from today's Morning Report:
"Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Arrest For Theft From Campers
On March 26th, a camper hiked out of the park’s backcountry, contacted a ranger, and reported that another hiker – later identified as William Burchfield of McComb, Mississippi – had stolen some food and equipment from him. He said that Burchfield had appeared at the shelter from an off-trail area, that he was traveling with a young pregnant woman, and that he was carrying a large machete, an axe, a large filet knife and very little backpacking gear. He said that Burchfield was “acting weird and was a bit scary.” The camper and his wife were preparing to leave the shelter that morning when he noticed that a small stuff sack with freeze-dried meals, a cook stove and a mess kit were missing. He questioned Burchfield about the missing items at the time, but Burchfield denied taking them. The camper and his wife left the area, but he decided to return shortly thereafter to question Burchfield further about the missing items. When he got back to the shelter, he found Burchfield cooking one of his freeze-dried meals in his pot and on his stove. He confronted Burchfield and got his stove back, but said that he felt uncomfortable about pursuing the issue further. Over the course of the day, an Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner contacted several other hikers who’d stayed at the shelter and had come into contact with Burchfield and his companion. All were aware of the theft and concerned that Burchfield was a threat to their safety. All indications were that Burchfield and his companion were hiking toward the Pecks Corner shelter, so rangers Lamon Brown and Duane Michael hiked into the area on the morning of March 27th to intercept them. They were not at the shelter, though, and hadn’t been there the previous night. The rangers then contacted hikers along the trail and found that the pair were at the Kephart shelter. They advised dispatch by radio, and rangers Pat Patten and April Lee hiked to the shelter. Burchfield lied about his identity, but admitted to the theft of the camping equipment. He was arrested and hiked out of the area with his companion. Burchfield was charged with misappropriation of property, providing false information, and backcountry permit violations. At the jail in Swain County, his identity was determined and he was found to have an outstanding warrant against him in Mississippi for credit card fraud. Further investigation revealed that Burchfield had stolen credit cards and a vehicle from his companion’s father earlier that month. He and his companion then drove to Knoxville, where he sold the car, used the stolen credit cards, and entered the park to hike the AT. He’d been on the run for about 21 days when he came to the Smokies. Burchfield has been extradited to Mississippi under felony warrants for credit card fraud and motor vehicle theft.
[Submitted by Rick Brown, Assistant Chief Ranger] "