911 Dispatcher Helps Save Woman Kidnapped by Escaped Inmate

Posted at 6:44 PM, Feb 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-03 19:19:59-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., — The LaGrange county dispatcher who answered the cry for help from a woman abducted by an escaped Ionia Correctional Facility inmate says she will never forget that phone call.

Cheryl Vanwormer dialed 911 on a cell phone that she’d managed to kept hidden from inmate Michael Elliot since he carjacked her Sunday evening in Ionia and forced her to drive to Indiana. When the pair stopped for gas in Elkhart County,  Vanwormer called dispatchers once Elliot went inside the station to pay.

“All she could tell me is that she was at a gas station, just off the toll road,” said dispatcher Heather Lock. “She had no clue what county she was in, what town she was in…Instincts kicked in. What do I need to do to get her to safety?”

Vanwormer spoke calmly as she explained her situation. After a few minutes on the phone outside, Lock urged the woman to go inside the station to the bathroom to get away.

“I was just trying to find a way to get her inside, get a barrier between the two of them because of what she told me about how dangerous he could possibly be,” explained Lock.

Vanwormer managed to stay on the phone as she entered the station and told Elliot she needed to use the restroom. Once inside, she locked the door and continued to relay critical information, like Elliot’s attire and description.

“Listening to her voice, she did excellent as far as staying calm and getting me some vital information as quickly as we needed to,” Lock told FOX 17 News. “I didn’t want her to get back into that vehicle and for them to drive away.”

Lock convinced Vanwormer to stay locked inside the bathroom, despite repeated knocks from Elliot. Her directions likely saved the woman’s life.

“It’s just part of the job, this is what we signed up for,” she said. “I don’t think any of my other coworkers would have done anything different. This is what we’re trained to do.”

Vanwormer was eventually rescued and is safely back at home with her husband.

As of 7 pm Monday, Elliot is in custody, according to the LaPorte County Sheriff. FOX 17 has learned he was taken into custody after a short car chase in LaPorte, Indiana.