Ionia prison escape: Michael David Elliot, convicted murderer, caught in Indiana
February 4, 2014 (LA PORTE, Ind.) (WLS) -- An escaped inmate was behind bars in La Porte County jail Tuesday. He was nabbed less than 24 hours after a brazen escape from a Michigan prison.
Elliot peeled a hole in two fences with his bare hands to escape before abducting a woman and fleeing. Police captured him Monday evening after a chase, authorities said.
The police pursuit that ended in a car crash. Deputies drew their guns as they moved in, but in the end, police said that Michael Elliot -- while he tried to crawl out of a car window -- quickly realized he had nowhere to run.
"We yanked him out of the car, yes," said Deputy Jeff Wright, La Porte County Ind. Sheriff's Department.
They thought they were pursuing a car thief. It turned out to be a convicted killer.
"At first I couldn't believe it that this is the guy we were looking for," said Deputy Shawek Czupryna, La Porte County Ind. Sheriff's Department.
Deputies Jeff Wright and Slawek Czupryna chased the killer-turned-escapee right into a snowbank.
"As many officers and deputies as we had, he didn't stand a chance to escape again," said Deputy Czupryna.
"He wasn't disruptive by any means. He was fairly polite actually," said Deputy Wright. "He didn't try to give false names or send us off the path. We asked his name and he told us who he was."
Michael Elliot is no stranger to law enforcement in Michigan. He was serving a life sentence for killing four people, then setting their home on fire.
Prison officials say Elliot stole a kitchen uniform and is believed to have used his bare hands to get through two fences.
"It is obvious there were some flaws in our security and we need to assess what those are," said Dan Heyns, Michigan Department of Corrections.
In less than 24 hours on the run, police say Elliot stole as many four vehicles including a Jeep. It's driver says Elliot carjacked, then abducted her in Michigan. She got away in Indiana by asking to use the bathroom. Her husband is grateful she escaped.
"She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Mike Van Wormer, carjacking victim's husband.
Elliot managed to cover 150 miles during his day of freedom.
"To have him off the streets and put people's mind at ease is very gratifying," said La Porte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer.
Boyd said Elliot was arrested and taken to the La Porte County Jail.
How exactly Elliot was able to get out of the Ionia prison remains unclear. 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.
Once outside the prison, Elliot, 40, abducted a woman and stole her Jeep. The woman, who was not hurt, escaped late Sunday when he stopped for gas in Middlebury, Ind., some 100 miles to the south. The woman's red Jeep was found abandoned nearby in Shipshewana on Monday.
At least one school was locked down, residents were warned to stay inside and officers went door-to-door in the area.
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.
"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. ... His flight path now has expanded dramatically."
Nothing in Elliot's record suggested he might escape, said Heyns, who added, "This is entirely a one-man operation."
The woman who was abducted was able to call 911 from a concealed cellphone while Elliott was pumping gas at the store near Middlebury in Elkhart County, Ind., authorities said. She ran to a restroom and locked herself inside. Elliot knocked on the door, but she stayed inside until police arrived.
Elliot was discovered missing from the prison about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, probably 2 ½ 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 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.
He was arrested a few days later and had 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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