Michael Tisius sent to Missouri's death row for horribly botched jailbreak — (The Pitch)

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The Pitch

Posted by Nadia Pflaum

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 6:00 AM

The basic requirement of a good partner in a Prison Break-style scheme is his willingness to get ‘er done. Unfortunately for Roy Vance, his short-term cellie in Huntsville, Missouri, was willing, but not very able.

Ten years ago, Michael Tisius and Vance were cellmates in the Randolph County Jail. Tisius was only staying for 30 days; Vance was in for 50 years. The two plotted an escape plan in which Tisius would return with a gun and force the prison guards into a cell, then free Vance and the rest of the inmates. Tisius said he was willing to go out “in a blaze of glory.”

Uh oh.

After Tisius got out of jail on June 13, 2000, he found Vance’s girlfriend, Tracie Bulington, who said she’d help with the escape plan. She stole a .22 caliber pistol from her parents’ house.

A little after midnight on June 22, Tisius and Bulington visited the Randolph County Jail and told the jailers that they were there to deliver cigarettes to Vance. Tisius had the .22 in his pants. After making some small talk with the guards, Tisius suddenly drew the gun and shot one of the guards, Jason Acton, above his left eye, killing him. The other guard, Leon Egley, moved toward Tisius and was shot as well.

Tisius took some keys from the officers’ area and went to Vance’s cell, but couldn’t open it. He went back to the guard station to look for more keys. Egley, bleeding but not fatally wounded, grabbed Bulington around the legs. Tisius shot him again, this time fatally.

Tisius and Bulington fled across the Kansas-Missouri state line, leaving Vance and thus earning an “F” in Jailbreak 101. Their car broke down in Kansas and they were quickly apprehended. Tisius confessed to the murders. He was sentenced to death in 2001, but the penalty portion of the conviction was overturned. He was re-tried last July and again, a jury recommended the death penalty.

Yesterday, Boone County Circuit Court Judge Gary Oxenhandler made it official, sentencing Tisius to death.

Excerpts from appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court:



(No. SC84036)


Patty Lambert  and Chuck Tisius had been married a little over a year when Patty gave birth to their son Michael on February 16, 1981… Two months after Mike’s birth, Chuck left Patty and the boys , joined the Army reserves, and never returned.

Mike dropped out of school in ninth grade when he was sixteen (T1099). At one point, because of problems with Mike, Patty  took him to Chuck ‘s house to try to get some help from Chuck.  Chuck threatened to have Patty and Mike arrested if they did not leave.

Patty tried to get help for Mike by taking him to counseling. The counselors gave him Prozac and Paxil.

June of 2000 found Mike, then nineteen, incarcerated in the Randolph County jail (T794-95; 1062). He shared a cell with other inmates including twenty-seven year old Roy Vance (T796; 1062). Roy was manipulative. Roy and Mike concocted a plan – which began as a joke – calling for Mike to get a gun and go into the jail and order the guards into a cell. Mike would then give Roy the gun, and Roy would “take over”.

Roy also recruited his girlfriend, Tracie Bulington, also twenty-seven, to help with the breakout plan telling her “that he was facing 50 or 51 years” in prison and that he “couldn’t do that” (T1051, 1062). At first Tracie refused, but Roy persisted telling her that he would never see his daughter again and demanding that Tracie help.  Roy discussed this plan with Mike no less than ten times while Mike was still in jail.

Before Mike was released, on June 13th, he told Roy that he would get him out of jail.  Roy supplied Mike with phone numbers for Tracie’s mother and for a friend of Roy’s and Tracie’s — Karl — so Mike would be able to contact Tracie. Using the phone numbers, Mike contacted Tracie upon his release.  Mike went to Columbia, Missouri, and Tracie drove there and picked him up.   Tracie and Mike began discussed the plan which was to get a gun, take it into the jail and use it to intimidate the guards and to lock them in a holding cell, and lock them up, give the gun to Roy, get the keys and let everybody open all the cell doors and let them all out.

In the early morning hours of June 22nd, shortly after midnight, Mike and Tracie went to the jail ostensibly to deliver cigarettes to Roy. Mike had a gun that Tracie had taken from her parents’ house. Mike was “real nervous”. “[H]is face was blank, he was almost expressionless…