Fugitive preacher arrested

Tribune, January 12, 1999
Fugitive preacher arrested
By Nate House, Tribune Staff

A missing West Philadelphia pastor who was wanted for questioning in the beating death of a 4-year-old boy who died while in the pastor’s custody has been found in Georgia, Montgomery County officials announced yesterday.

The Reverend Dr. Javan McBurrows was arrested at 11:19 p.m. Sunday near Decatur, Ga., and charged with being a fugitive, said prison officials in DeKalb County, Ga. Reverend McBurrows has since been charged in Pennsylvania with endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.

No one has been charged in the beating death of the boy, although Montgomery County officials want McBurrows brought back to Pennsylvania for questioning in that case.

McBurrows was arrested by officials of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s fugitive division, said Maj. William Ivey of the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office. The reverend is being held in a Georgia jail pending the outcome of an extradition hearing, Ivey said.

At the time of their disappearance, Reverend McBurrows and his wife, Jane, were living in a two-story home in Upper Dublin, Montgomery County, with eught children, including three siblings who had been placed in their care. All the children were under the age of 8.

The Upper Dublin house where the family lived has since been condemned. Authorities have referred to the house as “squalid” and “uninhabitable.”

Authorities say that Reverend McBurrows and his wife disappeared shortly after Mrs. McBurrows brought 4-year-old Michael Davis to Abington Memorial Hospital at around 4 a.m. Saturday, said Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Bruce Castor. Davis died later that day at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Ian Hood conducted the autopsy on Davis and reported that the boy had suffered from a, “prolonged and repetitive beating.” In an affidavit of probable cause issued by the Montgomery County District Attorneys Office, Hood stated that he found extensive bruising on the child’s arms, face, back and the entire lower portion of his body.

The boy’s mother, Erika Daye, had left Davis with his siblings at Reverend McBurrows’ home. Daye had been interviewed by Upper Dublin Police Detectives Sunday and had told them that she had not seen or talked to her three children since before Christmas.

Prosecutors say that their main concern during Reverend McBurrows’ disappearance was the welfare of the seven children in McBurrows’ custody. The children may have witnessed the boy’s beating before his death.

Reverend McBurrows’ Third Christian Church at 61st and Oxford streets seemed all but deserted yesterday, a familiar sight for neighbors who say that the church’s flock was lacking in numbers.

“It’s never crowded,” said one neighbor who referred to himself only as Otis. “They’ve had a problem with that for years.”

“Hallelujah,” and “Praise the lord,” could be heard yesterday coming from inside of the Salt of the Earth Christian Academy adjacent to the church, yet no one inside the building responded to knocks on the door. The school is affiliated with the church.

“They say that the school is under new management,” said a Mr. Grant who had wanted to drop his child off at the school earlier in the day but decided not to after seeing the amount of press activity surrounding the church. Grant, who did not give a first name, said the people running the school told him that everything is fine and that the school will continue to operate despite McBurrows’ difficulties.

“He (McBurrows) didn’t associate too much with people around here,” said one neighbor who lives across the street from the church. The neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the only interaction McBurrows had with this residential Southwest neighborhood was occasionally trying to recruit neighbors for his church.

Reverend McBurrows had been arrested once in 1995 for simple assault but no disposition was reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.