GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- After repeated attempts to get an interview with him, Michael Elliot sent a letter to WZZM 13 News, addressed to Hannah Saunders. It is five pages long and mostly proclaims his innocence, with one page describing what happened between him and the woman he kidnapped.
We've heard him say "I'm innocent" before, and now Elliot is hoping to use his recent media attention to clear himself of his conviction of four murders 20 years ago. His plan, he writes, is to seek help "through the executive and not the judicial branch," by way of a pardon from the governor.
But even if that happened, Elliot would have to face more time for escaping from prison and kidnapping a woman.
"Even in my desperation to be free, I never caused anyone any physical harm," he writes. For the first time, he shares details from his drive to Indiana with his hostage. "I went out of my way to make sure (this woman) was not in any more fear than the situation itself presented. I told her repeatedly that I had absolutely no intention whatsoever in harming her."
Elliot says he made small talk to keep his hostage calm; "I asked about her family (husband & daughter), things she did for fun (computer games), and what in her mind she was really missing that evening on account of my interruption, anything important? She said no."
Elliot was surprised when his hostage locked herself in a gas station bathroom near Elkhart. "She lied about having a cell phone... but figured it out in time to notice the cashier acting frantic. As I pulled off, cops were on the way with sirens flashing. I never would have hurt that lady or anyone else. I was out in public for about 24 hours without even trying to encounter anyone else. That's why I stole cars that had the keys inside or were already running."
Elliot grew up a criminal, he writes, all beginning at the age of one when his father was murdered. "The police/courts did nothing, and when someone did get convicted, the case was reversed 30 days later, so I grew up not trusting or cooperating with the police or court system. I was made a ward of the state due to neglect around 15 years old. I did some crimes as a juvenile, along with alcohol and drug abuse. I carried guns since it was common in my circle of associates and I had been shot at as a teen, so went to trial in '93, I looked bad I'm sure."
Elliot and his family tell WZZM he has made himself a legal adviser to other inmates. He's spent his 20 year in prison studying criminal justice.
He asks in his letter for us to look into the possible wrong conviction of another inmate. "Another case near you involves actual innocence." He fills half of a page with the details. "I was trying to help him, but he got moved to another facility before my escape."
"Whatever help you can offer to bring attention to my innocence is greatly appreciated. I'll write again or call soon. Sincerely, Michael."