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Police continue manhunt

July 31, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Police, relying primarily on leads from the public, continued a "large-scale manhunt" Sunday for a man accused of killing his estranged wife and another man Friday.

Curtis Burkett, 41, was believed to be armed with a long rifle and in the Mercersburg area, where he lived. Pennsylvania State Police used helicopters to search the woods for Burkett, who they said hunted frequently.

"At this time, we have no reason not to believe he's armed and dangerous and in this county," Cpl. Gary Carter said Sunday at noon.

Autopsies for Cathy Burkett, 39, who was shot several times, and William Zimmerman, 50, shot once, are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today at Lehigh Valley Medical Center in Allentown, Pa.

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"They're going to be done side by side," Franklin County (Pa.) Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said.

Police have refused to detail a time frame for the murders. They said the 911 call leading to the discovery of Zimmerman came at 7:30 p.m. and the call leading to Cathy Burkett came in around 8 p.m.

The shooting of Zimmerman near 7570 Robinson Road was witnessed, police said.

"The reason for these homicides we're still investigating," Trooper Ed Asbury said, although he said they are believed to be related to a domestic dispute involving the couple and Zimmerman.

"A week prior, Mr. Burkett was arrested for simple assault," Carter said.

A February 2006 protection-from-abuse order obtained by Cathy Burkett remained active, he said.

The couple had one child together and a second one living with them at 10601 Garnes Road in Montgomery Township, Pa. The body of Cathy Burkett was found in the home, which was later searched, police said.

Robinson Road leads to the Longview Campgrounds, where Curtis Burkett and Zimmerman are thought to have been living, police said.

Carter described the police work as a "three-tiered investigation" that strongly focuses on finding Curtis Burkett, while also investigating the Garnes Road and Robinson Road shootings on their own.

The manhunt will end with police capturing Curtis Burkett or his suicide, Asbury said.

Police emphasized that the public should report tips, but avoid Curtis Burkett.

"He shot two people," Carter said. "In our eyes, he's very dangerous."

"He has nothing to lose at this time," Asbury said.

Tips to police have been steady since the search began, Carter said.

"We get calls pretty much by the hour," he said.

Criminal homicide charges have been filed in Magisterial District Judge Duane Cunningham's office in Greencastle, Pa.

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