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'Smurfing' suspect charged in Germaine Road fire

February 14, 2018 News Extra

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William E. Burke

A purported meth lab “cook” recently popped up on law enforcement radar.

Investigators were locked on William E. Burke, 38, of Winfield Township, who they suspect was “smurfing,” that is, using others to buy Sudafed pills from pharmacies.

The medicine, a must-have for meth-makers, was turned over to Burke. He was using it, authorities believe, for a “one pot” or “shake and bake” portable — and potentially volatile — methamphetamine lab in Butler Township.

Just two weeks after state and county narcotics officers began investigating Burke, he was badly burned in a fire Feb. 3 that destroyed a home on typically peaceful Germaine Road.

From the confines of a Pittsburgh hospital, investigators said, he later admitted the fire started while he was cooking up the synthetic stimulant.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office and Butler Township Police on Tuesday obtained felony arrest warrants for Burke and his alleged accomplice, Brittney R. Rudolph, 34, of Saxonburg.

The pair, according to court documents, are accused of breaking into the house under the cover of night and setting up the rudimentary laboratory in the basement.

Five people, including the homeowner and her adult son, were in the house when it caught fire about 6 a.m., police said. All were able to get out. Some went to neighboring homes for help.

Four people were reportedly hurt but none nearly as bad as Burke, who remains at West Penn Hospital.

To learn more about the Feb. 3 fire on Germaine Road, read Thursday's Butler Eagle.

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