Walter E. Ellis

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Walter E. Ellis
Walter E. Ellis.jpg
Born (1960-06-24)June 24, 1960
Died December 1, 2013(2013-12-01) (aged 53)
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Cause of death
apparent natural causes
Other names The Milwaukee North Side Strangler
Criminal penalty
Seven consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole
Victims 7
Span of killings
October 10, 1986–April 27, 2007
Country United States
State(s) Wisconsin
Date apprehended
September 7, 2009

Walter E. Ellis (June 24, 1960 – December 1, 2013), also known as the Milwaukee North Side Strangler, was an American serial killer who raped and strangled seven women in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States between 1986 and 2007.[1][2]


The North Side Strangler victims were African-American women[3] who ranged in age from 19 to 41.[4][5] Milwaukee Police Department Homicide Detective Steven Spingola authored an e-magazine article, The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee's North Side Strangler, which chronicled his investigation of the homicides of Sheila Farrior and Florence McCormick.[6]

Trained in criminal background analysis, Spingola also provided a detailed profile of the killer, which Milwaukee talk-radio host and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Wagner described as "eerily accurate."[7] Spingola, however, retired before Detectives Gilbert Hernandez and Kathy Hein, of the Milwaukee Police Department's cold case homicide unit, reexamined DNA evidence that linked a suspect to the homicides.[8][9]

On September 7, 2009 Walter E. Ellis, 49, was arrested on suspicion of being the notorious serial killer. Ellis had been arrested 12 times between 1981 and 1998, when he was sentenced to five years for reckless endangerment.[10] Ellis was initially charged with two counts of first degree intentional homicide and held on $1 million bail. The Milwaukee County district attorney's office later filed five new murder charges against him: three of intentional homicide and two under the previous statute of first degree murder.[11][12]

Initially represented by Attorney Russell Jones in defense of these claims, Ellis pleaded not guilty, and stood prepared to defend himself. Jones was withdrawn from the case, and then on February 18, 2011, Ellis pleaded no contest to the seven murder charges and was therefore convicted despite not admitting his guilt.[13] On February 24, 2011, Ellis was given seven life sentences, to be served consecutively, without the possibility of parole.[14] After he was convicted, he was initially held at the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin, for Assessment and Evaluation in accordance with the Wisconsin Administrative Code, from where he was transferred to the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel, Wisconsin. In November 2011, Walter Ellis was transferred to the maximum custody unit at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.[15]


The use of the name "North Side Strangler" in reference to the case has been limited to one local news organization, WTMJ, Channel 4, which is believed to have coined the nickname,[16] although it has been picked up by some bloggers and by British media as well. Use of the nickname, however, has also been a subject of criticism in other Milwaukee media.[17][18]


Ellis died at a Sioux Falls, South Dakota hospital on December 1, 2013 of apparent natural causes, according to a South Dakota Department of Corrections news release.[19]


Number Name Age Date of Discovery Charge
1 Deborah Harris 31 October 10, 1986 Murder
2 Tanya Miller 19 October 11, 1986 Murder
3 Irene Smith 25 November 28, 1992 Intentional homicide
4 Florence McCormick 28 April 24, 1995 Intentional homicide
5 Sheila Farrior 37 June 27, 1995 Intentional homicide
6 Joyce Mims 41 June 20, 1997 Intentional homicide
7 Quithreaun Stokes 28 April 27, 2007 Intentional homicide
8 Isabella Pennino 74 April 20, 2008 Intentional homicide


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^
  3. ^ Stout, Melanie; Jay Sorgi. "Search for North Side Strangler". 620WTMJ. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ [3][dead link]
  6. ^ "BWS Books". Badger Wordsmith. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  7. ^ Wagner, Jeff. "Portrait Of A Milwaukee Serial Killer - 620 WTMJ - Milwaukee's Source for Local News and Weather". 620 WTMJ. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  8. ^ "Amended Criminal Complaint" (PDF). 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  9. ^ "Five New Charges Filed in North Side Strangler Case - TODAY'S TMJ4". 2012-07-27. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  10. ^ Leamanczyk, Lauren (1986-10-10). "Relief For Families of Strangler Victims - TODAY'S TMJ4". Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  11. ^ [4][dead link]
  12. ^ [5][dead link]
  13. ^ [6][dead link]
  14. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (2011-02-24). "Ellis gets life - 7 times over". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  15. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (2011-11-28). "Serial killer Walter Ellis staying connected in South Dakota". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  16. ^ Milwaukee Magazine, Pressroom column, August 2009
  17. ^ Kane, Eugene (2009-09-09). "(In My Opinion) Nickname aggravates family grief". JSOnline. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  18. ^ "So We're Calling Him the "North Side Strangler" Now?". The Chief. 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  19. ^ State Prison Inmate Dies