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, U.S.
Cause of death 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 between 1986 and 2007.[1]


The North Side Strangler victims were all African-American women. 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.[2] Trained in criminal background analysis, Spingola provided a detailed profile of the killer, which Milwaukee talk-radio host and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Wagner described as "eerily accurate."[3] 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.[4][5]

On September 7, 2009, Walter E. Ellis (then aged 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.[6] 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.[citation needed]

In addition to the seven cases in which he was formally charged, Ellis was connected through DNA evidence to three other homcides: Jessica Payne, Carron Kilpatrick, and Maryetta Griffin. In each of these cases men other than Ellis were charged with the murders, based on the investigations conducted by the Milwaukee Police Department. In the Payne case, Chaunte Ott was wrongly convicted of the killing and served 12 years in prison before the DNA results showed his innocence and he was released. In the Griffin case, William Avery was wrongly convicted and served 6 years before he was able to obtain the DNA evidence that showed his innocence and he too was released. Curtis McCoy was wrongly charged with the Kilpatrick homicide, but was acquitted by a jury even before the DNA evidence linking the crime to Ellis was found. Ott received a settlement from the City of Milwaukee, while Avery won a civil rights trial against two Milwaukee Police Department detectives, Gilbert Hernandez and Daniel Phillips.

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 seven murders or intentional homicides, and was convicted despite not admitting his guilt. On February 24, 2011, he was given seven life sentences, to be served consecutively, without the possibility of parole.[7] 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, Ellis was transferred to the maximum custody unit at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.[8]


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,[9] 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.[10][11]


Ellis died at a Sioux Falls, South Dakota hospital on December 1, 2013 from apparent natural causes, according to a South Dakota Department of Corrections news release.[12]


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


  1. ^ Profile,; accessed April 21, 2015.
  2. ^ "BWS Books". Badger Wordsmith. 2001-09-11. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  3. ^ Wagner, Jeff. "Portrait Of A Milwaukee Serial Killer". 620 WTMJ. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  4. ^ "Amended Criminal Complaint" (PDF). 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  5. ^ "Five New Charges Filed in North Side Strangler Case". 2012-07-27. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  6. ^ Leamanczyk, Lauren (1986-10-10). "Relief For Families of Strangler Victims". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  7. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (2011-02-24). "Ellis gets life - 7 times over". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  8. ^ Vielmetti, Bruce (2011-11-28). "Serial killer Walter Ellis staying connected in South Dakota". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  9. ^ Milwaukee Magazine, Pressroom column, August 2009
  10. ^ Kane, Eugene (2009-09-09). "Nickname aggravates family grief". JSOnline. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  11. ^ "So We're Calling Him the "North Side Strangler" Now?". The Chief. 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  12. ^ State Prison Inmate Dies,; December 1, 2013; accessed April 21m 2015. Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.