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Manhunt for a murderer

A man convicted in four murders two decades ago is at large after he escaped from a prison in the state of Michigan and abducted a woman who fled his grips when he stopped for gas after crossing into Indiana, authorities said Monday.

Michael David Elliot, 40, was discovered missing about 9:30 p.m. local time Sunday from the Ionia Correctional Facility in mid-Michigan, the state Department of Corrections said.

"It appears that he created a hole at the bottom of the two perimeter fences of the correctional facility and then crawled through those holes," Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said in an email.

Department Director Dan Heyns said Elliot was dressed in a white kitchen uniform, which might have helped him evade security at the prison. A review of surveillance footage suggests Elliot may have escaped about 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. local time.

Once outside the prison, Elliot abducted a woman in Ionia using a knife or box cutter and drove her Jeep to a gas station in northern Indiana, roughly 100 miles (160 kilometres) southwest near the Indiana-Michigan state line.

The LaGrange County Sheriff's Department said she was able to call police from a concealed mobile phone while he was pumping gas at the store near Middlebury in Elkhart County.

The woman ran to a restroom where she locked herself inside. Elliot knocked on the door, but she stayed inside until police officers arrived. She wasn't harmed, officials said at the news conference.

An alert on Elliot has been issued to law enforcement nationwide. The woman told police that he said he wanted to get as far from the Michigan prison as possible.

"We had dog teams. We had a helicopter from the state police," Heyns said. "The response was good but he'd left the area by the time we were mobilized totally 100 per cent. It didn't take him long to get down to Indiana. ... His flight path now has expanded dramatically."

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