Kidnapping suspect expected to be back in Warren shortly
Chautauqua County’s top prosecutor indicated this week he will delay charging a former area resident with the murder of a Jamestown woman last month. The move will afford the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office more time to establish its case against Michael Burham and to allow Warren County to move forward with its own case.
“Letting Pennsylvania go first provides us with further time to continue to develop the evidence just as we have been doing since the early morning hours of May 11,” Jason Schmidt said Thursday. “Understand that once we charge any crime, the right to counsel attaches, limiting our ability to interview the suspect, and our ongoing investigation is also further complicated by New York’s discovery laws applicable in criminal proceedings.”
For the first time publicly, Schmidt directly linked Burham to the death of 34-year-old Kala Hodgkin inside her William Street home in Jamestown.
Nine days after Hodgkin was killed Burham is alleged to have kidnapped a Warren County couple before driving them to South Carolina. The two were later found safe, and Burham was eventually taken into custody after a prolonged manhunt.
On Wednesday, Burham appeared in federal court where an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution charge was dismissed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A warrant on the federal charge was announced while Burham was still on the run in South Carolina.
U.S. Marshals brought the 34-year-old Burham back to New York this week. It marked the first time he was in the state since the homicide, though his exact movements following Hodgkin’s death are not yet clear.
Burham had been wanted on charges of rape from a separate incident, though it involved Hodgkin, and arson for allegedly torching a woman’s car moments after police were called to Hodgkin’s home the morning of May 11.
On Thursday, Schmidt indicated that the rape charge has been dismissed while the arson charge has been withdrawn for now.
By removing the detainers against Burham in New York, and with the dismissal of the federal charge, Schmidt said it “paves the way for Pennsylvania to go forward with the prosecution of kidnapping charges filed by Pennsylvania State Police and District Attorney Greene’s office. As a predicate to that, our State Court is already engaged in the necessary extradition process so that Mr. Burham will be transported to Pennsylvania.”
As of Thursday morning, Burham was listed as an inmate at the Erie County Holding Center.