Manhunt underway for convicted killer who escaped Michigan prison
The Associated Press
Published Monday, February 3, 2014 11:34AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 3, 2014 3:02PM EST
IONIA, Mich. -- An intense manhunt was underway Monday for a convicted killer who peeled a hole in two fences with his hands to escape from a Michigan prison before abducting a woman and fleeing to Indiana where the victim and her vehicle were safely recovered, authorities said.
Officials were stunned by the brazen escape Sunday night of Michael David Elliot, who had a record of good behaviour during his 20 years in custody. He wore a white civilian kitchen uniform to evade security and blend in with the snow at the Ionia Correctional Facility, prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said.
Prison fences were equipped with motion sensors to alert guards. The fences also carry electric current to shock anyone that 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.
Elliot, 40, then abducted a woman and stole her Jeep outside the prison in Ionia. She later escaped when he stopped for gas in Middlebury, Indiana, some 100 miles (160 kilometres) to the south. The woman's red Jeep was found abandoned nearby in Shipshewana later Monday.
"Residents in Shipshewana and surrounding areas: lock your residences and stay indoors. Only answer door for law enforcement," the LaGrange County, Indiana, sheriff's department said.
An alert on Elliot was issued to law enforcement nationwide. The woman told police that he said he wanted to get as far from the Michigan prison as possible.
"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 per cent. It didn't take him long to get down to Indiana. ... His flight path now has expanded dramatically."
Nothing in Elliot's record suggested he might escape, said Heyns, adding, "This was an entirely one-man operation."
The woman who was abducted by Elliot was able to call police from a concealed cellphone while he was pumping gas at the store near Middlebury in Elkhart County, Indiana. She ran to a restroom where she locked herself inside. Elliot knocked on the door, but she stayed inside until police arrived and wasn't harmed.
Elliot was discovered missing from the prison about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, probably 2 1/2 hours after he escaped by using his hands to create a hole in two fences, Marlan said.
"There was a perimeter vehicle with an armed officer who was circling the facility during this time period. (Elliot) was able to evade or avoid detection," Marlan said.
He said it wasn't immediately known if electronic security measures at the fence were not working or if Elliot somehow avoided them.
Elliot was serving life behind bars for fatally shooting four people and burning down their 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 tied him to the slayings. 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.