In the span of several hours over two days this week, Evelyn Burnham, 83, lost a son, a daughter-in-law and the good friend she’s known since their school days to a killer’s violent spree. Friday afternoon she struggled with the knowledge that she’d essentially lost another son, the man police say is responsible.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” she said, through tears at her Cumberland home. “I just hope they find out what went wrong in his head.”
An 18-hour manhunt for Jeffrey Allen Burnham, 46, ended around 9 a.m. Friday morning outside a West Virginia motel. West Virginia Police said he flagged down a firefighter in Tucker County, and told him he “had been forced to kill three people.”
The officer who responded to the 911 call found Burnham at The Billy Motel & Bar in Davis, West Virginia, and discovered there were active warrants for his arrest in Maryland.
Police say Burnham killed Rebecca Reynolds, 83, at her home in the 500 block of Fourth St. in Cumberland Wednesday night. He then stole her 2020 Lincoln and drove to the Ellicott City home of his brother, Brian Robinette, 58, and his wife, Kelly Sue Robinette, 57, in the 5300 block of Kerger Road.
After killing the Robinettes, Burnham stole a 2007 red Corvette from his brother’s home and fled, prompting a police search that ended nearly 200 miles away, according to Howard County police.
Police said they found the car and a gun inside. Burnham is currently being held in West Virginia.
Howard County police are still investigating the time and motive of the murders.
Reynolds, Burnham’s first alleged victim, went to high school with the suspect’s mother. The Saturday before her death, she attended a high school reunion that Burnham’s mother also attended.
Reynolds’ death shocked her neighbor and friend Ron Kifer who found her body.
Kifer, 69, said the gates to Reynolds’ house were open Wednesday evening and packages were piled up outside her door.
When he went inside Reynolds’ home to check on her, she was laying unresponsive in her nightgown, covered by a blanket.
“I said, ‘Becky! Becky! You alright?’ She gave no response. “I knew she was gone,” Kifer said.
Kifer called 911 and she was pronounced dead by medics on scene.
“After seeing her like that, I come back to the house and my wife, I was messed up in the stomach,” Kifer said. “My stomach is starting to feel better now that they caught him.”
In Ellicott City, the killings of the Robinettes shook the idyllic tree-lined neighborhood.
Jason Williams, an Amazon delivery driver making his usual rounds in the neighborhood Friday, said he believes he saw Burnham driving the red Corvette some time before noon Thursday.
”Up on Montgomery Road [Thursday] morning, a red Corvette [was] driving so fast it almost just pushed me off the road. ... I didn’t realize until later when I heard it on the news,” Williams said after delivering a package to the Robinettes’ home.
Residents in the area, south of Ilchester Road and near Rockburn Branch Park, were shocked that something like this could happen there.
Neighbors described the Robinettes as a happy couple with two adult children who had lived in the neighborhood for more than 25 years.
Marnie Mann lives a street over from the Robinette’s house and recalled a family that got to know their neighbors.
”They were friends of mine. Our daughters played together when they were young,” she said. “This is a very, very safe neighborhood.”
Rachel Swatkowski, a jogger who also lives a street over from the Robinettes, got teary talking about the murders happening in the place she has called home for two years.
”It’s scary it happened in this neighborhood. It is just a great community and close neighborhood,” Swatkowski said. “I didn’t know them, but they [the children] don’t have parents now. We will rally around them as much as they will let us. Whatever we can do.”
Keith Rohr, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood who lives three houses down from the Robinettes, was headed out to ride his bike Friday afternoon “for therapy.”
“Unfortunate act of violence. No way to describe it,” Rohr said. “This is a super quiet neighborhood. This doesn’t happen.”