Two Michigan DOC employees suspended over convict's escape
The Michigan Department of Corrections has suspended two employees from the Ionia Correctional Facility.
40-year old Michael Elliot escaped from that prison, located 45 miles from Lansing, Sunday night.
He was serving five life sentences for killing four people in 1993.
Police in LaPorte County captured him Monday night, and he remains jailed there.
The DOC investigation is still ongoing, but Friday, they suspended a lieutenant and an officer who worked at that prison.
Both men face multiple violations, including conduct unbecoming an officer, failure to report and disregard of duties.
They are suspended indefinitely, a week of that without pay.
Meanwhile, WSBT learned details about how Elliot escaped and was gone for more than 2 hours before guards noticed he was missing.
"This was an obviously monumental failure for sure," says Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
The agency is on the hot seat after Elliot was able to evade several security measures to successfully break out.
Tuesday, following an court appearance after his capture in LaPorte County, Elliot spoke to reporters.
"I FLED FROM MICHIGAN BECAUSE OF MY SENTENCE. THEY DID NOT WANT TO GIVE ME NO SECOND CHANCE," Elliot said as he was being led back to his temporary jail cell.
Marlan says Elliot was transferred to Ionia 5 years ago and had exhibited good behavior.
He was not under 24-hour survelliance and was not in a regular jail cell, but instead an open style pole barn where inmates are in a communal bunkroom.
Investigators reviewed internal security video showing how Elliot got away around 7 p.m. Sunday.
"We can see exactly when he left his housing unit. He was supposed to be heading to chow hall for dinner and he didn't not go. He went into a different direction," explained Marlan.
Elliot went toward a sallyport in the fence, used for deliveries and prisoner transports, off limits to inmates, but somehowElliot eluded guards, slipped on a white kitchen workers jumpsuit he had stolen and wiggled his way out.
"He used his hands to create a hole in fence and then went through that hole," added Marlan.
Motion sensors around the fence failed to go off.
"But when you tested them later and since they worked," asked Denise Bohn, WSBT TV Reporter.
"Correct," responded Marlan.
"Does that lead you to believe he had some inside help?"
"Well, inside help, attention to detail, whether proper procedures were filed, those are all some of the things we are looking at," explained Marlan.
Investigators are also looking at whether guards were distracted by the Super Bowl going on at the time of Elliot's escape.
"He picked Super Bowl Sunday. Whether he thought there was some benefit to going at the point in time during the game. He put a lot of thought into this, no doubt."
It wasn't until 9:15 p.m. when guards conducted a formal count of the 700 plus prisoners that Elliot was reported missing.
And Marlan says there is no doubt the DOC will do everything possible to make sure this won't happen again.
"We will make improvements. We learn from every single escape and attempted escape. We're going to take some lessons away from this one."
The DOC believes Elliot had been studying the security system and carefully watching the staff movements there.They hope to have their internal investigation finished by next week.Michigan has 31 prisons, three which house maximum security prisoners.
There have been three prison escapes in the last five years in the Michigan Correctional program.
During his first 15 years in prison, Elliot received 22 misconduct violations for things like fighting, substance abuse and being disobedient.
During his 5-year stay at the Ionia facility Elliot, because of his good behavior, was placed on a level 2 Custody Level.
That level means he was not under 24-hour lockdown or surveillance and was not in a regular jail cell.
Marlan also argues that state budget cuts did not contribute to Elliot's escape.
He says the Ionia prison received $33 million in state funding, more than in past years.
Friday, the Michigan governor's office announced the attorney general's office will be doing their own investigation into the escape.
And DOC officials are hoping to have Elliot back in Michigan in two weeks. Paperwork to extradite him is underway.
He will not return to the Ionia prison, but instead go to a maximum security facility in the Upper Peninsula.