evasive, and at that point, they determined that he actually was the suspect that all the law enforcement agencies in the Lowcountry are looking for,” Lewis said. “We had a brief foot pursuit with him in the woods here at the Francis Marion National Forest. At one point, we did deploy the Taser. He did escape from the immediate area.”
In a multi-county manhunt that spanned several days, a sought-after fugitive was apprehended in Francis Marion National Forest, Berkeley County, confirmed by deputies on Tuesday. After partially closing Halfway Creek Road during the search, it was reopened on Wednesday, with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI taking charge of the ongoing investigation.
Late Tuesday, a tipster reported the suspect, Burham, in the vicinity of Broomstraw Hill Road in Awendaw, prompting Charleston County deputies to search the area intensively through the night and well into Wednesday.
Sheriff Kristin Graziano, in a news briefing on Wednesday, announced a $10,000 FBI bounty for information instrumental in capturing Burham.
Following another tip-off late Wednesday about a possible sighting in Berkeley County, Halfway Creek Road at United Drive was temporarily shut down. It was here that the fugitive was ultimately captured.
Burham made his first federal court appearance in Charleston on Thursday, clad in a blue striped jumpsuit and shackles. The hearing primarily served to apprise Burham of his rights, which he elected to waive for both an identity hearing and a preliminary hearing.
Burham expressed his preference for his detention hearing to be held in the Western District of New York, the jurisdiction from which his original criminal complaint emanated.
Transport arrangements are being made to return Burham to New York for his detention hearing, although a specific date for this proceeding has yet to be scheduled.