IONIA, Mich. (WWJ/AP) - A convicted murderer has pleaded guilty to escaping from a western Michigan prison in February.
Michael Elliot pleaded guilty on Thursday to escape and no contest to kidnapping and carjacking charges. He was scheduled to represent himself at trial in October. A sentencing date hasn't been set.
The 41-year-old was captured in LaPorte County, Indiana, one day after escaping from the Ionia Correctional Facility.
Officials say after the escape, Elliot stole a Jeep in Ionia with a woman inside. She got free uninjured and called 911 when they stopped for gas more than 100 miles away. Police then chased and captured Elliot.
Michigan's top corrections official said Elliot managed to escape primarily because guards didn't properly operate motion-detector alarms at the gate where he broke out. Two prison employees were suspended, and the state attorney general is reviewing the escape.
According to a March report by the state Corrections Department's internal affairs division, Elliot escaped on Feb. 2 by using a hook from his locker to clear snow by a fence and crawl under. Wearing all white to blend in with snow, Elliot stopped and lay still near the vehicle gate as a perimeter patrol vehicle passed by a few times. He used hobby craft scissors and his belt to open the chain link fencing.
Elliot could have been detected if alarms near the gate were properly activated, the report concluded. A control center officer failed to reset two alarms for 5½ hours after they were tested, and a supervisor who noticed the problem left when her shift was over without notifying others to check the gate. Investigators said the failure to reset the alarms was a "critical error" that played a "major role."
An alarm sensor in another area of the facility was also misaligned and pointing too high, allowing Elliot to crawl underneath an invisible detection beam without being noticed.
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 claims to be innocent of the slayings. A co-defendant has admitted to pulling the trigger, saying Elliot played no part.
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