Convicted Killer Escapes
On October 22, 1982, convicted murderer Kyle Johnson was being transported to the courtroom of Judge Henry Conlin for a hearing in connection with a riot at the Huron Valley Prison. Johnson had been convicted of a 1979 murder in Oakland County and was sentenced to a life term. Johnson was serving his sentence at the prison where he was alleged to have participated in a riot. Johnson was being taken to the court for a hearing as he was being charged with assault with the intent to commit murder in connection with the riot. Johnson was accused of assaulting a prison guard.
Johnson was being transported to the circuit court on Main Street with three other prisoners. The prisoners had leg irons tied to belly chains when they left the prison and were loaded in a transport van. When the van arrived at court, the guards opened the back door and the prisoners jumped them, as they had freed themselves from the belly chain. Johnson then fled on foot onto N. Main Street.
Johnson was believed to be extremely dangerous and a massive search began involving numerous police agencies. A roadblock was immediately established on Main Street, a tracking dog was called in, as was a helicopter to help in the search.
Word of his escape spread through the community as over 80 officers searched for him in one of the biggest manhunts in Washtenaw County history. The fear being felt in the community was well warranted, as Johnson had been convicted of a brutal murder. In 1979, Johnson bludgeoned Monica Hockey to death, stabbing her in the process with a meat fork.
The search focused on the area north of the courthouse and west of Main Street. Both of these areas are predominately residential and there was a great fear that Johnson broke into a home and was either hiding or holding someone hostage. Officers began a house to house search for him but were unsuccessful in locating him on the first day of his unscheduled freedom. Schools in the area kept the children inside on their recesses and most were picked up by their parents.
While officers searched for Johnson through the night, it was later discovered that he had been hiding under a porch near the Municipal Garage on Main Street. Johnson hid under the porch until midnight, then went to the Municipal Garage where he stole a city car.
At about 2:00 a.m., a very alert citizen observed the city car traveling north on U.S.-23, just outside the city limits. The citizen thought it was suspicious that the city car was out that late, outside the city. The citizen then phoned the police, who alerted all area police agencies.
Shortly thereafter, a Green Oak Township Officer observed the city vehicle on U.S.-23 near Whitmore Lake Road. He gave chase as Johnson would not pull over. He led police on a six mile chase and abandoned the car on Eight Mile Road with officers pursuing him on foot. Johnson again was able to elude the officers as over 80 of them were brought into the area in an attempt to find him. Washtenaw County Sheriff Tom Minick searched the area in the county's helicopter and landed at Pontiac Trail and Six Mile Road to refuel.
As the officers searched, Johnson broke into the home of Carl and Mary Shopp on Pontiac Trail. He entered through a basement window, went to the kitchen, ate a banana and stole a change purse from Mrs. Shopp.
Mr. and Mrs. Shopp were sleeping and woke up to the sounds of Johnson going through the Mr. Shopp's pants pockets looking for car keys. Shopp yelled at Johnson and he and his wife jumped out of bed, confronting him, as he was armed with a knife. The two were able to take the knife from Johnson but he had another steak knife, which he had taken from their kitchen.
Mr. Shopp ran to his bedroom to get his shotgun and again confronted Johnson. Johnson then fled from the house to the homeowner's car but had taken the wrong set of keys. As he was trying to start the car, Shopp fired a warning shot over the top of it. Johnson exited the car stating, “Go ahead shoot, I don't care.” He then fled back into the woods.
Mr. Shopp later stated he had considered shooting Johnson but he was leaving and he had not heard the news that an escaped murderer was on the loose in the area.
Johnson ran through the woods and at 4:00 a.m., he broke into the house of Maris Marley, about two miles from the Shopp's. Johnson threw a brick through a window of the home in order to enter. Marley heard the crash and ran from her upstairs bedroom finding Johnson near the kitchen. Marley picked up a chair and tried to hit Johnson with it and he responded by punching her in the face. Marley was knocked to the ground only to be helped up by Johnson. The punch caused her eye to swell shut and the fall caused a cut to the back of her head. Marley later stated that she knew she had to stay calm and try to gain Johnson's trust.
Doing so she offered to cook Johnson breakfast to which he agreed. As she was cooking bacon and eggs she persuaded him to take a shower. For reasons unknown, Johnson agreed to this and while he was doing so, Marley made her escape from her home.
The sheriff was getting ready to take off in the helicopter after re-fueling and observed Marley's van speeding towards them. Sheriff Minick stated he thought the van was going to hit the helicopter due to it's high speed. As the van screeched to a halt, Marley jumped from the van screaming, “He's in my house.”
The sheriff radioed for assistance and they raced to Marley's home. They were met there by members of the Department's Special Operations Unit. The deputies entered the home by breaking through the door and yelled for Johnson to surrender. Johnson refused, yelling for them to come up and kill him.
The deputies ran up the stairs and entered the bedroom where Johnson was hiding. The deputies found Johnson sitting on the bed with a Coca-Cola in one hand and a knife in the other. Johnson was ordered to drop them both, which he did.
Johnson was transported under heavy guard to the sheriff's department. While he was being fingerprinted he told Sheriff Minick, “I should have killed that woman.” Marley remained amazingly calm under the circumstances and was credited with the capture of Johnson.