IONIA, Mich. — An intense manhunt was underway Monday for a convicted killer who peeled a hole in two fences with his hands to escape from a Michigan prison before abducting a woman and fleeing to Indiana where the victim and her vehicle were safely recovered, authorities said.
Officials were stunned by the brazen escape Sunday night of Michael David Elliot, who had a record of good behavior during his 20 years in custody. He wore a white civilian kitchen uniform to evade security and blend in with snow at the Ionia Correctional Facility in western Michigan, prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said.
Prison fences were equipped with motion sensors to alert guards. The fences also carry electric current to shock anyone that touches them.
"It appears that did not happen. ... He was not zapped with electricity, and he was not picked up by the motion sensors," Marlan said.
Once outside the prison in Ionia, Elliot, 40, abducted a woman and stole her Jeep. She escaped late Sunday when he stopped for gas in Middlebury, Ind., some 100 miles to the south. The woman's red Jeep was found abandoned nearby in Shipshewana on Monday.
At least one school was locked down, residents were warned to stay inside and officers went door-to-door in the area. But it's possible Elliott was long gone. Investigators learned that the Jeep had been parked for hours before it was reported, said Indiana State Police Sgt. Ron Galaviz.
"We can't assume that he's on foot," Galaviz said, noting the cold weather, "but we can't always assume he's going to be in a vehicle."
An alert was issued to law enforcement nationwide. The woman told police that Elliot was armed with a box cutter and a hammer and had said he wanted to get as far from the Michigan prison as possible.