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2 prison employees suspended after Michigan escape

February 7, 2014
Associated Press

IONIA, Mich. (AP) — Two employees of a western Michigan prison where a convicted killer escaped for 24 hours have been suspended, officials said Friday.

The Corrections Department declined to release the names of the employees, but said one is a shift commander. The agency also did not provide details on the suspensions, but spokesman Russ Marlan confirmed that they were related to investigation of how Michael Elliot got away from the Ionia Correctional Facility.

"Our employees are required to follow procedures, policies, work rules," he said.

Elliot broke through two fences during an escape Sunday night that took an hour. Surveillance video shows the escape, but no one apparently was watching it in the control center.

"You can clearly see him leaving his housing unit, going to an area that prisoners are not allowed to be in, go down to the fence line and then spend the better part of an hour going through two perimeter fences," Marlan said.

The fences are equipped with motion sensors and carry electric current to shock anyone who touches them. But Marlan said Elliot used his hands to loosen and pull back portions that don't carry an electric charge.

Motion sensors should have triggered an alarm and a flashing light in the control center, he said.

"They were properly functioning sensors, but yet they didn't go off, or he obviously wasn't detected," Marlan said.

Elliot was wearing a white kitchen uniform that may have helped him blend with snow.

The department expects to wrap up its investigation next week, while Attorney General Bill Schuette conducts a separate review of what happened.

Elliot, who has been in prison for 20 years for a series of no-parole sentences, was discovered missing during an inmate count more than two hours after escaping from the prison, about 30 miles east of Grand Rapids.

Elliot, 40, was arrested Monday in a stolen vehicle in northwestern Indiana. He has refused to waive extradition and is being held in Indiana on a $1 million bond. He has said he escaped because he "just wanted a second chance."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he has confidence in the Corrections Department's investigation but still believes a separate review by Schuette can help prevent escapes. No timeframe was provided for Schuette's probe.

"We will conduct an aggressive investigation, without fear or favor," the attorney general said.

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.

 
 

 

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