A man convicted of four 1993 murders has escaped from the Ionia Michigan Correctional Facility.
Michael David Elliot, a 40-year-old, 5-foot, 8-inch tall, 165-pound white male with brown hair and brown eyes and wearing a blue and orange state prison uniform, escaped Sunday night.
Elliot was discovered missing about 9:30 p.m. Sunday from the Ionia Correctional Facility in mid-Michigan, the Michigan Department of Corrections said.
"It appears that he created a hole at the bottom of the two perimeter fences of the correctional facility and then crawled through those holes," Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said in an email.
Department Director Dan Heyns said Elliot was dressed in a white kitchen uniform, which might have helped him evade security at the prison. A review of surveillance footage suggests Elliot may have escaped about 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
According to LaGrange County Sheriff's Department officers, Elliot forced his way into a Red 2004 Jeep Liberty with Michigan license plate “5FTG55” sitting outside a residence on in Ionia, Mich., being driven by a female at approximately 8 p.m.
Elliot was armed with a hammer and a box cutter knife and threatened to cut the female, police said.
They traveled into the Middlebury area where they stopped at a Gallop’s gas station along Ind. 13 to get fuel. The woman who had a cell phone hidden from Elliot, called 911 while he was pumping gas and the call was received by LaGrange County 911 dispatchers, police said.
Dispatchers quickly asked the woman to go inside the gas station to get away from the suspect. When the caller got inside, the dispatcher asked her to lock herself in the restroom and not leave.
At one point Michael Elliot knocked on the restroom door and told the female that it was time to go, police said. 911 dispatchers were able to locate the gas station they were at using GPS from the cell phone along with the description that the caller was able to give. The other LaGrange County dispatcher contacted Elkhart County right away to have officers en route.
The dispatcher kept the victim on the phone until officers arrived while her partner kept Elkhart County informed. 911 dispatchers while on the phone with the victim were able to locate the news on the escapee from Ionia, Mich.
The victim told the dispatcher that Elliot had put on a pair of the victim’s black cargo pants and also had a jacket on, police said. Elliot had short hair and facial hair. Elliot told the woman that he was in prison for four counts of murder.
The woman said that Elliot had the keys to her red Jeep Liberty and he stated that he wanted to get far away from Ionia, Mich. The stop in Middlebury was their first stop since they left Ionia. Once officers arrived on scene, 911 dispatchers confirmed this through Elkhart County before the woman opened the door. Once this was confirmed, the woman opened the door to find the police officers on scene and her Jeep Liberty was gone.
Elliot was last seen along Ind. 13 just south of the Michigan state line.
An alert on Elliot has been issued to law enforcement nationwide. The woman told police that he 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," Heyns said. "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 his record suggested he might escape, Heyns said.
"He had no assistance. This was an entirely one-man operation," the prisons chief said.
Elliot was serving life behind bars 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 in possession of a gun that was tied 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 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Measures have been taken to tighten security at the prison, Heyns said. Marlan said all other prisoners at the Ionia Correctional Facility were accounted for.
Police ask that people share this information on Facebook to help spread the word.
Police caution, if located, do not approach Elliot. Contact 911 immediately. Elliot should be considered armed and dangerous.