GUILFORD, Maine — Law enforcement officials believe the man suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend nearly a month ago is still hiding out in Piscataquis County, and they warned area residents, tourists and those with vacation camps to be cautious as the holiday weekend approaches.
Col. Robert Williams, Maine State Police commander, told residents who gathered on Thursday in the parking lot of Guilford Town Hall that police believe Robert G. Burton is breaking into remote camps at night and is on the run in the thickly wooded region during the day. He said the holiday weekend’s increased traffic may cause Burton, who is considered armed and dangerous, to be more active.
“He’s going to have to be on the move,” Williams said. “That is why it’s important people report what they see.
“The longer he’s on the run, the more desperate he’s going to be,” Williams said later.
“If someone sees something suspicious, call immediately,” he added. “That’s important.”
Burton, 38, also known as Robert G. Elliot, is facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Stephanie Ginn Gebo, a single mother of two, whose body was discovered in her Parkman home on June 5, a week after their relationship ended and the day after his probation for previous domestic violence crimes ended.
“We’ve had confirmed sightings [of Burton] in Guilford and Parkman,” Williams said.
“There have been a number of other sightings, some are probably him,” he added later.
“There was one point where [law enforcement] did have a glimpse of him,” Williams said, but he provided no other details about the sighting.
The confirmed sighting of Burton on June 17 in Guilford occurred where the state’s Interconnected Trail System nears Route 15 and Low’s Covered Bridge along the Piscataquis River.
“We have pulled out all the resources,” Williams said of the search effort. “We‘ve used thermal imaging, we’ve used infrared. We’ve used every resource we can find. I’ll throw this out, it might be controversial, but we’ve even examined using unarmed aerial vehicles [drones]. We have not limited this search to a conventional search. We’re using everything we can think of.”
Williams said he believes Burton has been able to elude capture for a month because “we’re in his backyard. He lived here and he ran in the same woods when he was on the run 10 years ago. He certainly has the advantage.”
The state police chief was referring to when Burton was on the run for 12 days in 2002 after threatening a woman with a rifle and knife before fleeing into the woods. He was found at an abandoned camp in Willimantic and later pleaded guilty in Piscataquis County Superior Court to four counts of burglary, criminal threatening, four counts of theft, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and assault. He was sentenced in September 2003 to 10 years in prison.
Asked by one of the 50 or so residents at the news conference about a rumor going around town that Burton had been shot, Williams said state police had heard the rumor but could not confirm it.
Vance Ginn, Ginn Gebo’s father, was at the news conference and said the manhunt has put the entire region on edge.
“I even told the chief [Burton] should be charged with terrorism because he’s terrorizing this whole part of the county,” Ginn said. “People who have never locked their doors are locking themselves in during the day.”
Ginn said he didn’t really know Burton. He said Burton kept people away after he started dating Ginn’s daughter.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise reward money for Burton’s capture, and a separate GoFundMe account has been set up for Ginn Gebo’s children.
“He’s a man who really, apparently, has a real problem with rejection,” Ginn said of Burton, who he said suffered from mental health problems. “Because every time a woman rejects him, he either kidnaps them, threatens their mother or kills them.”
Becky Parsons, Ginn Gebo’s grandmother, of Guilford brought a lawnchair to the gathering at the Town Hall and stood by quietly in support of her son while he spoke to the media.
“It’s been tough on him,” she said of Ginn, noting her son has lost 10 pounds since his daughter was found dead.
As the search for Burton by Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office personnel, Maine State Police, the Maine Warden Service and others nears the end of its fourth week, visitors to the area are aware of the manhunt and some are nervous.
New Hampshire resident Sean Caron said Thursday that he heard from a friend in Guilford three weeks ago that Burton was wanted for murder.
“She said, ‘You might not want to go to Whetstone Pond,’” he recalled while getting gas for his boat in Guilford, en route to a rural camp in Abbot that was built by his wife’s great-grandfather in 1952.
Caron said about 14 other family members are heading to the camp this weekend, including his two kids, and they have discussed the manhunt and will be taking precautions.
“We feel pretty safe where we are,” Caron said, adding that his Abbot neighbors have checked on the camp for the family.
“There is so much woods, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack,” Caron said.
Brighton Plantation residents Ron and Sue McKenney went on a 25-mile all-terrain vehicle ride to Guilford on Thursday with their granddaughter and her friend, who live in Connecticut.
Sue McKenney said the family is not letting the manhunt deter them.
“We don’t let things like that bother us,” Ron McKenney said, pulling up his shirt to fully reveal a handgun strapped to his belt.
People driving in the area will notice electronic message boards warning them of the manhunt on all the major roads that lead into the Parkman-Guilford area. The Maine Department of Transportation set up the electronic signs Wednesday afternoon in Newport, Athens, Charleston, Milo and Monson.
A roadblock was set up Thursday on Route 15 near Lowell’s Hardware and the playground, where sheriff’s deputies and Maine State Police handed out wanted posters with Burton’s image.
Williams also issued a warning to anyone who might be helping Burton, saying aiding him would be a felony crime “punishable by up to 10 years in jail.” He suggested the person “try to convince him to turn himself in.”
Burton is 5-foot-11, about 180 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. He sometimes wears glasses and was last seen wearing camouflage clothing and carrying a dark-colored backpack.
Those with information about Burton’s whereabouts are asked to call state police at 973-3700 or 911.