IONIA, Mich. (AP) — The convicted killer who escaped from a Michigan prison says in an interview it was “relatively simple” to crawl under a fence and avoid detection from passing cars.
Michael Elliot, who was discovered missing Sunday during an inmate count at the Ionia Correctional Facility, was arrested Monday in northwest Indiana, driving a stolen vehicle.
He used his one phone call from an Indiana jail where he’s being held on $1 million bond to discuss the escape with the Detroit Free Press, which detailed the interview in a story published Saturday.
“I just seen an opportunity,” Elliot told the newspaper. “It was relatively simple.”
Elliot, 40, said he wore a couple of layers of white thermals underneath a blue uniform and tore it a little bit so he could rip it off easily when he dived into the snow. He also had white shoes, white gloves and a white thermal ski mask.
“As soon as (guards) turned their back a little bit, I dove in the snow and crawled to the path I had in mind,” said Elliot, who added it took 30 minutes to escape and another hour to run to the city of Ionia. He jumped in the snow every time he saw a car.
Once in Ionia, he spotted a woman, walked up to her car and said, “‘Hey, move over,'” Elliot said. “She said, ‘No I’m not doing anything.'”
He told her he’d been convicted of murder and had just escaped from prison before getting in the back of the vehicle.
“I assured her all the way there that I wasn’t going to do her any harm,” he said.
The woman drove to a gas station in Middlebury, Ind., and Elliot changed into a dry pair of her cargo pants and some undergarments she had in the vehicle.
He took the keys and went inside. The woman, who had a cellphone, called 911 and said she needed to use the restroom. Elliot said he took off in the vehicle, and the woman waited in a locked bathroom for police to arrive.
Elliot ditched the vehicle before stealing another car. He was arrested in Kankakee Township trying to outrun deputies.
Elliot remains in the La Porte County jail as officials in Michigan work to bring him back to the state, a process that could take weeks.
Two Ionia Correctional Facility employees have been suspended. The state Corrections Department did not provide details on the suspensions, but spokesman Russ Marlan confirmed Friday they were related to the investigation of Elliot’s escape from the prison, 30 miles east of Grand Rapids.
The department expects to wrap up its investigation next week, and Attorney General Bill Schuette will conduct a separate review of what happened.
Elliot was serving life in prison without parole for fatally shooting four people and burning down their Gladwin County house in 1993 when he was 20 years old. He and his accomplices were trying to steal money from a drug dealer, police said.
Elliot maintained his innocence in the four murders in the interview with the newspaper and said he hopes somebody will take another look at the case.
He said he never intended to hurt anybody during his escape, which he had hoped would end somewhere warm — such as Arizona or Utah, where he would live in the woods.
Asked if he had any regrets or would do anything differently, Elliot told the Free Press: “In a way, I wish I wouldn’t have did it.”