11:30 AM

Walter E. Ellis, Milwaukee's Suspected North Side Strangler Serial Killer


Milwaukee Murder Victims ( l to r.) Tanya L. Miller, 19, found on Oct. 11, 1986; Deborah L. Harris, 31, found on Oct. 10, 1986; Sheila Farrior, 37, found on June 27, 1995; Joyce Ann Mims, found on June 20, 1997; Ouithreaun C. Stokes, found on April 27, 2007.

Over the last twenty some odd years a man has been targeting prostitutes in Wisconsin.

I hadn't realized that until I started looking into missing and murdered women in Wisconsin for any connection to alleged serial killer Christopher Revak.

Back in July, Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase said that Revak, who was charged with second-degree murder in the 2006 disappearance of Rene Marie Williams, was a serial killer.

After being charged with Williams murder, Revak hanged himself in the Douglas County jail. Degase said at a news conference that authorities believed that Revak was, "responsible for the murders of at least four other women in two states to the north of Missouri that are similar to Williams case."

I started delving into Revak's past and discovered that he grew up in Wisconsin and still has family that lives there. In looking at possible crimes that were similar to the Williams abduction I came across the cases of Kelly Nolan, Brittany Zimmerman and Amber Creek that seem to have the same m.o.

While researching the Wisconsin cases I also came across a long list of African American women who had been killed while working as prostitutes on the north side of Milwaukee.

Some of the hookers deaths dated back to the mid-80's. That would have made Revak 14 at the time of the first North Side Stranglers victim. Too young for a Revak connection.

Six of the victims of the North Side Strangler were African American, another was 16 year-old Jessica Payne, a white girl who was a runaway. Authorities believe that someone else may have killed Payne because she was stabbed--and white. Or was the killer trying to throw investigators off by changing up his method of operation?

One of the North Side Stranglers victims being removed from crime scene

But there was something that wouldn't throw investigators off for long. In May, cops said all of the victims were connected by DNA to one man....and cops were tightening the noose on a suspect.

At that same news conference, cops said that it was a serial killer who was responsible for murdering prostitutes in Milwaukee over two decades and dumping his victims bodies in vacant houses in a three-square mile radius over the past two decades.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that on Saturday authorities arrested Walter E. Ellis, 49, of Milwaukee, at a Franklin motel.

Authorities are alleging that it is Ellis's DNA that links him to the deaths of the six hookers and the teenager that were killed between 1986 and 2007.

Online court records show Ellis has been busted at least twelve times for crimes against people as well as property crimes and that he once lived near the area where many of the homicides occurred.

It appears that every time that Ellis was incarcerated the strangulation killings on the north side subsided. Between 1987 and 1994 there were no homicides that fit the North Side Stranglers m.o.

In 1998 Ellis was sentenced to five years in prison for recklessly endangering safety, according to online court records. Again, the killings matching the North Side Stranglers m.o. drop off of while he is incarcerated.
Ellis was released from the federal pen in 2004. The key here is when he was taken into federal custody. In the seven killings that Ellis has been implicated in, none of the killings took place between 1998 and 2006.
The State Crime Laboratory is in the process of checking to see if Ellis's DNA can be linked to the deaths of over 20 other prostitutes in addition to the seven that he has been identified as the chief suspect in.
However, two men were charged in slayings later linked to Ellis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Curtis McCoy was charged in October 1994 with killing Kilpatrick, but he was later acquitted by a jury.
Another man, Chaunte Ott, 35, was released from prison last January after serving 12 years of a life in prison sentence for the murder, Jessica Payne. Ott, was released after lab evidence linked DNA evidence found on Payne's body (the teenager) to two other murder victims with that he had no connection to.
UPDATE 09-07-09 6:42 p.m.:

Cops now say that Ellis is linked to the murders of nine women.
Authorities developed Ellis as a person of interest last week, and on August 29th armed with a search warrant, cops took Ellis's razor, toothbrush and comb to develop a DNA profile for Ellis.
Once the State Crime Laboratory had a DNA profile for Ellis the began testing it on the unsolved murders of two dozen other hookers to see if there was a match to Ellis.
It was....the other victims allegedly linked to Ellis are---Irene Smith, 25, who was killed in 1992, and Carron D. Kilpatrick, 32, who was killed in 1994. Both women were strangled.
Ellis was charged today with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Joyce Mims, 41, in 1997 and Ouithreaun Stokes, 28, in 2007. The last known killing linked to the North Side Strangler was Stokes in 2007.
Other victims linked to Ellis are Shelia Farrior
Over the last twenty years that the North Side
Cops say Ellis had been hiding out at a motel in Franklin after the warrant was served on his apartment in the 2800 block of W. Bobolink Ave. They would not say that if a person found with Ellis at the time of his arrest was a woman. However, a person who lives above the duplex where Ellis lived said that a woman lived there as well.
Prosecutor John Chisholm said that he anticipates the filing of that additional homicide charges against Ellis in the other slayings.
A family member of one of the victims, Joyce Mims, says that Ellis is a nephew of one of the her boyfriends.
Authorities say the law for obtaining DNA samples from all felons went in to effect in 2000. Ellis was in lock-up in 2000 and released in 2001....they're not sure why his DNA was not in it's database.

According to authorities, Ellis killing spree continued because he was able to persuade a fellow inmate already convicted of a sex crime to submit a DNA sample in his name. The disparity was spotted by the State Crime Laboratory, but no one bothered to call the prison, thereby leaving a true sample of Ellis' DNA out of the state data bank.
Attorney General JB Van Hollen says that authorities will continue testing any usable DNA from unsolved homicides to Ellis.

Map of North Side Strangler Cases-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:


UPDATE 02-11:

Walter Ellis pleaded no contest to seven counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 
UPDATE 11-29-11:

Ellis was transferred to a prison in South Dakota in June -  a Wisonsin prison official says inmates are sometimes sent to other states for security reasons, and that Wisconsin accepts them from other states as well, through interstate compacts.


Anonymous said...

How come no photos of the Perp???!!

I've looked all over to see what this POS looks like; but nothing.

Me thinks this might be another example of "black-on-black" crime that the media hates to talk about(?)

good luck,


Kathee Baird said...

Authorities would not release a photo of Ellis tonight.

Tomorrow there will be a rush to all the jurisdictions that ever charged Ellis with a crime for a copy of mugshots.

In the meantime, on the blog in the Franklin motel link there is video of what the station is calling Ellis' arrest.


Anonymous said...

Re: Walter Ellis. When all these poor women were going missing my husband made a comment. Sounds like there could possibly be a serial killer here in Milwaukee. Low and behold as it turned out there was. It turned out to be Walter Ellis who lived 3 doors down from our house. Really creepy.