1993 screen grab
1993 screen grab
IONIA, Mich. (WZZM) - The convicted murderer who escaped from a medium security state prison in Ionia has a long criminal record, including a quadruple homicide in 1993 that landed him in prison for life.
Two days before his arrest in Aug. 1993, Michael David Elliot was in Grand Rapids, bragging about the murders and how "we smoked them 'who'es,'' court records show.
He was convicted of seven felony offenses stemming from same incident on Aug. 8, 1993 near the community of Rhodes in southeast Gladwin County, about 135 miles from Grand Rapids.
His four victims were all shot at point-blank range in the head or face. Elliot has spent the last 20 years in prison, but was transferred to a medium security unit of the Ionia Correctional Facility. It was there, authorities say, he made his escape sometime after the dinner hour on Sunday.
Elliot abducted a Belding woman from Ionia using a knife or box cutter and drove to Elkhart in Indiana, where they stopped for gas, police said. The woman was able to escape at the gas station and call police.
As of mid-afternoon, Elliot remains at large. He is now among 18 escaped prisoners listed on the Michigan Department of Corrections "most wanted'' list.
Elliot was assigned to a medium security section of Ionia Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison located on Blue Water Highway - one of four state prisons in Ionia. The pole-barn type construction unit houses 140 inmates.
In general, the higher the security level, the more security risk a prisoner presents in terms of manageability or escape potential. Michigan has five security levels. Elliot was classified as a "level two.''
Level two inmates are afforded recreation areas and access to weights, basketball courts, volleyball, baseball, horseshoes and a running track. He was also eligible to work at a Michigan State Industries factory.
Elliot is five-feet, 8-inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. He has tattoos on both arms and a scar on his upper lip. As police continue their search for Elliot, details of the grisly murders in Gladwin County are emerging.
"Elliot was laughing'' as he told how he shot one of the victims in the face and the other three victims in the back of the head during an Aug, 1993 robbery, in which the house was torched as he and a co-defendant fled, federal court records reveal.
In April, 1994, he was sentenced to mandatory life in prison without possibility of parole for arson of a home, armed robbery, four counts of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm during a felony. Elliot and three others were after a large amount of money earned through selling drugs. The money was kept in a storage facility, court records show. The three co-defendants shared a house in Grand Rapids. They drove from Grand Rapids to Saginaw, where they met Elliot at his aunt's house.
Elliot showed the three a .38-caliber handgun with the serial numbers welded off; a gun police later recovered. The three then headed to a storage facility Gladwin County rented by one of the victims, Michael Tufnell.
They broke into the storage unit, but did not find what they were looking for. They then broke into other units and stole a .28 gauge shotgun, ammunition and liquor.
Batteries inside a flashlight found outside the storage units had Elliot's fingerprints on it. The foursome departed Gladwin, but stopped to test-fire the shotgun at an oil well while Elliot and another man in the group drank tequila and beer.
They went to Michael Tufnell's house. Elliot and a second man put on gloves and got out of the vehicle with the .38 caliber handgun and the .28 gauge shotgun. The two others who accompanied them fell asleep in the vehicle.
After entering the house and shooting the four victims, the house was set on fire and Elliot and his accomplice stole a Cadillac belonging to one of the victims. They drove back to where the two others were sleeping and all four fled. They drove from Gladwin to Saginaw, where they stayed at a home owned by Elliot's aunt. The Cadillac was recovered in a field a mile away.
It was there that Elliot told the others he shot Tufnell in the head and three others in the back of the head. Elliot "was laughing as he made these remarks,'' court documents show.
Two days after the shootings, Elliot was back in Grand Rapids, bragging about the murders and how "we smoked them 'who'es,'' court records show. Meanwhile, police recovered the stolen Cadillac about a mile from where Elliot had stayed in Saginaw. A search of his aunt's house turned up ammunition taken from the storage unit in Gladwin County.
Elliot was arrested in Saginaw on Aug. 12 following a short foot chase. As he was thrown to the ground and restrained, police recovered a .38 caliber handgun from his pocket. A ballistics test confirmed that 10 of the 15 bullets used in the killings were fired from the handgun.
He told police that one of his co-defendants sold him the murder weapon and claimed various witnesses in the case were lying to save themselves. A Gladwin County jury disagreed, convicting Elliot on seven felony charges.
His three co-defendants were convicted of lesser offenses in exchange for their testimony against Elliot.
Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns told reporters Monday morning at Ionia Correctional Facility in mid-Michigan that investigators believe 40-year-old Michael David Elliot isn't in the state.
Michigan Department of Corrections Director Dan Heyns said Elliot may have escaped between 6 and 7 p.m. Sunday, but it was not until 9:30 p.m. that he was noticed missing.
Elliot was dressed in a white kitchen uniform, although he wasn't a kitchen worker, Heyns said, adding that the white uniform might have helped him evade security.
Elliot apparently abducted a Belding woman at an Ionia gas station, driving off in her 2004 Jeep. She fled his grips when he stopped for gas in northern Indiana.