The Milwaukee North Side Strangler

No matter what happens, Milwaukee will always be newsworthy. We have the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, Miller Beer, Gene Wilder is from Milwaukee, and Jeffrey Dahmer. In addition to that, we have another serial killer that called Milwaukee home, and hunting grounds, Walter E. Ellis.

Originally from Holmes County, Mississippi. Walter and his family relocated to Milwaukee, WI, when he was young. In his early childhood, Walter showed signs of anti-social behavior, acting impulsively and being aggressive. He was known as a local bully and would be disciplined for it. In 1974, Walter dropped out of school after he had finished the 8th grade; he was a poor student and was often absent, he then turned to a life of crime.

Walter was first arrested at the age of 14 for robbery and attempted murder. As he was a minor he was let go with a large fine. The next four years, Walter was arrested twice more, and each time was ordered to pay a fine. By 1978, he was again arrested but this time plead guilty and was given four years’ probation. This pattern of committing crimes and receiving fines, probation, or having the charges dropped entirely would continue for several years. There were times when he would serve time in county jail, and in 1988 he served two years for carjacking and injuring a police officer.

In October of 1986, two women were found a day apart who had both been strangled. They were both working as prostitutes, Deborah L. Harris (31) and Tanya L. Miller (19). These crimes were not solved until 2009.

In 1990, Walter was released from jail, and he joined a drug trafficking ring. He was arrested for distributing drugs and was convicted. This time he was sentenced to serve time in a federal prison in Minnesota. In 1992, released to a halfway house to learn how to integrate back into society, he was arrested for leaving the premises without permission, but he informed authorities of the corruption in the halfway house and then became a police informant. In November of 1992, Irene Smith (25) had been murdered.

His role as a police informant was like a warm blanket for Walter. He used that status to avoid criminal liability several times, even for assaulting his girlfriends, injuring one with a screwdriver. After he was arrested for attempted robbery during which he assaulted a police officer, Walter was given probation, but the police ceased all contact with him, and he was excluded as an informant going forward. The warm blanket was no longer there. In October of 1994, Carron D. Kilpatrick (32) was found murdered and stabbed.

In April of 1995, Florence McCormick (28), was found strangled in a vacant house. June of 1995, Sheila Farrior (37), was also found strangled in a vacant house. August of 1995, Jessica Payne (16), had her throat cut and was found behind a vacant house.

June 1997, Joyce Mims (41) was found strangled in a vacant house. A few months later Walter was incarcerated for three years in Oshkosh Correctional Institution, for reckless endangerment, and served three years, being released in 2001. He returned to Milwaukee and worked odd jobs and as a day laborer. This same year a law was enacted that all convicted criminals were to give a DNA sample. However, it was learned in 2009, that saliva and blood samples from inmate Walter E. Ellis went missing on the way to the lab. In 2007, the last known victim, Ouithreaun Stokes (28), had been found strangled in a vacant building.

In May of 2009, the murders of seven prostitutes were reexamined as they were all listed as cold cases. A DNA analysis showed that all seven women were killed by the same person. In August of 2009, Walter was ordered to provide a sample, but he failed to appear at the police station and an arrest warrant was issued. The police entered and examined his apartment, a toothbrush containing traces of his saliva was confiscated and examined. After a few days the DNA results came back, and it was a match to the DNA of 9 women in a three-mile area of North Milwaukee, spanning from 1986 to 2007.

An arrest warrant was issued for Walter Ellis, and on September 7, 2009, he was arrested in a motel. Following his arrest, he was charged with the murders of 7 women, Deborah Harris, Tanya Miller, Irene Smith, Florence McCormick, Sheila Farrior, Joyce Ann Mims, and Ouithreaun Stokes. Walter was suspected of the killing of Carron Kilpatrick, and Jessica Payne. There was never enough evidence that showed he had murdered those two victims, and the prosecutor chose not to charge him.

In 2011 his trial was set to begin; however, he had accepted a plea agreement where he admitted his guilt and petitioned for a sentence without a trial. This was accepted, and he was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences without the chance of parole.

Walter was transferred to South Dakota State Penitentiary to serve his sentence. On December 1, 2013, Walter Ellis passed away due to complications from diabetes. He was 53.

Stay Weird Wisconsin!

Tanya L. Miller, Deborah L. Harris, Sheila Farrior, Joyce Ann Mims, Ouithreaun C. Stokes,.

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