DNA links Milwaukee man to nine female murder victims

By Calvin Palmer

A cold case spanning more than 20 years, and involving the murder of nine women in Milwaukee, took a step nearer to being brought before the courts when a suspect was charged after being arrested on Saturday.

Walter E. Ellis, 49, has been charged in the deaths of two of the nine victims and more charges are expected this week, prosecutors said yesterday.

Ellis does have a criminal history. He pleaded no contest in 1998 to a reduced charge of second-degree reckless injury and served three years of a five-year sentence.

Police chief Edward Flynn said: “His criminal history, however, does not lend one to immediately say, you know, ‘prime suspect.'”

Police began to focus on Ellis after his name surfaced in connection with a number of unsolved murders.

He was arrested days after police matched a DNA sample from his toothbrush to samples from the victims.

An officer in suburban Franklin saw Ellis’ car outside a motel on Saturday, Flynn said. Ellis was arrested after a struggle with officers.

Police said Ellis’ DNA was found on the bodies of nine women, ranging in age from 16 to 41. They were killed between 1986 and 2007 on the city’s north side. Investigators believe eight of the women were prostitutes and one was a runaway.

Authorities previously speculated that the person whose DNA was recovered on the runaway had sex with that girl but someone else killed her.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm would not say yesterday whether anyone else would be charged in the killings.

Ellis is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, charges that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Additional charges will be filed after prosecutors have a chance to review more evidence, Chisholm said.

At a news conference, yesterday, Flynn refused to comment on a motive, characterize Ellis’ childhood or describe a possible relationship to the victims.

“I don’t think it’s possible for me to speculate what would cause someone to engage in these horrific acts,” Flynn said.

The brother of one of the victims, Joyce Mims, who was strangled in 1997 at the age of 41, said his family has carried a great burden since Mims’ death.

“We just hated that it had taken so long for them to find her killer, those women’s killer,” said 49-year-old Terry Williams, of Madison. “But justice one day is better than no justice at all.”

[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]

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