Burham hearings detail kidnapping, jail escape

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Michael Burham was led into court Monday for two preliminary hearings, centered around kidnapping charges against an elderly Mead Twp. couple and escape from the Warren County Jail. The cases were both bound over the Court of Common Pleas.

All charges in Warren County against Michael C. Burham were bound over to the Court of Common Pleas in the wake of preliminary hearings held Monday morning.

Burham, the prime suspect in a homicide in Chautauqua County faces charges in Warren County centered around the kidnapping of a couple that he used to flee the area. After he was apprehended in South Carolina, he escaped from the Warren County Jail earlier this month.

The hearing in the kidnapping case was held first. First to testify was Jess Anundson, who has lived in her Mead Township home for 44 years along with her husband David.

Anundson said she woke up at 6 a.m. May 20, did some housework and was planning on attending her grandchild’s soccer game at the YMCA. She went into the garage, opened the garage door, and went back inside for something regarding her husband.

When she came back out she was allegedly confronted by Burham. When Anundson was asked to identify Burham in the courtroom Monday, she pointed at him and he waved back at her.

Anundson testified she recognized Burham immediately from press reports and said, “Who the hell are you? He said, ‘We’re going on a trip.’ “

She told him she couldn’t go with her husband at home but, she alleged, Burham was pointing a gun at her, telling her to go inside and get some clothing.

“He had taken his pants off,” she said, and has a tarp or plastic around his waist.

She said she thinks Burham was surprised to find her husband there and said Burham told her husband that “you’re going to have to go with us too.”

From there, fresh clothes in hand, they got in the car. Anundson testified that her husband sat in the front passenger seat, she sat in the back and Burham drove throughout the 18-hour trip to South Carolina.

“I just pleaded with him not to take us,” she testified, and just take their car.

Burham was initially charged in this case with two counts each of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment, recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats, disorderly conduct and single counts of possession of an instrument of crime with intent, theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, burglary, criminal trespass – enter structure, criminal trespass and loitering and prowling at night time.

Greene added several charges before and during the hearing including four additional counts of kidnapping — two each under subsections on hostages and kidnapping committed during the course of felony – criminal trespass, two counts of theft and changing a count of terroristic from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Shifting to the escape charge, Deputy Attorney General Heather Serrano started that hearing by adding a count of criminal conspiracy, alleging that Burham “conspired with another inmate” or other inmates to escape from the county jail.

First to testify on these charges was Steve Belcher, a correctional officer at the Warren County Jail, who was working in the control room the night that Burham escaped.

He testified he observed Burham climb exercise equipment at which point he called for an officer to check the yard. Belcher testified the officer who checked the yard reported that Burham was on the roof.

Belcher said he then called for additional officers to surround the jail and courthouse.

District Judge Raymond Zydonik found that the Commonwealth met the burden of a prima facia case — that a crime was committed and that a defendant likely committed those crimes – as a result of testimony presented.

Kinney made a brief argument against the addition of the conspiracy charge, suggesting that there was no evidence of a conspiracy behind Burham having more bed sheets that would have been assigned to him, an argument rejected by Zydonik.

Burham is the prime suspect in the May 11 shooting death of 34-year-old Kala Hodgkin inside her William Street home in Jamestown. He is also accused of setting fire to another woman’s car in Jamestown.

Complete coverage in Tuesday’s edition.


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