Five New Charges Filed in North Side Strangler Case
MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee County district attorney's office has filed five new murder charges against Walter E. Ellis, the suspected North Side Strangler.
Ellis had already been charged with two counts of first degree intentional homicide and is being held on $1 million bail.
Ellis is suspected in a string of killings from 1986 to 2007. Police said the 49-year-old's DNA was found on the bodies of nine women ages 16 to 41.
Investigators believe eight of the women were prostitutes who were strangled and one was a runaway whose throat was cut. Ellis has not been charged in the deaths of the runaway and one of the suspected prostitutes.
His attorney, Alejandro Lockwood, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
These are the changes Ellis now faces:
First degree intentional homicide for Ouithreaun Stokes
First degree intentional homicide for Joyce Mims
First degree intentional homicide Sheila Farrior
First degree intentional homicide for Florence McCormick
First degree intentional homicide Irene Smith
First degree murder for Tanya Miller
First degree murder Debra Lynn Harris
The last two charges are different because the statute changed in 1989 from "murder" to "intentional homicide."
Miller and Harris were killed in 1986.
Meanwhile, more calls are being made for an investigation into missing DNA in the Ellis case.
State Senator Spencer Coggs is getting involved. He's calling for a system wide investigation to make sure this mishandling of DNA hasn't happened before and doesn't happen again.
"It's public safety but it's also public trust," commented Coggs. He wants a formal investigation into how DNA profiles are collected and recorded.
"What happened, how it happened, and how we can make sure that it doesn't happen again," said Coggs.
When police ran a profile in the North Side Strangler case, Ellis' DNA was not in the state system, but it should have been.
Computer records at Wisconsin Corrections show Ellis gave a DNA sample, as an inmate, in 2001. That was reportedly mailed to the state crime lab and an independent lab in Dallas.
But the Department of Justice is saying wait a minute, the DNA never showed up at either location.
With that DNA, police could have busted Ellis years ago, and his reported last victim Ouithreaun Stokes might still be alive.
"We could have had this suspect in custody a lot sooner," said Coggs. "So we have to restore the public trust."
Late Thursday Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen vowed to investigate. "We have to find out, first of all, whether a sample really was taken. (And) if it was, what happened to it," Van Hollen said.
The investigation into Ellis continues. New documents show cocaine and a crack pipe were found in the Franklin motel room where Ellis was arrested.
Other documents reveal what police found when they searched Ellis' duplex on Bobolink Avenue. According to that search warrant, they found gold and diamond jewelry and a crack pipe.
And eerily - as prosecutors say Ellis' DNA matches nine total victims, inside his house, Ellis had a fortune that said, "Your luck number for this week is 9."
We also obtained records about Ellis' girlfriend, Tressie Johnson. When Ellis was arrested, she was too. The documents explain that's because she lied to police.
She told investigators she booked the hotel room using a fake address because she knew police might be looking for Ellis.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)