• Rod Kackley

Kalamazoo's Suitcase Killer: The Jail Break!

Charles Edward Johnson and Donnovan Lewis sat in the same classrooms in middle-school and high school. Now they shared a cell in the Kalamazoo County Jail.

"If I ever was gonna do this, " Donnovan told Charles while both were in the jail's recreation yard, " I'd do it right here."

"Do what?"

"You know, do it," repeated Donnovan, "I'd do it right here where the fences have less barbed wire than in other places."

Charles didn't think his buddy was serious. Nobody ever went over the fences at the county jail. Most were awaiting trial. Very few had actually been sentenced, yet. Why run, when you still have a chance to at least strike a plea bargain?

But Donnovan had a tough time doing even this kind of jail time. He'd been talking to a girl that he really liked. But she stopped talking to him. Donnovan started talking about going over the fences again, telling Charles he'd do it so he could get with the girl who'd been ignoring him.

Still, Donnovan was hoping his lawyer could get him some kind of a deal. Charles figured the escape talk was just that, talk. There was plenty of time for idle chatter in county jail. Everybody talked. Charles didn't think anything more about it.

But when Donnovan went out for recreation, September 19, 2018, he muttered, "Man, I'm going to jump the fence," as soon as a deputy let him exchange flip-flops for shoes, let him out into the yard, and closed the door behind him.

Donnovan went into the recreation yard, holding a basketball. He dribbled it a couple of times, spun it in the palm of his hand, dropped it, and ran. This was his chance. He was right at the spot where he told Charles he'd make his break for freedom. And, now he was doing it. Donnovan ran as fast as he could toward the fences.

He scaled the fence rung with barbed wire, dropped to the ground, climbed the next fence topped with razor wire, and then went up and over a third fence.

Donnovan ran across the business loop of Interstate 94 and disappeared from sight in the woods across the highway from the jail.

Police from all over Kalamazoo County scrambled into the woods and into the streets of the city of Kalamazoo looking for Donnovan. A jail break hadn't happened in two decades, and authorities were not about to allow a suspected murderer to remain at large.

Along the way, Donnovan stripped off his orange jail jumpsuit. He was a free man. He ran. Wearing nothing but a hoodie and his underwear, Donnovan was a free man.

A little over half-an-hour later -- thirty-three minutes to be exact -- police captured Donnovan. He made it into the city. Donnovan was arrested near the intersection of South Burdick and Belmont streets.

Now, he was going back to the Kalamazoo County Jail, and no matter what deal his attorney was able to strike on the open murder charge for the death of Aniya Mack, Donnovan knew he was going to do some serious time behind bars.

Was it worth it? Thirty-three minutes of freedom. Several months later, February 2019, Donnovan pled guilty to the escape and was sentenced to a minimum of seventeen months and a maximum of four years in jail.

But what's that compared to life without parole? That's what Donnovan faces if he's convicted of killing Aniya Mack.

How's her family taking this? More on this in the next chapter of Kalamazoo's Suitcase Killer.

Never Forgive, Never Forget: A Shocking True Crime Story

A woman disappears. She leaves everything behind. Her mom is sure the woman's husband is responsible. But is her daughter dead or alive?

Never Forgive, Never Forget: A Shocking True Crime Story is a gripping, haunting, and heartbreaking tale of a woman's murder and a mother's grief.

Try as you might, it's a story you'll never forget. Could you forgive the killer?

Never Forgive, Never Forget: A Shocking True Crime Story is available wherever books are sold including:

Never Forgive, Never Forget Barnes & Noble

Never Forgive, Never Forget/Crime Stories Bookstore

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