Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Suspect found here to be tried for murder

 


Stephen Phillip Ellenwood was ordered to stand trial Friday for aggravated murder in the slaying of an elderly Ogden woman more than 20 years ago.

Ellenwood is accused of raping and killing 92-year-old May Odle in 1993. He is also tied to the rape and stabbing of another woman that took place on the same day.

Ellenwood was arrested in July in Haines, Alaska, where he had been living..

Due to the statute of limitations, Ellenwood can be charged only with murder.

The state must also decide if it will seek the death penalty in this case.

During a preliminary hearing in Ogden’s 2nd District Court, prosecutors called several witnesses involved in the case to create the narrative of the murder of Odle by Ellenwood.

Ellenwood fidgeted and spoke very little to his attorneys during the hearing.

One key witness was Elmelda Trujillo, a housekeeper who worked at the Adams Place retirement home on 24th Street and Adams Avenue where Odle lived. 

She testified that on May 3, 1993, during the graveyard shift, she heard screaming coming from Odle’s room. She came into the room and saw Odle lying on her bed, beaten and bloody, and a man standing over her who was pulling up his pants. TOdle was transported to the hospital, where she died six day later from her injuries.

Former Ogden Police Officer John Valdez testified that he responded to the incident, as well as another assault and rape that took place three hours later and few blocks away from the retirement home. 

The victim in the second incident reported that, in the early morning on her way to work, she was stabbed and raped by a man who matched the description given in the Odle case, Valdez said.

It was later discovered that a sharp letter opener was taken from Odle’s apartment and was possibly the weapon used in the second attack.

The Odle murder was a cold case until it was reopened in 2013 after scientific advancements in forensic DNA identification allowed investigators to better match samples from the crime scene to Ellenwood. They used DNA samples taken from the discarded clothes at the first crime scene and from the dress of the second victim. 

During questioning about the murder of Odle, Ellenwood denied any involvement.

After witnesses and evidence were presented, Judge Brent West made the decision that there was enough probable cause to hold Ellenwood for trial. 

Ellenwood’s defense entered a plea of not guilty. 

The case will return to court on March 5, where the state will announce whether it will seek capital punishment for Ellenwood.