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updated: 11/1/2013 6:30 AM

DuPage carjacker who fled country now in custody

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  • Michael Buhrman, a senior reactor operator at Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris who was convicted in absentia of aggravated vehicular hijacking, is now in custody, DuPage County authorities confirm.

      Michael Buhrman, a senior reactor operator at Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris who was convicted in absentia of aggravated vehicular hijacking, is now in custody, DuPage County authorities confirm.

 

A nuclear engineer who was believed to have escaped the country after being sentenced to 40 years in prison for carjacking is in the custody of federal authorities.

DuPage County state's attorney spokesman Paul Darrah confirmed Thursday that Michael Buhrman is being held and awaits his return to DuPage County at a time yet to be determined.

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In addition, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an order to the manager of the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris, Exelon Generation Co. LLC, prohibiting Buhrman and Landon Brittain, a fellow plant employee, from participating in NRC-licensed activities due to the NRC's lack of confidence that they can meet the agency's safety requirements, according to an agency news release.

According to the release, issued Monday, the NRC investigated an incident in which Burhman, a senior reactor operator, planned in mid-July 2011 to rob an armored car and recruited the assistance of Brittain, another senior reactor operator. The plan was not carried out.

The NRC concluded, the release said, that Buhrman's and Brittain's actions while off-site demonstrated they could not be relied upon to adhere to NRC requirements to protect plant and public safety.

"This situation was unusual; we do not normally encounter this type of egregious behavior in plant workers," NRC Region III Administrator Cynthia D. Pederson said in the release. "For this reason, the NRC has taken strong regulatory action against the individuals involved and the plant."

Buhrman, of Coal City, who was 32 at the time of his sentencing, was convicted in April for his armed carjacking of a woman's vehicle last year in the parking lot of a Woodridge store.

Authorities said a masked Buhrman approached his victim about 10 p.m. May 9, 2012, as she sat in her parked car at a Kohl's store in Woodridge. Buhrman pointed a loaded .45-caliber handgun at the woman's head, ordered her out of the 2000 Pontiac Grand Am and then took off in the car.

Buhrman was stopped and arrested by police a short distance from the scene, still armed and wearing the mask that made him look like an elderly man. He later told investigators he was "thrill-seeking," prosecutors have said.

Buhrman, a Navy veteran, was freed on $20,000 bail within days of being charged.

In July, Judge Kathryn Creswell, who eventually sentenced Buhrman in absentia for aggravated vehicular hijacking and vehicular hijacking, put Buhrman on home confinement and GPS monitoring after prosecutors said his girlfriend came forward with details of a plot to escape to Chile before trial.

In September, Buhrman's GPS ankle monitor issued an alert that it had been tampered with and police went to his home. They found the device had been cut off and Buhrman was gone.

At the time, Buhrman's attorneys maintained that their client did not leave voluntarily.

But police said Buhrman's home appeared "staged" to make it look as if he was abducted. He went missing three days after he withdrew $14,000 deposited into his checking account from a foreign source a day earlier, authorities said.

As for Brittain, according to NRC documents: "Although at the time Mr. Brittain was not charged for the crime (for which Buhrman was arrested), he fled the country, was later apprehended in Venezuela, and has been extradited to the United States. As of the date of this Order, Mr. Brittain is under indictment for aggravated vehicular hijacking, vehicular hijacking, and obstruction of justice."

Darrah confirmed that Brittain is in custody in DuPage County.

• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez contributed to this report.

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