Numerous Cold Case Homicides Linked Together With DNA Samples


Milwaukee, WI—Police announced recently that DNA helped crack the case of a series of killings which took place in the Milwaukee area over a 21-year period.

Walter E. Ellis, 49, was arrested over the weekend and charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. More charges will be filed within the next few days, according to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

Police Chief Edward Flynn said that Ellis’s DNA was found on the bodies of nine women, eight of whom were suspected prostitutes and one of whom was a runaway. The women, who ranged in age from 16 to 41, were all killed on the north side of the city between 1986 and 2007.

The criminal complaint filed in this case reported that police detectives searched Ellis’s home on August 29. During that search, they seized razors and a toothbrush that Ellis’s female roommate said belonged to Ellis. Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory investigators were then able to match up the DNA from the toothbrush with samples taken from two of the victims.

Court records that have been made available online to the public show that Ellis has had previous run-ins with the law, and had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree reckless injury, in 1998. For that, Ellis served three years of a five-year sentence.

Police were unable to speculate on a motive for the killings of the women. At least three of them had been strangled, but police did not comment on how the remaining six women were killed.

Until recently, the investigators had believed that seven of the killings had been committed by the same person. Ellis was later connected to two additional murders. Detectives also resubmitted a number of DNA samples to the state crime lab, hoping to tie in additional unresolved homicides involving other suspected prostitutes. According to police authorities, the resulting DNA testing has led to breaks in at least 10 unrelated killings.

The District Attorney’s office was not certain whether Ellis has an attorney. A telephone message left with the suspect’s previous attorney on Monday was not returned.

The Milwaukee Police Department credits not only the DNA technology, but also old-fashioned police work for having captured Ellis. “Good police work and good police science led us to Walter Ellis,” said Flynn.


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