IONIA, MICHIGAN – A convicted killer who authorities say managed to evade guards and peel through two electrically charged fences to escape a prison was tripped up by stolen vehicles once on the outside.
After losing the woman he abducted and ditching her Jeep, authorities say Michael David Elliot managed to steal another vehicle. But a sheriff’s deputy quickly spotted the stolen Chevrolet Monte Carlo on Monday evening and chased it, leading to Elliot’s capture.
No one was injured in the chase, and the abducted woman also wasn’t hurt.
Authorities are now left to sort out exactly how Elliot was able to escape the prison in the state of Michigan and flee to Indiana. Fences 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,” prison spokesman Russ Marlan said.
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.
Officials were stunned by the brazen escape Sunday night. Elliot, who had a record of good behavior during his 20 years in custody, wore a white kitchen uniform to evade security and blend in with snow at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Michigan, authorities 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. It didn’t take him long to get down to Indiana.”
Nothing in Elliot’s record suggested he might escape, said Heyns, who added, “This is entirely a one-man operation.”
Once outside the prison, Elliot, 40, abducted a woman and stole her Jeep, authorities said. The woman escaped late Sunday when Elliot stopped for gas in Indiana, some 160 km south. The red Jeep was found abandoned Monday.
The discovery prompted officers to go door to door in the area. Residents were warned to stay inside and at least one school was locked down.
An alert was issued to law enforcement nationwide. The woman told police that Elliot was armed with a box cutter and a hammer, and had said he wanted to get as far from the Michigan prison as possible.
Authorities tracked him down after the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department got a report of a car stolen from a factory in the city of LaPorte, said sheriff’s Maj. John Boyd. A deputy who happened to be nearby spotted the stolen Chevrolet Monte Carlo “within a few seconds,” Boyd said.
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.
Elliot was discovered missing from the Michigan prison Sunday night, probably 2 ½ hours after he escaped by using his hands to create a hole in two fences, 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.
The woman who was abducted was able to call police from a concealed mobile phone while Elliott was pumping gas at the store in Indiana, authorities said. She ran to a restroom and locked herself inside. Elliot knocked on the door, but she stayed inside until police arrived.
In the police 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, Michigan,” the woman says, according to a recording of the call.
Elliot was serving life in prison without parole 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.