Michigan Dept. of Corrections Releases Report on Ionia Inmate Escape

Posted at 4:21 PM, Mar 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-06 17:03:32-05

Mug shot of Michael Elliot taken in LaPorte County, Ind.

LANSING, Mich. (March 6, 2014) — The Michigan Department of Corrections Thursday released their review of Michael Elliot’s escape from the Ionia Correctional Facility.

MDOC concludes that Elliot had no idea that some of the sensor systems were not reset when he escaped Feb. 2.

According to the review, zones along his escape route were triggered during testing earlier in the day but weren’t reset by employees in the control room until much later.

If they had been reset, they “would have detected the prisoner’s presence in front of the inside sally port gate.”

At about 5:55 p.m., Elliot dug snow and ice out and then crawled under a fence separating the jail yard and a Michigan State Industries building.

He then crawled on his stomach, staying below the microwave sensors that would have detected him while he made his way to the far side of the building.

E-flex sensors, which detect vibrations whens someone grabs, bumps or climbs on a fence, were not activated when Elliot crawled under that fence.

If they had been, MDOC officials say he would have trigged an alarm when he bumped the fence while crawling.  The e-flex fencing was not activated after shock fencing was installed on the outer fence of the Ionia Correctional facility, according to the report.

Elliot eventually made his way to the facility’s sally port, which is a garage-type area where prisoners are dropped off.  He spent about 30 minutes unraveling the inner fence, using white clothes he had procured to blend in with the snow when guards passed.

According to the MDOC report, he used hobby craft scissors and a belt in the escape. He was allowed to have those items.

The staff was not monitoring the sally port area because they were watching monitors in a different area where “mass movement” was occurring, the report says.

Once he passed through the sally port’s outer fence just after 6:50 p.m., he made his way to an open garage at a house near the prison and stole a box cutter, a hammer and duct tape.

He then approached a woman in a red Jeep, and made her drive him to Elkhart, Ind., where she escaped by asking to go to the bathroom and then locking herself inside.

Following his capture Feb. 3 in LaPorte County, Ind., Elliot noted that he had been planning his escape for about four months.  He decided to attempt it on Super Bowl Sunday because he thought the staff would be distracted by the game.

“At this time there is no evidence that staff’s attention was diverted due to the Super Bowl,” MDOC’s report says.

Though the game was not a factor, the other human errors as well as a staff shift change heavily contributed to Elliot’s successful escape.

MDOC also notes in their report that the sally port area was not staffed during the time of Elliot’s escape.

The report says that the sally port is only staffed from Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. unless there is traffic.  This has been their procedure since the facility opened in 1987.

The state attorney general’s office is also conducting a review of this escape.

Elliot was serving a life sentence for four murders he committed in the ’90s.

According to court documents he was convicted in the August 1993 murders of four people in Gladwin County: Vickie Currie and her boyfriend Michael Tufnell, along with his brother Bruce Tufnell and Kathy Lane.

Elliot and two brothers, Chuck and Paul Treece, plus Tammy LaCross (who was 16 at the time, and the daughter of victim Vickie Currie) hatched a plan to steal drug money that Tufnell allegedly kept at a storage facility

They didn’t find the alleged drug money at the facility, so they stole guns and ammo from another storage unit, then went to Tufnell’s house to look for a safe, according to court documents.

Elliot and Chuck Treece went into the house, killed the four victims, then set the house on fire.

Full Escape Report