PETOSKEY (WWJ/AP) - A man whose trip to a national park in northern Michigan with his children sparked a 12-hour manhunt has been charged with misdemeanor domestic violence.
Daniel Elliott was arraigned Wednesday in Emmet County District Court. Judge James Erhart raised his bond from the $10,000 set after his arrest to $100,000. Erhart also ordered the 50-year-old Orchard Lake man to undergo a mental health evaluation before being released.
Police said Elliott and his wife had a physical confrontation Sunday during a visit to Petoskey. His wife told police that she was forced out of the family vehicle by her husband and left on the side of the road as he drove off with their children. She then filed a domestic violence complaint, setting off a manhunt for her husband and their kids — ages 14, 10 and 9.
A ranger found Elliott’s BMW about 7 a.m. Monday near the Coast Guard Maritime Heritage Museum at Sleeping Bear Dunes. According to reports, police found “unusual things” inside, but would not identify the contents.
Crews walked the Lake Michigan shoreline and combed wetlands and inland ridges. The search involved dozens of personnel from the Michigan State Police, the national park, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Leelanau County and Grand Traverse County sheriff’s departments. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter team searched by air.
Parts of the lakeshore, including the popular Dune Climb, were closed to the public during the search.
Reinforcements from volunteer fire departments and other agencies arrived Monday night and began combing the area more systematically. The family was found about an hour later, walking down a sandy hillside. The terrain in the park along the northern Lake Michigan coast is a mixture of towering dunes and swampy woodlands thick with trees and undergrowth.
Police said the children told their rescuers that their father told them they were “camping.” The children also said they knew the helicopter was looking for them and they stayed hidden to avoid detection from the air.
“They didn’t appear to have a lot of supplies or equipment with them,” said Phil Akers, chief ranger at the national lakeshore. “Just kind of a spur-of-the-moment, ‘Let’s take off into the woods and go camping’ trip.”
The children were exhausted, famished and covered with mosquito bites but otherwise unharmed, police said.
They had been given nothing to eat or drink since breakfast Sunday morning. They arrived that afternoon at the lakeshore in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about 280 miles northwest of Detroit, and spent the night in the woods with little if any shelter. A heavy rainstorm drenched the area Monday morning, and the remainder of the day was hot and muggy.
Police believe Elliott thought he needed to keep the children away from his wife and that is why they were hiding in the woods on the dunes. The children have since been reunited with their mother.
Elliott is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 11.
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