Nuclear engineer charged in DuPage carjacking goes missing
A nuclear engineer accused of carjacking a woman in DuPage County has gone missing, just months after prosecutors warned he was plotting to flee the country.
Police searched Michael Buhrman's home in downstate Coal City but came up empty-handed Friday after his GPS monitoring device issued an alert that it had been tampered with, state's attorney spokesman Paul Darrah said.
Now, the 32-year-old's attorney has reported him missing, saying he may not have voluntarily disappeared.
"From what I understand, there were signs of foul play," defense attorney Richard Blass said Wednesday. "His home was in disarray. The back door was left open, and the front door was locked. They did find blood."
In July, Judge Kathryn Creswell 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.
Court records indicate the woman told investigators Buhrman had access to offshore bank accounts, $100,000 in gold and a private jet. She said he gave her a false name and she learned he was facing charges only after researching his true identity online.
At the time, Blass said, Buhrman had purchased a smaller amount of gold as an investment and talked of vacationing in Chile only after his case was resolved. He reiterated Wednesday that his client also has strong ties to the area and a young son in Nebraska.
"I've spoken to his mother, who said he never mentioned leaving to her," Blass said. "I'm just scared this was something that occurred that was beyond his control."
Police officials in Coal City were not immediately available for comment, but Blass said he has issued subpoenas for reports involving his client's disappearance. He said police have indicated Buhrman's GPS monitor had been cut off and was found inside his home.
Buhrman, a Navy veteran and former reactor operator at Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris, is accused of carjacking a woman at gunpoint May 9 in Woodridge. Prosecutors said he was wearing a "realistic" mask resembling an elderly man when he approached the victim outside a department store about 10 p.m. and took off in her 2000 Pontiac Grand Am.
Buhrman was still wearing the mask when police stopped him nearby and took him into custody, authorities said. He later told investigators he was on a "thrill-seeking" mission, according to prosecutors.
Buhrman, who was fired by Dresden after his arrest, was freed on $20,000 cash bail within days of being charged.
Blass said prosecutors would have to prove his client is "willfully absent" before a trial could take place in his absence. If Burman does turn up, a no-bail warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Buhrman faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of aggravated vehicular hijacking. He has pleaded not guilty.
DuPage prosecutors declined to comment Wednesday on his disappearance.