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Warren inmate escape leads to prison renovations, concerned community

 Wanted sign from Pennsylvania State Police of Michael Burham. Burham is wanted for escape and kidnapped. His date of birth is September 19, 1988. His height is 5'10", he weights 160 pounds, has brown hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo of a tiger on his right arm. Anyone with information could call the Pennsylvania State Police Command Post tipline at 714-265-9560 or 717-265-9651.
Pennsylvania State Police
The reward for any information leading to Burham's capture has increased to $19,500.

Michael Burham’s escape from Warren County Prison late Thursday night using exercise equipment and bed sheets has led the county prison board and commissioners to meet for a review of the prison.

There will be repairs on the roof of the prison yard where Burham escaped from. Exercise equipment is being removed and replaced with equipment that does not give inmates access to higher places in the facility.

Commissioners expect immediate structural fixes to finish by the end of the week. Longer-term upgrades are starting immediately and should be finished in the next few weeks.

The prison board and commissioners said they will have an ongoing review of the policies, staff and structures in the prison.

The search for Burham is on its sixth day; jail officials realized he was missing on Friday. Cecile Stelter, the public information officer for Warren County Commissioners, said the community is on edge.

“People, of course, are very concerned because this individual is dangerous, and the law enforcement don't know where he is,” Stelter said.

She said the message to the community has been the same since day one.

“Help law enforcement by not making it easier for this inmate. Don't have unlocked outbuildings, secure the vehicles. If people are recreating and camping, secure those items so that he doesn't have access to them,” Stelter said.

Jeff Zankel lives in Sheffield, which is just 13 miles away from Warren. Zankel has military and state police training and said he’s keeping an eye out, but isn’t overly worried. Zankel said it’s only a matter of time before someone catches Burham.

“It might be me and my friends. We've gone riding side by side in the woods near our homes. And we were out Saturday night riding and we were making jokes, ‘He could be watching us right now,’” Zankel said.

One of the creators of the “Bringing Michael Burham to Justice” Facebook group, Stephen Raynor, said he knew Burham for more than 20 years and he needs to be brought to justice.

“This situation is absolutely heartbreaking. He was a good kid,” said Terrie Tremblay, another member of the group.

Since the search for Burham began on Friday, it has expanded into New York and includes multiple law enforcement agencies. Pennsylvania State Police, U.S. marshals in Pennsylvania and New York, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are just some of the agencies involved in the search.

Burham is considered armed and dangerous. If you see him, officials say not to approach him. Tips should be called into the PA State Police Command Post Tip Line at 717-265-9650 or 717-265-9651. The reward for information leading to his capture has increased to $19,500.

Sydney Roach is a reporter and host for WPSU with a passion for radio and community stories.