‘Thorough’ investigation of Elliot escape promised

(Feb. 2, 2014)

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Cody Dennis heard a knock on the door of his Lincoln Road home about 9 p.m. Sunday.

It was officers from just across Dennis’ back fence at the Ionia Correctional Facility. They were looking for Michael Elliot, who they had just realized had escaped.

Michael David Elliot (Feb. 11, 2013 - courtesy Michigan Department of Corrections)
Michael David Elliot (Feb. 11, 2013 – courtesy Michigan Department of Corrections)

“We seen them in the back yard with flash lights searching around,” said Dennis, who added he wasn’t worried that Elliot might still be in the area. “What person is going to want to come here right after they escaped when they can still season the prison from our backyard?”

The day after he got away, answers to how Elliot managed to escape the maximum security prison are hard to come by.

State corrections officials, citing security concerns, offered just a few details.

“Job One is to recover and apprehend this escapee,” Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns said.

Inside woodtv.com: Convicted murderer escapes from Ionia Correctional Facility

Aaron Cobb, a former corrections officer who worked at the Ionia Correctional Facility, filled in some of the blanks — but also raised more questions.

MDOC officials confirm Elliot managed to change out of his assigned prison uniform.

“At the time of his escape, he was dressed in kitchen white uniform. I think the color had something to do with his ability to foil multiple security devices interior perimeter fencing,” Heyns said.

That may help explain how Elliot managed to get through to an intake area.

The former corrections officer said no unaccompanied prisoner should have been in that section.

Once outside, Elliot got through a hole in the fencing system which, according to the former officer, is made up of two 12-foot high, razor wire-topped fencing sections with a smaller, electrified fence in between.

The former corrections officer said anyone touching that fence sets off motion detectors that should alert guards patrolling the perimeter.

“I will say there was a perimeter vehicle active at the time. They didn’t catch it,” Heyns said.

After slipping through Elliot then made his way to the 600 block of Main Street in Ionia, about a three and a half mile run, where he carjacked a woman and forced his victim to make the drive to the Indiana, just past the Michigan boarder.

Inside woodtv.com: Son ‘proud’ of Elliot’s carjack victim for staying calm

Michael Elliot is seen on surveillance video at a Marathon gas station in Middlebury, Ind. (photo courtesy Michigan State Police - Feb. 3, 2014)
Michael Elliot is seen on surveillance video at a Marathon gas station in Middlebury, Ind. (photo courtesy Michigan State Police – Feb. 3, 2014)

It’s still unclear how and when he got the weapon, reportedly a box cutter, he used to kidnap the victim.

She managed to get away at a gas station. Elliot took off. He was later arrested Monday evening in LaPorte County, Ind.

It was during a routine cell check around 9 p.m. Sunday that corrections officers finally realized Elliot was gone.

“I will be demanding a very thorough investigation. It obvious that there were some flaws in our security and that we need to ask what those are,” Heyns pledged.

And Gov. Rick Snyder agreed.

“Now that we are assured the public is safe, we will turn our attention to thoroughly reviewing the situation that led to the prisoner’s escape. We will demand an exhaustive assessment of the incident and take whatever appropriate action is needed to prevent future incidents,” he said in a Monday night statement.

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