CHICAGO — A Michigan man pleaded guilty Tuesday to kidnapping a Lansing woman after she discovered him burglarizing her home in 2015, sexually assaulting her and setting her on fire in Burns Harbor.
Carleous Clay, 35, of Holland, Michigan, faces up to life in prison for the September 2015 attack and a separate attack in April 2017 on a female case manager at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where he was being held pending trial.
The Lansing woman was able to walk, with her legs on fire, from a vacant commercial business in Burns Harbor to a nearby McDonald's restaurant to seek help. She survived, but suffered permanent and life-threatening injuries, according to the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Illinois.
Clay pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of kidnapping, one count of attempted murder, and one count of using fire to commit a felony.
In the plea agreement, Clay admitted he broke into the woman's home, took several items and carried them away. He later returned to steal more items, and encountered the woman as she returned home with groceries.
He abducted the woman and drove her to several ATMs, including one in Munster where he used her PIN to withdraw $140 from her bank account, court records state.
Clay then drove the woman to a vacant commercial business in Burns Harbor, where he sexually assaulted her. She resisted when he attempted to force her back into the car's trunk, so he strangled her until she fell unconscious and used lighter fluid to set her on fire in an attempt to kill her, the plea agreement states.
Clay also admitted he attacked a female case manager in 2017 after going to her office under the guise of making a complaint against another inmate.
Once inside the woman's office, Clay pushed her to the floor and took her keys, court records state. He locked himself inside the office with her and put a homemade knife to her throat, threatening to kill her.
The woman was able to call for help on the radio as Clay locked the door. Clay ordered the woman to call off any response, but she transmitted words to the effect of, "Don't respond. He has a knife. He's going to kill me."
Corrections officers unlocked the door and pepper-sprayed Clay, court records state. They also found a note, which Clay never handed to the case manager, in which he threatened to kill her and wrote, "I'm getting life in prison anyway so I don't have anything to lose."
The FBI investigated the kidnapping case, with assistance from police in Lansing, Burns Harbor, Ogden Dunes, Munster, Porter County, and Holland, and Ottawa County, Michigan.
Clay's sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 9.