Comparing Cases: The Tale Of Two Prisoner Escapes In Ionia

Posted at 11:29 PM, Mar 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-12 23:41:09-04

IONIA, Mich. — (March 12, 2014)   Thursday escaped Michigan prisoner Micheal Elliot is scheduled to have an extradition hearing in Indiana.

During that hearing, a judge may decide whether Elliot will be shipped back to Michigan to face justice after escaping from the Ionia Correctional Facility on February 2, 2014.

As that hearing approaches, the DOC is sharing some lessons learned from Elliot’s escape and the attempted escape of another prisoner at the Ionia Correctional Facility.

Just about six weeks before Elliot’s escape on Sunday, February 2, Lekeldric Porter, in prison for armed robbery, attempted to escape on Saturday, December 14, 2013.

We checked in with Michigan Department of Corrections Spokesperson Russ Marlan who gave us a list of the similarities between the escape attempts by both men and the lessons learned.

First, critical incident reports show that both men unraveled the wire on non-electric fences creating a hole to squeeze through.

“He did create a hole in similar fashion to prisoner Elliot,” said Marlan. “He was able to unravel a fence in almost the same way that Elliot did on the perimeter fence and that`s been rectified.”

Marlan said those fences are being reinforced so they can’t be slipped under or unraveled at the edges again.

Next, reports show that both men used the snow to their advantage.

Officials say Porter slipped away from guards after his unit was on snow shoveling duty.

He ducked out of sight at that time behind a snow pile.

“Instead of going back to his housing unit, he hid behind a pile of snow that was created from inmate shoveling,” said Marlan.

Elliot used white clothing to hide himself in the snow so that the perimeter vehicle guard wouldn’t spot him.

Now, snow removal procedures at the facility are being reconsidered and examined.

Third, both men also altered their clothing and hid those items from officers.

Marlan said Elliot sewed together parts of his long underwear to make a mask and hat.

Meanwhile, Porter packed his clothes with cardboard and garbage bags so he wouldn’t get shocked by the stun fence when he climbed it on his way to the last perimeter fence.

The critical incident report quoted Porter as saying, “I didn`t feel much of a shock from the electric fence because I had on numerous trash bags and wouldn`t have  a problem with the razor wire because I had my shins and forearms padded with cardboard.”

“In both cases, prisoners having things they shouldn`t have had,” said Marlan.

Also, both men escaped around 6:00 PM after darkness had fallen and visibility was low.

“They took advantage of snowy conditions, dark conditions,” said Marlan.

The number one issue that was similar in both escapes, according to Marlan, employee complacency.

He said officers either didn’t find or pay attention to the garbage bags and cardboard that helped Porter make it over the electrified stun fence.

“He must have been keeping it in his cell and that`s why when we talked about staff complacency, which, were some of the primary issues with the Elliot escape,” said Marlan.

In Elliot’s case, Marlan said control center employees were at fault for not resetting a motion alarm, even though the reset prompt light would have been flashing.

One of the employees who was in the control room and missed the reset signal, was also listed as working in the control room the day of the Porter escape.

That officer was Lt. Shundra Cheeks.

However, the day of the Porter escape, Marlan said the alarms worked properly.

According to Marlan, they did work not the day Elliot escaped and he again said that was from employee complacency.

“That light was flashing for almost six hours and it was not reset as prisoner Elliot moved through that area and eventually escaped,” said Marlan.

When asked if Lt. Cheeks was responsible, Marlan said, “We have two corrections officers, one corrections officer and one shift commander, who are off on suspension right now that were both working in the control center that evening.”