Deputies release photo of fugitive as he was arrested in Huger
‘They can rest easy tonight,’ Sheriff says of neighbors
HUGER, S.C. (WCSC) - After a search that spanned two counties, a wanted man on multiple charges was arrested late Wednesday afternoon.
Michael Burham, 34, was arrested at approximately 5:17 p.m. off Abra Way in Huger, Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said. He said a resident called 911 at 3:30 p.m. to report a suspicious person behind the shed of their home on United Drive. Lewis said Burham was hiding behind tarps near the family’s woodshed.
“Our resources converged on that area. We had air units also deployed. The K-9 tracking teams spotted him,” Lewis said.
Burham was taken into custody in a wooded area behind the home where he had been spotted.
The sheriff’s office released a photo of Burham shortly after he was captured. His facial hair was longer than a photo released on Sunday showed and his clothes appeared muddied.
“This has been a long operation. The people out here in Huger, I want them to know he’s in custody, that they can rest easy tonight.”
Lewis said when deputies caught Burham, he “was not in good shape.”
“He obviously looked like he had been in the woods for some time. We gave him some water down there and tried to get him hydrated again while EMS was checking him,” Lewis said. “He blurted out that, you know, he had been on the run and he wanted something to drink, so he was dehydrated, and I don’t know if that’s the proper medical term, but he was evaluated by EMS. You could tell from his clothes that he’d been in the woods a long time.”
The sheriff said Burham would initially be taken to the Berkeley County Detention Center where he would be questioned but was not sure where he would then be taken because the sheriff’s office was transporting him for the FBI.
The capture happened quickly after word that a new search had begun back in Huger, where a sighting had been reported Wednesday afternoon near Halfway Creek Road and United Drive.
FBI spokesman Kevin Wheeler said Burham, who the FBI says was wanted for rape, unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, is also a suspect in a homicide in New York state.
Lewis, who said several residents in the area thanked him and his deputies for making the capture, said law enforcement officers involved in the days-long manhunt were tired.
“But this is what we do, this is what the public pays us for and I’m proud of the men and women in the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office. They stayed on it. We stayed fast. We kept moving. We kept adjusting,” Lewis said.
He said they received many tips by phone and on Facebook and that he was thankful for the public’s help. He thanked Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano and State Law Enforcement Director Mark Keel as well as the FBI, who he said brought in special teams from all over the country.
He also credited the couple who helped law enforcement find him.
“They did what we asked them to do: they went and checked their property and they saw him. They didn’t confront him,” Lewis said. The couple’s dog alerted them to Burham but Lewis said when they approached, Burham held up his arms and decided to run and they called 911.
Charleston County deputies spent Wednesday searching for him in Awendaw after a reported sighting of him Tuesday at approximately 11 p.m. near Broomstraw Hill Road. She said hundreds of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies in the area helped in the search over the past 24 hours.
“This guy is very good at evading law enforcement and we need your help,” she said. “We don’t know what your structures, your houses, your properties, look like. We only know what you do and so if you see something out of the ordinary we need you to call us.”
The FBI says Durham has ties to Charleston, as well as Jamestown, New York and northern Pennsylvania.
Burham is wanted for his alleged involvement in the rape and unlawful imprisonment of a woman in Jamestown, New York on March 13. He is also wanted for allegedly kidnapping two victims at gunpoint from Sheffield, Pennsylvania, and driving them to North Charleston on Saturday, the FBI said.
A U.S. District Court judge issued a federal arrest warrant on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on Monday.
Search began Sunday after kidnapping victims call police
North Charleston Police responded Sunday afternoon to a business on Rivers Avenue where two people said they were kidnapped by Burnam. The victims told police they live in Pennsylvania and that Burnam kidnapped them and drove them to North Charleston.
The search continued into Monday afternoon with little word on updates until North Charleston Police confirmed an increased police presence in the area of Rivers Avenue.
But by Tuesday, a sighting had been reported in Berkeley County, prompting a large response near Huger and eventually into the Francis Marion National Forest.
Duane Lewis told reporters Tuesday afternoon that deputies patrolling the area after a 911 call from Huger reported a possible sighting encountered what he called “a suspicious suspect” on 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.”
Berkeley County deputies centered their search for the wanted fugitive on the Francis Marion National Forest on Tuesday. But deputies confirmed Wednesday morning that Halfway Creek Road, which had been partially shut down Tuesday, had reopened and that they had handed over command of the investigation to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
A tip at approximately 11 p.m. Tuesday placed Burham near Broomstraw Hill Road in Awendaw, where Charleston County deputies spent the overnight hours and most of Wednesday searching for him.
During a news conference Wednesday, Sheriff Kristin Graziano said the FBI was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
“We need to get this person in custody,” Graziano said. “This guy is dangerous. This is a fugitive. He is desperate, he’s tired, he’s hungry. He is asked the public please do not approach him.
Graziano urged people not to approach him but asked anyone who sees anyone suspicious to immediately call 911 or 1-800-CALL-FBI to report it.
“If you have cameras at your house, you have deer stands, a Ring doorbell, anything like that, surveillance cameras; If you have any of that, check it. If you see somebody that might match that description, please let us know where you are so we can come take a look,” she said. “If you see somebody that looks like this person, maybe in similar clothing, please call us.”
She said Burham was “very good at evading law enforcement” and urged people to help by alerting authorities to anything or anyone suspicious.
A tip late Wednesday afternoon of a possible sighting in Berkeley County prompted deputies to shut down Halfway Creek Road at United Drive. It was in that area where he was eventually captured.
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