Escaped murder convict captured in Ind. after chase

Michael Elliot. (Courtesy LaPorte County Sheriff's Office - Feb. 3, 2014)

LAPORTE, Ind. (WOOD) — A man convicted of four 1993 murders who escaped Sunday from a state prison outside of Ionia was captured in Indiana Monday evening.

Michael David Elliot, 40, was arrested in Kankakee Township in rural LaPorte County, Ind., and allegedly stole a total of four vehicles in his 24-hour run from the law. He was arraigned Tuesday in Indiana on auto theft charges.

The sheriff’s department had been looking for a black 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that was stolen from the area of Boyd Avenue and E. Lincolnway in LaPorte, authorities said. Deputy Jeffrey Wright said the vehicle’s engine was on so it would warm up when it was taken. The sheriff’s department was alerted to the theft at 6:16 p.m. ET, according to a Monday night news release.

LaPorte County (Ind.) Deputies Slawek Czupryna and Jeffrey Wright, who arrested Michael Elliot. (Feb. 3, 2014)
LaPorte County (Ind.) Sheriff’s Deputies Slawek Czupryna and Jeffrey Wright, who arrested Michael Elliot. (Feb. 3, 2014)

Within minutes of learning of the theft, Deputy Slawek Czupryna spotted the stolen vehicle headed south on Boyd Boulevard in LaPorte. He attempted a traffic stop, but the driver didn’t pull over. Instead, the driver fled, leading deputies on a short chase.

Stop Sticks were deployed just before 6:30 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.

“He ran over a couple of sets of Stop Sticks that some of our sergeants had laid out, so his tires were going flat. He lost control of the vehicle and slid into a snowbank,” Deputy Wright told 24 Hour News 8.

That snowbank was at the T-intersection of N 250 E between East Division and E 150 N in Kankakee Township, east of LaPorte.

Elliot then tried to climb out of the car’s window, Wright said. Deputies Czupryna and Wright each grabbed one of Elliot’s shoulders, pulled him from the car, laid him on the ground and handcuffed him. No one was hurt.

When asked what his name was, Elliot answered truthfully, Wright said. He said he asked Elliot if he was “‘the Michael Elliot,” and Elliot confirmed he was the escapee. Wright said he was surprised that Elliot didn’t lie about his identity.

Wright then put Elliot into the back of his cruiser and took him to the LaPorte County Jail. Elliot is being held without bond on felony car theft and resisting charges.

Wright described Elliot was polite to officers, and quiet and emotionless during the ride to jail. Elliot looked tired, Wright said, like he had not slept in days. Wright said Elliot was wearing jeans that were too big and “a couple of jackets.”

Wright said authorities didn’t know Elliot would be in their area — there was more concern he may be in the Shipshewana area — and that he did not expect the man he was chasing to be Elliot. Wright said he was relieved that he and Czupryna were able to get Elliot off the streets and bring worried citizens some peace of mind.

In a Monday night news release, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder thanked the law enforcement agencies that aided in the search and capture of Elliot. “The swift apprehension of this dangerous criminal is a credit to law enforcement and corrections officials in Michigan and Indiana, and our partners with the U.S. Marshals Service. Their courage, diligence and professionalism reminds us how fortunate we are to have such men and women who are willing to keep our communities safe. …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.”

Elliot escaped around 7 p.m. Sunday from the Ionia Correctional Facility, but jail workers didn’t notice he was missing until a routine prisoner check at 9 p.m.

Authorities said Elliot left through the sally port, a secured garage where prisoners are brought into the facility. Elliot then got through a hole in the fencing system which, according to a former corrections officer, is made up of two 12-foot high, razor wire-topped fencing sections with a smaller, electrified fence in between them.

He then made a three-and-a-half mile trek into Ionia where he carjacked a woman, police said. The two then drove to the Elkhart, Ind. area. The woman escaped at a gas station there and he fled in her Jeep Liberty. That SUV was found early Monday morning in Shipshewana, Ind.

A map detailing the points of interest in the escape and capture of convicted murderer Michael Elliot. (Feb. 3, 2013)
A map detailing the points of interest in the escape and capture of convicted murderer Michael Elliot. (Feb. 3, 2013)

LaPorte County, where Elliot was arrested, is west of Shipshewana.

Elliot was serving five life sentences in the Ionia Correctional Facility after being convicted of four 1993 murders.

In the early morning of Aug. 8, 1993, according to court documents, Elliot broke into a home in Bentley Township, north of Midland, killed four people then set the house on fire. Vickie Currie, her boyfriend Michael Tufnell, his cousin Bruce Squires Tufnell Jr. and fiancee Cathy Lave were killed.

Charles and Paul Treece, and Tammy LaCross were with Elliot when the murders were committed. Charles Treece was also convicted of four counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery and setting a house on fire, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a firearm. He is also serving life in prison at the Alger Correctional Facility in Munising in the Upper Peninsula.

LaCross, who was 16 at the time and is victim Vickie Currie’s daughter, and Paul Treece both testified against Elliot. Under the terms of plea agreements, they pleaded guilty to robbery and felony firearm charges.

Michael Elliot (1993)
Michael Elliot (1993)

In 2005, Elliot filed a motion for release, saying that there was new evidence in his case — namely a 1994 letter from Charles Treece that attested to Elliot’s innocence. A state court denied his request.

Elliot maintains he is innocent, according to the court documents.



Michael Elliot escapes from Ionia Correctional Facility

Former guard: Elliot’s escape a ‘mystery’

‘Thorough’ investigation of escape promised

Son ‘proud’ of Elliot’s carjack victim for staying calm

Victim’s mother worried Elliot would kill again

Life as a Level II prison inmate

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