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Pa. police continue to search for double-slaying suspect

August 02, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Curtis Eugene Burkett, accused in the shooting deaths Friday of his estranged wife, Cathy Burkett, and another man, was scheduled to appear in Franklin County Court today for an indirect criminal contempt hearing that stemmed from an alleged assault involving the woman a week before the homicides.

Pennsylvania State Police continued to comb the region for the 41-year-old Mercersburg, Pa., man who allegedly shot and killed Cathy Burkett at her Garnes Road home and William Zimmerman, his neighbor at the Longview Campground on Robinson Road.

Cathy Burkett, 39, was shot several times and her body was discovered by her oldest son, Matthew, the affidavit of probable cause stated. Zimmerman was shot once in the chest as he sat in his pickup truck with a girl sitting beside him in the passenger seat, police said.

Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers has named Burkett "Fugitive of the Week" and is offering a reward of as much as $2,000 for information leading to his arrest.

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He was last seen driving a camouflaged 1980s Ford F150 with the words "Bear Man" written on the bug shield. "Harley-Davidson" might have been painted on the side, according to the Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers Web site at www.pacrimestoppers.org.

Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous tips at 1-800-4PA-TIPS.

"We're just following up everything we can get," Cpl. Gary Carter said Tuesday. He said rumors that Burkett's truck had been found were false and "we have no reason to believe he's not in that camo vehicle."

Carter said police have custody of a motorcycle belonging to Burkett.

The murder weapon, a rifle that used .30-30 Winchester ammunition, has not been found and police have no idea how many weapons Burkett might have with him, Carter said.

"We've got guys dedicated on every shift to just driving and searching for Burkett," Carter said. The FBI had not been called into assist as of Tuesday afternoon, he said.

Cpl. Robert Marshall said Tuesday night that police were still searching and that Burkett has been entered into the nationwide NCIC database.

Burkett faced the possibility of jail time in the indirect criminal contempt hearing for violating a protection from abuse order his wife and two sons petitioned for in late January. He had been charged by state police with simple assault in a July 21 incident at Longview Campground.

Police met with Cathy Burkett at about 4 a.m., according to the affidavit of probable cause. She told police that about an hour earlier her husband "had become angry with her when she was visiting his next door neighbor and she was lying in bed with her friend," the affidavit stated.

Police said Curtis Burkett entered the trailer and dragged her out, bruising her elbow and ripping one of her toenails off in the process. She told police he then punched her in the face and smashed the windshield of her Chevrolet Blazer with a rock.

Police interviewed Curtis Burkett at 5:30 a.m. He told police he came home and caught his wife in bed with the neighbor.

Burkett told police he dragged her out of the bed and she ran from his neighbor's camper to his and fell to the ground. Police stated she had a swollen left eye and a bruised elbow when she was interviewed.

The affidavit did not identify the neighbor.

The affidavit for the homicides stated that a witness to the Zimmerman killing had also seen the July 21 altercation and heard Curtis Burkett say he was going to kill his wife and Zimmerman.

Jenni DiGiorgi, owner of Longview Campground, said she's only heard rumors and doesn't know the details surrounding the alleged assault, including whose camper it was.

"Mr. Burkett's camper would have been across from Mr. Zimmerman," DiGiorgi said. A driveway separates them, she said.

Curtis Burkett and William Zimmerman sat down after that incident, shook hands and "made this a non-issue," she said.

"Any issues between the two men were resolved prior to this. ...They were sitting down together the night before (the shooting). This was certainly a surprise," DiGiorgi said.

Cathy Burkett "was here fairly frequently for a while," DiGiorgi said.

"I was assuming they were trying to work it out," she said.

Curtis Burkett was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday on the simple assault charge from July 21, but it was rescheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 8, pending the indirect criminal contempt hearing set for today, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Burkett had been arraigned before Magisterial District Judge David Hawbaker later on the morning of the assault and was released on $5,000 unsecured bail for the assault and $1,000 unsecured bail on the protection from abuse order violation, according to court records.

Burkett was to have no contact with his wife as a condition of his bail, according to court documents.

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