The man who masterminded one of Orange County's largest jail breakouts is suspected of kidnaping a jewelry store manager in Chicago on Thursday night and making off with at least $450,000 in gold and diamonds, authorities said.
Michael Douglas Taylor, 35, the lone fugitive from last November's five-man escape, was identified by the jewelry store manager early Friday morning after she escaped unharmed from her abductors, said Police Sgt. Jack Profito of River Grove, a small town 3 miles west of Chicago.
Taylor and an unidentified man apparently fled south through Gary, Ind., 80 miles south of Chicago, where police later recovered the victim's purse, Profito said. The search for them is continuing.
Taylor, suspected of more than two dozen Southland robberies, led five Orange County Jail inmates on an escape Nov. 20 by rappelling from the top of the 4-story building in downtown Santa Ana.
One of the men broke his leg in the attempt and was immediately captured. Another turned himself in on Thanksgiving Day. The last two were captured 2 weeks later by FBI agents in a Denver suburb.
Police said Friday that Taylor is also suspected of numerous jewelry store heists in Chicago, his hometown. He is also wanted on an outstanding federal fugitive warrant, Profito said.
Taylor, who reportedly once owned an 18-karat gold revolver, goes by many different aliases, including Anthony Michael Gianetti and Mike Sloan, police said. He is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighing 155 pounds, with balding brown hair, brown eyes and a mustache. He was arrested by Huntington Beach police on suspicion of robbery Aug. 1 and was being held in Orange County Jail on $400,000 bail before his escape.
Taylor apparently planned the Chicago kidnaping and robbery well in advance, police said Friday.
Elsa Pacini, 42, the store manager, was abducted from her west Chicago home Thursday night and forced at gunpoint to take the suspects to her brother's jewelry store in River Grove, Profito said.
Profito said the men had apparently staked out her home and the jewelry store for several weeks. Pacini told police she had seen the men in the store, Elm Grove Jeweler's Inc., at least twice before the kidnaping.
The suspects broke into Pacini's house through a basement window and were waiting for her when she arrived home from work, Profito said.
They took her to a motel in River Grove and ordered her to call the store's alarm company to have the system disabled for 10 minutes on the excuse that she wanted to return and get items she had forgotten, police said. The company did so but the dispatcher became suspicious and called police, Profito said.
From the motel, the suspects drove Pacini to the store and forced her to open the safe containing the jewels and gold, police said.
Profito said that when the dispatcher called, he immediately dispatched three patrol cars to the store, but by the time they arrived, the robbers had fled with Pacini and the loot.
"We missed them by minutes," Profito said. "They were professionals."
After the robbery, Taylor and his accomplice took Pacini back home, dropped off her car and went back to the motel with her in what police say was a stolen car. At the motel, they gagged her with duct tape and tied her to a chair, Profito said.
Pacini told police that the two men were careful to ask her if the tapes and cords were too tight and offered to loosen them a bit for her comfort before fleeing, Profito said.
Pacini then managed to escape and ran outside, where she flagged down a passing patrol car, authorities said.
Taylor was identified through a stroke of luck, police said. Chicago police had posted a federal warrant for Taylor on the morning bulletin board Wednesday, describing his method of operation, Profito said.
When Chicago police arrived to help River Grove police investigate the kidnaping and heist, they recognized Taylor's handiwork by the way the crime unfolded, Profito said. The victim was shown Taylor's photograph and identified him, Profito said.
Authorities attributed dozens of armed jewelry robberies to Taylor last year in Los Angeles and Orange counties, with the take totaling as much as $2 million.
Los Angeles Police Detective Jim Barry said he has connected Taylor to at least 10 robberies that were committed last year.
In Huntington Harbour last April, Taylor entered Designer Jewelers with two accomplices and stole more than $100,000 in jewels, according to court records. During their escape, the store's owner fired a shotgun blast through the rear window of the rented getaway car.
It was the only time shots were fired in any of the Southern California robberies, authorities said.
A Huntington Beach police officer noted on Taylor's arrest papers: "Given the chance, he will escape."
Taylor was arrested in August in New Mexico on the Huntington Harbour robbery charge after being stopped by police for allegedly driving a stolen car. Just after his arrest, he escaped, and ran more than 10 miles into the desert before he was caught by police search dogs the next day.
He was extradited to Orange County on an arrest warrant issued by Huntington Beach. He is also wanted as a suspect in a $125,000 robbery about 2 years ago in Chicago. Taylor lived for some time in Washington state, near Seattle.
Huntington Beach Police Sgt. William Van Cleve said that Taylor does not use drugs or drink. He characterized him as "a very dangerous person because he's not crazy, he's intelligent. He's very calculating. He was renting a very nice place in Washington, living a somewhat normal, middle-class life style, and then he goes to work every day and sticks guns in people's faces."