Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 13, 2013

Suspect rams jail in Kalkaska escape attempt

KALKASKA — Authorities arrested a Bellaire man on accusations he attempted to free an inmate at the Kalkaska County Detention Center by repeatedly ramming his vehicle into the facility.

Derek Gerard Lavis, 45, faces felony charges of attempting to aid a prisoner with escape and malicious destruction of building.

Kalkaska County Sheriff David Israel said corrections officers heard loud banging outside the jail Sunday at about 10:30 p.m. They went outside to the parking lot and saw a Chevrolet Suburban backing into the outer wall.

The vehicle drove off when spotted, but investigators were quickly able to develop a suspect.

"We got lucky," Israel said.

Authorities located Lavis in a wooded area off Kniss Road in Oliver Township about 12 miles south of the jail. Israel said the Northern Michigan Mutual Aid Emergency Response Team was called in because there was reason to believe the suspect was armed and dangerous.

"We knew that up front," he said. "That's why we called the team."

Lavis was arrested without resistance on Monday at about 9 a.m.

Tire tracks and broken glass outside the jail's outer wall were visible Monday morning, as well as a large dent and a cracked window. Sgt. Pat Whiteford said the suspect backed into the building three times and shattered the vehicle's back windows in the process.

Israel said the building's damage seems cosmetic, but he would have inspectors determine if it sustained deeper structural damage.

He said Kalkaska County has seen jailbreak attempts before, but never in which suspects used a vehicle. Investigators believe the suspect tried to free a female inmate whose cell block was directly behind where the vehicle struck.

"She's denied anything to do with it," Israel said.

Kalkaska County Prosecutor Mike Perreault said the inmate could receive a conspiracy charge if investigators determine she knew about the jailbreak attempt. He said deputies are still piecing together the chain of events.

"I expect additional charges to be coming within the week," he said.

Lavis was arraigned Monday and was being held in Kalkaska County Detention Center on a $1 million cash or surety bond.

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