Escaped Prisoner Is Back In Michigan’s Hands
JACKSON (WWJ/AP) – A man who escaped from a Michigan prison in February is back in the state after no longer opposing his extradition from Indiana.
The Michigan Corrections Department says Michael Elliot is temporarily housed at a prison in Jackson while officials decide where to lock him up next. He was returned to the state on Thursday. Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Fronk said he wasn’t surprised, adding that there was no legal argument to keep Elliot in Indiana.
Elliot was captured in Indiana on Feb. 3, about 24 hours after escaping from the Ionia Correctional Facility in western Michigan. He slipped under gates and made holes in fences to get away on Super Bowl Sunday.
Elliot, who had shaved the mustache he had when he was apprehended, was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with both his hands and legs shackled. He said on his way out of the LaPorte County courtroom that his escape and his extradition fight were attempts to call attention to his case.
“I’m innocent,” he yelled as authorities led him onto an elevator, referring to his 1993 conviction in a quadruple murder case.
Prosecutors in Indiana agreed to drop an auto theft against Elliot, who is facing carjacking, kidnapping and escape charges in Michigan.
When asked by a reporter Thursday if he planned to try to escape again, Elliot replied: “Not if I’m cleared.”
According to court records, the 40-year-old convicted killer — who was serving no-parole sentences for four homicides in Gladwin County when he was 20-years-old — began his escape at 6 p.m. and was out of the facility by 6:53 p.m. Corrections officers noticed Elliot was missing around 9:15 p.m. during a prisoner count.
“You can clearly see him leaving his housing unit, going to an area that prisoners are not allowed to be in, go down to the fence line and then spend the better part of an hour going through two perimeter fences,” Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said.
An investigation showed Elliot was able to escape primarily because guards didn’t properly operate the motion-detector alarms at a gate, which he pried open with scissors and a belt buckle. The investigation also found that an alarm sensor in another area of the prison was misaligned, allowing Elliot to crawl underneath an invisible detection beam without being noticed. Informal prisoner accounts also weren’t done during the afternoon shift.
Elliot said it took at least 30 minutes to escape and another hour to run to the city of Ionia. Once there, Elliot started looking for a running car to steal. Armed with a box cutter and hammer he found along his journey, Elliot admitted that he approached a woman at her vehicle and said “Hey, move over.” Elliot jumped into the back seat of the woman’s red Jeep and told her he just escaped from prison.
The woman drove Elliot to a gas station some 100 miles south near Middlebury in Elkhart County, Ind., where he took her keys and went to change into dry clothes he found inside the Jeep. Meanwhile, the woman, who had a cellphone concealed in her pocket, locked herself in a bathroom and called 911. Elliot realized his luck might be changing, so he got back into the Jeep and started to leave.
“And then as I’m pulling away I seen the cops come,” he said.
Elliot drove the Jeep to nearby Shipshewana, where he abandoned the vehicle. He then went to a factory in La Porte where he stole another vehicle. After being notified of the stolen vehicle, a deputy on duty saw Elliot “within a few seconds” and initiated a traffic stop. Elliot tried to run, but he was eventually captured and taken back to the La Porte County Jail.
Elliot, who was classified as a lower security risk, said he chose Super Bowl Sunday because he thought prison staff might be distracted. But investigators found no evidence the game was a factor. They also uncovered no evidence that Elliot had help from inmates or staff.
Corrections Director Dan Heyns claimed ultimate responsibility for the escape and denied budget cuts played a role. Democratic lawmakers, though, said they want to review the agency’s report and see if the legislative ombudsman reaches a similar conclusion.
Two officers were suspended over the escape. According to an internal investigation, a control center officer failed to reset two alarms for 5½ hours after they were tested, and a supervisor who noticed the problem left when her shift was over without notifying others to check the gate. If the alarms had been properly reactivated, the investigation found, Elliot could have been detected in the vicinity of a vehicle gate during his escape.
Elliot was serving time for the fatal shootings of four people 1993, when he and his accomplices were trying to steal money from a drug dealer, police said. Elliot claims to be innocent of the killings, and a co-defendant says he pulled the trigger and Elliot played no part.
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