Investigators are working to piece together a timeline to determine where exactly escaped convict Michael Elliot went during his less than day-long escape from a Michigan prison.
The convicted murderer first stole and abandoned a red Jeep in a Shipshewana neighborhood at around 5:30 a.m. Monday. Hours later, Elliot hopped into an unlocked car in the parking lot of Essenhaus in Middlebury.
Police aren’t sure what Elliot did in the two-plus hours between leaving the car in Shipshewana and making his way to Essenhaus, however, a burglary at a Middlebury church across the street from the restaurant has fingers pointing towards Elliot.
Mike Brouillette, associate pastor at Crystal Valley Missionary Church arrived at around 7:00 a.m. to clean up after a Super Bowl party. The church, which is just on the other side of US 20 from Essenhaus, was dark and Brouillette believed he was the only one inside.
He started to walk throughout the church, praying and clearing his mind, as he often does when he’s alone. According to Brouillette, all the lights were off from the end of the hallway to the foyer several yards ahead. The pastor abruptly stopped and turned into the men’s room instead of walking into the foyer.
“Police are speculating that Mr. Elliot was probably on a couch in the foyer and if I had taken two or three more steps we would’ve made eye contact,” Brouillette added.
The pastor continued to walk back and forth throughout the church several times, hearing some noises, and finally seeing lights flipped on in an office down the hall.
Brouillette and another pastor checked out several rooms in the church and found some of the heating vents in the ceilings were pulled down and tables put beneath them. They checked to see if any maintenance workers had come in to do repairs but couldn’t verify that anyone came in.
So they continued to check out the rest of the building and saw that a couple chairs were arranged like drying racks. According to Brouillette, police believe Elliot may have broken into the church to get warm and dry some of his clothing.
A jacket, sheet and two knives were missing from the church, but the pastors didn’t call police to report any crime until they saw a broken window and glass on the floor next to the front door. Blood, left on the heating grates will be tested to determine if it is Elliot’s.
Police believe the timeline lines up between when Elliot would have left Crystal Valley Missionary Church and when the car was stolen from the Essenhaus parking lot.
The vehicle’s owner has worked at Essenhaus for 11 years. He arrived at around 7:00 a.m. and left his 2002 white Escort running as he started his work truck. Sometime between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m. Elliot stole the car.
Other members of the family told NewsCenter 16 they were driving past Essenhaus shortly after 8:00 a.m. and saw the car pull out of the parking lot. Thinking it was the owner, they waved, but realized it was someone else.
The family said they assumed the car had been borrowed, and it wasn’t until later that they learned it was stolen.
Police recovered the stolen vehicle Monday night in LaPorte. It is being held by police as the investigation continues.