Published February 03, 2014
Authorities in Indiana have captured a convicted murderer who escaped from a Michigan prison after a police chase.
Officials were stunned by the brazen escape Sunday night of Michael David Elliot, who had a record of good behavior during his 20 years in custody. He wore a white civilian kitchen uniform to evade security and blend in with snow at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich., prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said.
The chase that apprehended Elliot began after authorities in Indiana got a report Monday of a vehicle stolen from a factory in the city of LaPorte. A deputy who happened to be in the area spotted the vehicle "within a few seconds," sheriff's Maj. John Boyd said.
Authorities chased the vehicle through the city and into a rural area of Kankakee Township several miles away, where law enforcement used stop sticks to disable it.
Once the car was stopped, Elliot tried to run, Boyd said. But he was arrested and taken to the LaPorte County Jail, where he was being held without bond.
Authorities are now left to sort out exactly how Elliot, 40, was able to get out of the Michigan prison. Fences at the facility were equipped with motion sensors to alert guards. The fences also carry electric current to shock anyone who touches them.
"It appears that did not happen. ... He was not zapped with electricity, and he was not picked up by the motion sensors," Marlan said. "It appears that he created a hole at the bottom of the two perimeter fences of the correctional facility and then crawled through those holes.”
Marlan added that there was also a perimeter vehicle with an armed officer that was circling the facility around the time Elliot escaped.
Marlan said late Monday that Michigan would immediately begin the extradition process. The LaPorte County Sheriff's Department said he's being charged there with motor vehicle theft and resisting law enforcement, but authorities didn't say if he would stay in Indiana to face those allegations.
Elliot was convicted in four murders two decades ago. He was discovered missing about 9:30 p.m. Sunday from the Ionia Correctional Facility, the state Department of Corrections said.
"We had dog teams. We had a helicopter from the state police," said Michigan Corrections Department Director Dan Heyns. "The response was good, but he'd left the area by the time we were mobilized totally 100 percent."
Nothing in Elliot's record suggested he might escape, said Heyns, who added, "This is entirely a one-man operation."
Investigators told Fox 17 News that after escaping the prison, Elliot abducted a woman using a knife or box cutter and made her drive to Indiana. She later escaped when he stopped for gas in Middlebury.
The LaGrange County Sheriff's Department said the woman Elliot abducted was able to call 911 from a concealed cellphone while he was pumping gas. She ran to a restroom and locked herself inside. Elliot knocked on the door, but she stayed inside until police arrived.
In the 911 call, the woman calmly describes her location and tells the dispatcher that she has been abducted.
"I'm hostage to an escaped convict from Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich.," the woman says according to a recording of the 911 call.
The woman's red Jeep was found abandoned about 6 miles to the east in Shipshewana later on Monday, the LaGrange County sheriff's office said.
Elliot was serving life behind bars for fatally shooting four people and burning down their Gladwin County house in 1993 when he was 20 years old, according to court records. Elliot and his accomplices were trying to steal money from a drug dealer, police said.
He was arrested a few days later in possession of a gun that was tied to the murders. One of Elliot's co-defendants testified against him, saying he laughed about shooting the victims in the head.
Elliot was convicted of first-degree murder in 1994 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.