A murder suspect arrested in Haines Wednesday allegedly sexually assaulted and fatally beat a 92-year-old woman 20 years ago in a Utah retirement home.
Lawmen from three agencies took Stephen Ellenwood, 40, into custody at gunpoint on lower Mud Bay Road following a chase on foot, interim Haines Borough police chief Simon Ford said.
Haines police, state and wildlife troopers, and a detective from the Ogden City Police Department in Utah converged on a residence near Small Tracts and McPhetres roads Wednesday afternoon after receiving a tip Ellenwood might be staying there.
Ford said troopers spotted Ellenwood inside the residence, but the suspect would not respond to requests to leave the house or speak with police. “At some point he must have jumped out the back window or something and he fled through the woods,” Ford said.
According to court documents, Ellenwood was charged April 26 with the May 3, 1993, murder of Grace Mae Odle. The Utah attorney general’s cold case file indicates Odle was sexually assaulted and beaten by a man police believe climbed through a ground-level window of her room at an Ogden retirement home.
An employee at the retirement home walked in to check on Odle as the man was buttoning up his pants. The man fled wearing only his Levis. Odle died six days later from her injuries.
Ford, who participated in Ellenwood’s arrest, said he was told new DNA evidence connected Ellenwood to the decades-old crime.
Ellenwood and longtime girlfriend Leslie Corless moved to Haines from Jerome, Idaho, last June “to get a different start,” Corless said in an interview this week. Corless’ son and granddaughter were also living in Haines prior to their arrival.
Corless and Ellenwood had been dating since 2003, but split several days before Ellenwood was arrested. Though Ellenwood was “a loner,” Corless said there was nothing in Ellenwood’s character to lead her to believe he was capable of homicide. He didn’t talk much about his past, she said.
Corless said she was “totally devastated” to learn of the allegations. “I had no idea. I feel horrible.”
Corless’ son Bo Graham was also shocked by the news of Ellenwood’s murder charge. “He’s a nice guy. That would be news to me if he did do something like that. He spent time with my kid and everything. I don’t know... that’s weird. Holy cow,” Graham said.
Ellenwood worked sporadically doing janitorial work for First National Bank and AP&T, Corless said. He also worked for a couple months at the Haines Quick Shop.
Quick Shop clerk John Hill described Ellenwood as “pretty quiet and mellow.” When asked if he was surprised by Ellenwood’s alleged murder charge, Hill said “yes and no.”
“It’s kind of surprising, but I’m not surprised by much these days anymore.”
Former Quick Shop employee Dan Lundberg also said the news wasn’t that shocking. “I got a weird vibe from that guy,” Lundberg said.
Ellenwood was taken to the Lemon Creek Correctional Facility in Juneau Wednesday evening. He is being held without bail and will be extradited to Utah as soon as possible, Ford said.
Ellenwood’s record includes aggravated assault and DUI convictions in Idaho.