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December 29, 2013

Newsmakers: 'Rogue camping event' leads to search, arrest

EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.

GLEN ARBOR — A late-summer “rogue camping event” sparked a 12-hour manhunt for a Orchard Lake man and his three children who walked into Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore without food, water or shelter.

The Aug. 26 search ended when a Leelanau County sheriff’s deputy finally spotted the family after they spent almost two rain-soaked days in the dunes and swamps near Glen Haven in a deliberate attempt to hide from authorities.

The children -- ages 14, 10 and 9 -- emerged in good health, despite their hunger, thirst and bug bites. Their father, Daniel Gerard Elliott, 50, was arrested on an outstanding Emmet County warrant, but still hasn’t been charged in what Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich called a “rogue camping event” that had authorities considering issuing an Amber Alert.

“We did have concerns,” Borkovich said. “I had particular concerns because of the emotions of the whole event and how it started.”

The incident began when Elliott, his wife and children visited friends and family in the Petoskey area on Aug. 25. Elliott’s wife told authorities that Elliott forced her out of the family vehicle on U.S. 131 during an argument and drove off with the children.

A park ranger on patrol the next morning found the abandoned family vehicle near the Maritime Museum in Glen Haven, a discovery that prompted a massive search by several law enforcement agencies and local fire departments. Officials closed several park trails and attractions, including the popular Dune Climb, near the spot where the family spent a rainy night and morning without food, water and camping equipment.

Borkovich said search dogs and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter “pinned down” the family. He said the children later told authorities their father told them to deliberately hide from authorities in almost a “hide-and-seek” manner in the dense underbrush.

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