By Joseph Hanneman
An escaped federal prisoner from Indiana was captured by Racine County sheriff’s deputies early Saturday after he took a hostage, went on a three-state crime spree and shot an Oak Creek police officer, authorities said.
Ronald R. Plummer, 39, a federal prisoner awaiting sentencing in Indianapolis, and his alleged accomplice, Elizabeth Bonvillain, 31, a jail social worker, were captured in a town of Raymond barn after they took an apparent drug overdose.
Both were in critical condition early today at St. Luke’s Hospital in Racine. A nursing supervisor said the couple were starting to come out of drug-induced comas they had been in much of the day.
The couple are under armed guard. If they regain consciousness, they will be turned over to Oak Creek authorities to face charges of attempted murder of a police officer, police said
They also face a long list of charges in other jurisdictions-so many that police had not sorted them all out late Saturday. Charges could include kidnapping, federal escape, attempted murder and possession of firearms by a felon.
Meanwhile, Oak Creek Police Patrolman John Edwards, 26, was treated at a Milwaukee hospital, then released after he was shot in the hand and nearly shot in the chest, police said.
Edwards was shot about 4:15 a.m. in the parking lot of the Union 76 Milwaukee Truck Stop, at Highway 100 and Interstate 94, as he routinely checked what he believed to be a suspicious vehicle.
“The driver of the car got out and had two guns pointed at officer Edwards — one in each hand,” said Oak Creek Police Lt. Gerald Stahl.
Plummer ordered Edwards to lie on the ground, but the patrolman turned sideways and started to run, Stahl said. Plummer fired a shot at Edwards.
“The bullet came from the side and hit his badge,” Stahl said. The bullet ripped a hole in the badge, which was knocked off, but the bullet did not enter Edwards’ body. A second bullet struck Edwards’ right index finger.
The escaped bank robber then got back in his car and fled south on I-94 with Edwards in pursuit.
Police lost sight of Plummer and Bonvillain as they headed west on 7 Mile Road in Racine County. About 6 a.m., Racine County sheriff’s deputy Jeff Holmes spotted Plummer’s car parked in a driveway at 3526 7 Mile Road.
Authorities from Racine County, Milwaukee County, the State Patrol and the U. S. Marshal’s office surrounded the barn next door after the Racine Police Department’s dog, Bonny, picked up the couple’s scent.
Bonny was sent into the barn at 3516 7 Mile Road ahead of officers and bit Plummer on the arm. Police found Plummer and Bonvillain in an animal stall, covered with hay, and semi-comatose from an apparent barbiturate overdose, authorities said. Two .38-caliber pistols were found.
Bonnie Falkowski, co-owner of the barn, said she found three “really big” prescription pill bottles and a bottle of water next to where the fugitives were found.
The bottles, which apparently had a woman’s name on them, were empty, Falkowski said. “It makes sense,” she said. “They probably had the water to take the pills.”
Spree started in Indiana
Plummer’s bizarre journey to Racine County began Friday in Indianapolis, where he was awaiting sentencing for a June 1987 robbery of an Evansville, Ind., bank.
He was brought to Indianapolis from the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa., where he was serving a sentence for robbing two Ohio banks and a federal savings and loan, police said.
Plummer apparently self-inflicted a hand injury at the jail and was taken to Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis for treatment, according to the Marion County (Ind.) Sheriff’s Department and the Indianapolis office of the FBI.
Plummer was shackled to a gurney in the X-ray room when Bonvillain, wearing a nurse’s coat and armed with the pistols and a bolt cutter, burst in and tried to give the gun to Plummer, police said.
“Evidently, the gun was on a table,” said Garry Schoon, FBI special agent in Indianapolis “Both the deputy and Plummer went for it. The deputy grabbed the top of it.”
Schoon said Plummer attempted to fire the weapon at the deputy, but the officer’s hand blocked the gun’s hammer from making contact with the bullet. Confronted with the loaded pistol, the deputy backed off. Plummer and Bonvillain took X-ray technician Donald Elsner hostage, and fled to a waiting car.
Fled in rental car
About three blocks away, on the Indiana University campus, they dumped the escape car and got into a rental car and fled north on Interstate 65, police said. Elsner was released unharmed in the Chicago area and the duo continued north on I-94 into Wisconsin.
Police believe there was “a considerable amount of planning” involved, said Sgt. Randy Russell of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. “It looked to be fairly well thought out,” Russell said.
Police found a sketch of the hospital’s layout in the original escape car, Russell said.
Schoon said Bonvillain apparently met Plummer at the Hamilton County, Ohio, jail in Cincinnati, where she worked as a counselor. “They did have some contact in the Hamilton County Jail,” Schoon said.
Hamilton County authorities said Bonvillain was acting coordinator of the mental health unit at the Hamilton County Justice Center in Cincinnati. She was employed by Correctional Medical Services Inc., which provides service to the county.
She apparently met Plummer in February 1988 while he was awaiting trial on two Ohio bank robbery charges, police said. She called in sick on March 17 then began a vacation last week, Hamilton County authorities said. Last Monday, she purchased the two pistols in Cincinnati, police said.
On Thursday, she checked in to the Inntowner Motor Lodge in Indianapolis. Shortly before leaving for Wishard Hospital she took three calls from Plummer, who was in the jail, police said.
If the couple survive the drug overdose, they could face a long list of charges and warrants from numerous law enforcement agencies.
“He would be considered for kidnapping charges, probably federal and state,” said Jon Wendt, FBI special agent in charge of Wisconsin. “Traditionally, you look at the more violent crime first.” Marion County will consider “five or six” charges against the pair, Russell said, on top of charges being considered by the U.S. Attorney. ♦
— From the March 26, 1989 edition of The Journal Times. Read the original news pages.
EPILOGUE: In December 1990, Plummer was sentenced to 100 years in prison for the kidnapping of X-ray technician Elsner. He was earlier sentenced to more than 130 years in prison for a series of bank robberies. ….Bonvillain pleaded guilty to armed escape and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. In September 1990 she was sentenced in Marion County, Indiana, to 20 years in prison.