The Pennsylvania couple who helped cops catch a ‘self-taught survivalist’ fugitive said they recognized him immediately from local news coverage.
Cindy and Ron Ecklund have said they were sitting in their backyard Saturday evening, when their chocolate Labrador, Tucker, ran down to the creek that runs along their backyard and started barking.
The couple then decided to investigate, and came face-to-face with Michael Burham, 34, who fled from Warren County Prison shortly before midnight on July 6 using tied up bedsheets, sparking an urgent multi-agency search.
As they ran back to the house, Ron said he urged his wife to call 911, saying he knew ‘exactly who that is.’
Burham was arrested just two hours later, and was seen walking from the woods with his head down and hands cuffed behind his back while flanked by dozens of camouflaged officers.
Cindy and Ron Ecklund told how they came face-to-face with a fugitive wanted for murder and rape Saturday night when they found him sitting by the creek in their backyard
The couple were alerted to the fugitive’s presence by their dog, Tucker’s, barking
Michael Burham, 34, was apprehended just two hours later after a nine-day manhunt
Speaking about their frightful encounter with the suspected murderer and rapist, Ron and Cindy said they were sitting on their patio at around 4pm when Tucker ran down to the creek and started barking.
At that point, the couple decides to investigate the ruckus, climbing into their golf cart and down the hill, where they see a man sitting.
‘She said to me — it was a joke when I first headed down, she says, “Do you want a gun?’ Ron recounted to WIVB.
‘I said, “No, I don’t need a gun, he’s long gone, it’s a fisherman.”
Ron said he was able to identify Burham due to his tattoo
As the couple approached Burham, Ron said, he stood up ‘and I asked him, “So what are you doing?” He said, “I’m camping.”‘
Ron told NBC News he then turned away, wishing the man a ‘nice day,’ and urged Cindy to get back into the golf cart so they could get back to their house.
‘We weren’t halfway up the yard, and I’m like, “Dial 911. I know exactly who that is,”‘ Ron said. ‘I’ve seen his picture enough, he’s been all over the news.’
He added that he thought Burham was ‘long gone’ as police searched for nine days for the suspect.
‘But since he stood up, he didn’t have a shirt on, I’d seen the long tattoo he had and his face. I said, “No, let’s get in the golf cart, let’s go.”‘
Ron and Cindy also said Burham had a backpack with him at the time, and started to walk back into the woods, where police found him at around 6pm.
The Eklunds, meanwhile, are now eligible for a $22,000 reward, and cops say they are looking at rewarding Tucker as well.
Ron and Cindy are eligible for a $22,000 reward from the Warren County Police Department
A multi-agency manhunt for Burham lasted nine days before he was caught on Saturday
Police found a trail of evidence that confirmed Burham was setting up small encampments through the wooded area as he evaded capture
Police have said they were able to track down Burham after a married couple called to say they encountered a ‘suspicious individual’ when they heard their dog barking in their backyard.
‘The owner of the property recognized him, got his wife back into the golf cart and drove away from there so that he could immediately contact us as Burham fled into the woods,’ Warren County Lt. Col George Bivens said.
Cops raced to the scene and, using dogs, tracked him down in the woods. He was found in a dirty and disheveled state, and was wearing his prison pants inside out.
Bivens said the murder suspect was not only covered in dirt, he was also ‘tired and worn out’ from his week on the run.
The cop said that his capture is a ‘great relief’, adding: ‘All of us were always concerned that we would end up with a citizen harmed in some way, or even one of the officers harmed.
‘You’re always worried about things like that, so to not have that play out, it’s a good day.’
During the week-long search for the suspected killer, police found a trail of evidence that confirmed Burham was setting up small encampments through the wooded area as he evaded capture.
Among the supplies found included clothes, food and a bag of items ‘that someone might need if they were trying to exist in the woods’, cops said.
Police are now probing whether Burham had help from a prison official when he made his daring escape.
Burham is suspected of murder and rape. He is pictured in his booking photo
Burham hoisted himself out of the Warren County jail (pictured) by climbing on top of exercise equipment and then out a metal-gated roof
Burham, who has an extensive military record, has a disturbing track record of crimes that landed him behind bars, with authorities stressing that he was extremely dangerous during his time on the run.
Last month, District Attorney Jason Schmidt of Chautauqua County, New York, said that Burham is the prime suspect in the May 11 killing of Kala Hodgkin, 34, and a related arson in Jamestown, New York.
At the time of her death, he was wanted on a separate charge for raping her.
After allegedly shooting Hodgkin dead, he went on the run for two weeks, and cops accuse him of abducting an elderly couple while evading capture.
Burham is the ‘prime suspect’ in the shooting death of Kala Hodgkin, 34, in May
Burham’s first attempt to evade law enforcement in May saw him again leading officials on a maddening dayslong search, with cops at the time claiming the 34-year-old engaged in a ‘spree of alleged crimes.’
Burham was already wanted by authorities on a rape charge, and it is said that Jamestown police also responded to a domestic violence incident in which Burham’s ex-girlfriend claimed he broke into her home and set her vehicle on fire.
In the aftermath, Pennsylvania State Police were contacted by an individual who was concerned that her parents did not attend their granddaughter’s soccer game on May 20.
The victims were not at home when police conducted a wellness check, not did they answer police calls.
Eventually, officials with the South Carolina Highway Patrol contacted the state police saying they located the victims alive in a cemetery in North Charleston on May 21.
The victims said they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their home in Sheffield, Pennsylvania and identified Burham as their kidnapper.
He was located later that day hiding out in a nearby shed.
A Warren County official said they are now ‘preparing an isolation cell’ for the inmate, but they plan to move him from the prison. They did not say where he would be moved to.