DNA testing and solving crimes can only be as good as it is if it is collected and entered into the database.
The murders date back to 1986. The latest murder occurred in April of 2007. The first victim was Deborah Harris, 31 years old, that was found in the Menomonee River. The next day, police found Tanya Miller, 19 years old, between a house and a garage. Florence McCormick was found nine years later, in 1995 in a vacant home. Shelia Farrior was found in a vacant home in 1995 and Jessica Payne, a 16-year-old runaway was found in 1995 behind a vacant home. In 1997, two years later, police found the body of Joyce Mims in a vacant home that was being renovated.
On April 27, 2007, Quithreaun Stokes was found in a vacant house by Burleigh and 7th. She would be the last murder victim of Walter E. Ellis and also a victim that should have never been. Since 1996, DNA samples are to be taken for all persons entered into the justice system and entered into the national database. However, it appears that about 12,000 persons that should be in the database are missing. Walter Ellis was one of them, in a way.
Since police started looking at Ellis, they found that Ellis' name was in the database, but with the wrong DNA and fingerprint. There are theories as to how this happened, but it may never be known if it was a clerical error or an error at the time of collection. Someone at one of the correction departments that housed Ellis ever time he was jailed should have noticed that he didn't have a complete DNA profile.
Police found the same DNA on Mims and Strokes from 1997 and Payne from 1995. However, the DNA did not match the DNA of Chaunte Ott, who was convicted of killing Payne in 1996. He was the wrong man. He was an innocent man serving life in prison, although police still think that he killed Payne. He was convicted with other collected evidence, but no DNA. The DNA found on Payne's body matched the same DNA on the other two victims. Ott was freed after this information surfaced after serving 13 years in prison.
So far, nine murders have been linked to Ellis through DNA. Stroke's family have commented that if the DNA database would have been updated and records check more carefully, Strokes would still be alive and Ellis would be been caught earlier for his crimes of murder instead of the charges he was imprisoned for over the 23 years.
More murders could be solved in Milwaukee once the database is updated and cold cases checked against it. There are more unsolved deaths of women in Milwaukee, all being considered prostitutes, which all of Ellis' victims were except one, and detectives are entering data and checking all cases to see if they can solve more murders in the city that already has so much crime.
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