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FBI search for Burns ends

Mar. 29, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON — Another search for the remains of Samantha Burns, missing since 2002 after being kidnapped by two jail escapees, ended Friday with no discoveries.

The FBI and West Virginia State Police concluded a three-day search at midday Friday. Their work cleared an estimated half-acre section of land along train tracks at the intersection of Buffalo Creek Road and W.Va. 75 near Spring Valley.

FBI Senior Supervisory Agent Chris Courtright said a smaller group of searchers likely will return to the area in a couple of weeks. They hope warmer weather will aid that search, which will focus on a much smaller, slopped section of land near a stream.

"We hate to give up on this kind of stuff," he said. "We want to reach a conclusion. It makes you crazy that you can't, but we'll continue to follow up any leads."

The 19-year-old Marshall University student was kidnapped in November 2002 during a 17-day crime spree that brought two Kentucky jail escapees -- Chadrick Fulks and Brandon Basham -- through the Tri-State. Both were convicted in connection with Burn's death and the death of Alice Donovan of Galivants Ferry, S.C.

The second killing brought each man the death penalty. Both are awaiting execution at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Courtright did not disclose the source that prompted this week's search, however information provided by Fulks spurred crews to hunt a nearby area in 2009. That search for Burns' remains came after Fulks gave information that led to the discovery of Donovan's remains in South Carolina.

This week's search started Wednesday. It involved crews clearing a large amount of brush. That was followed by a slow, grid search with approximately 15 investigators walking within arm's reach. Every couple of feet they stopped and pressed a metal rod into the ground, hoping it would detect if the earth has been disturbed and/or release any odor trapped below.

Courtright said a civilian search team, led by Monica Caison and her CUE Center for Missing Persons of North Carolina organization, remained on site as his team left.

Caison said she and other volunteers arrived in West Virginia Thursday night. She said there was no definite time table as to how long this particular trip would last, but she said their search will continue until Burns' remains are recovered.

"It's the way the organization works. We are always there to the end," Caison said. "I feel a special connection to this case because I was there when they found Alice, and the connection between those two cases is what started the motivation to find Samantha all over again.

"I want to see it through."

Burns, who was from West Hamlin, was last seen Nov. 11, 2002, at the Huntington Mall, where she made a payment on her J.C. Penney credit card. Authorities later located her burned-out Chevrolet Cavalier near Haney's Branch Road in rural Wayne County.

When Fulks pleaded guilty in Burns' death in 2005, FBI Special Agent James Harper outlined details on what likely happened after the abduction. Harper noted that Burns' automated teller machine card was used at various ATM locations throughout Huntington by a man wearing camouflaged clothing. He said Fulks admitted he wore such clothing and used the ATM card.

Burns and her captors all "ended up inside (her) vehicle," a Chevrolet Cavalier, Harper testified.

"She was subsequently killed," he said. "Each of the defendants points the finger at the other."

Throughout the investigation, both defendants provided authorities with conflicting information about Burns died and where her body was left.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD



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