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Pennsylvania escapee likely still in area, top state patrol official says

<i>Warren Police Department</i><br/>
Warren Police Department

By Danny Freeman and Sabrina Shulman, CNN

(CNN) — Escapee Michael Burham is likely still in the area around a northwestern Pennsylvania jail and is probably getting help as he seeks to evade 200 law enforcement officers looking for him, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference Tuesday.

Burham on Thursday allegedly climbed workout equipment to leave through a roof and shimmied down a rope of sheets to escape the Warren County Prison, court documents with new details on the day he escaped jail reveal.

Surveillance footage shows Burham and other inmates walking in and out of his jail cell, according to the criminal complaint filed by the city of Warren on Friday.

The search continued Tuesday for Burham, whom authorities described as “armed and dangerous” and with survivalist skills and military reserve experience. They said he escaped the prison while detained on arson and burglary charges and was a suspect in a homicide.

Warren police said Burham “was also associated with the prior carjacking and kidnapping of a local couple while trying to escape capture.”

Bivens said evidence leads him to believe Burham is still around.

“We continue to find items. Those lead me to believe that there still a likelihood that he is here,” he told reporters, without providing details. Some of those items have been found in the past 24 hours, he said. “I also look at the absence of proof that he has gone anywhere else.”

Among the tips coming in on “a very regular basis” were reports Monday evening and overnight of sightings of Burham, but Bivens said none of those investigations has panned out.

Investigators have used rapid DNA tests at cabins and other sites where break-ins have occurred but none have been matched to Burham – although some results are pending, according to Bivens.

Bivens told reporters the pace and scope of the search have dramatically increased and he believes Burham will be captured.

“We’re not going away. We absolutely will be incarcerating you again. It’s only a matter of time,” he said, addressing the escapee.

He also had a message for anyone helping Burham, saying they will be prosecuted.

‘Observed standing on a pull up machine’

Burham was seen walking around the yard of the jail gym around 10:41 p.m. while three other inmates were sitting on the ground talking, according to the complaint.

At about 11:26 p.m., Burham “was observed standing on a pull up machine” in the jail’s gym and exiting through a metal gated roof, the complaint reads.

After escaping from the gym, Burham “tied a rope which consisted of multiple sheets tied together. (He) then tied said rope from the roof and allowed it to hang on a portico,” the complaint stated.

Burham proceeded to slide down the rope, “landing on the portico, and jumped from the portico to the ground” after which he fled the premises on foot, according to the complaint.

Details of the alleged kidnapping

CNN has also obtained the court documents detailing the alleged kidnapping that put Burham in jail in May.

Burham kidnapped an elderly couple – David and Jessica Anundson – at gunpoint from their home in Sheffield, Pennsylvania, on May 20, according to the criminal complaint from Warren County.

Burham forced the couple into their vehicle and drove them to the North Charleston, South Carolina, area, where he forced them out in a cemetery and drove away, the complaint says.

The complaint also stated the Anundsons were “in fear of serious bodily injury or death.”

Law enforcement believes that Burham was either “staying on the property or nearby and had been watching” the couple’s residence for about a week, based on the information the couple provided.

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CNN’s Laura Dolan, Kristina Sgueglia, Nic Anderson and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

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