This image of Michael David Elliot was taken from a surveillance camera at the gas station where the escaped prisoner stopped. (LaGrange County Sheriff's Office)
Two employees have been suspended at a western Michigan prison where a convicted killer escaped for 24 hours.
Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan says one is an officer and the other is a shift commander. He declined to provide their names or any other details but says the suspensions are related to the investigation at the Ionia Correctional Facility.
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into how a man imprisoned for multiple murders was able to escape from the Ionia Correctional Facility on Sunday and remain on the loose for nearly a full day.
Michael David Elliot, 40, walked past a string of security cameras and guards to open a prison fence with his bare hands. He triggered no alarms or motion sensors and his absence wasn’t noticed by guards for 2½hours.
Police captured Elliot on Monday night about 150 miles away in LaPorte County, Ind. During the manhunt, he stole three cars and carjacked a woman and took her captive.
Friday morning, Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette announced they would investigate the prison policies and procedures that allowed the escape to take place.
“Thankfully, no one was physically injured in this dangerous prisoner’s escape and apprehension, but we must have an exhaustive investigation into the circumstances that led to this incident and take whatever appropriate action may be necessary to prevent future occurrences,” Snyder said in a press release.
In a released statement, Schuette said the process would be an “aggressive investigation without fear or favor.”
“Prisons are built to keep dangerous criminals locked away from society, but in this case a violent murderer escaped,” he said. “We’ll follow the facts to find out what happened and why.”
House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, and state Rep. Collene Lamonte, D-Montague, will on Monday discuss their call for an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the escape.
Earlier this week, union officials say a Elliot’s escape was made easier because guard towers are empty to save money. Prison officials also wondered if guards were distracted by the Super Bowl.
Whatever the case, Elliot was able to walk past multiple cameras and guards as he made a bold break from Ionia Correctional Facility. Elliot never showed up for dinner. He blended into the snow by wearing a white kitchen uniform and spent an hour opening a fence with his bare hands; it should have electrocuted him.
At one point, was 20 feet from an armed guard patrolling the perimeter.
State officials are investigating whether guards violated rules and were distracted by watching the Super Bowl. Surveillance video shows Elliot escaping between 6 and 7 p.m. — in the time frame of the game — but he wasn’t discovered missing until 9:30 p.m.
Union officials have said budget cuts have sacrificed safety at Ionia, which houses about 670 maximum and medium security inmates. Last year, state officials eliminated armed guards in the towers. In April 2012, the state got rid of around-the-clock patrols outside the prison and replaced them with random checks.
The state stopped staffing towers in most prisons in 2005 because technology has improved and it’s expensive to staff them 24 hours a day, said Russ Marlan, spokesman for Michigan prisons.
The Associated Press contributed