Ellwood charged in murders

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 4, 1998

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / March 4, 1998

HAHNVILLE – The arrest of Russell Ellwood in connection with the deaths of two women whose bodies were found five years ago near Hahnville was announced Tuesday by St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne.Ellwood, 47, was booked on two counts of second-degree murder in the case which Champagne admits is largely circumstantial. However, thesheriff said he has a witness who was shown the bodies by Ellwood.

“We have a very reasonable chance of getting a conviction,” Champagne, a former assistant district attorney, said.

Prosecution will be handled in the 29th Judicial District Court by Assistant Attorney General Doug Frieze.

Ellwood, suspected in at least 25 murders from Algiers to Tangipahoa Parish, has been in custody serving a four-month sentence for speeding and contempt of court. Those charges are based in St. Charles Parish, buthe is being held by Jefferson Parish, according to sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Patrick Yoes.A task force was formed in May 1995 in an effort to track down a possible serial killer responsible for more than two dozen murders dating back to August 1991, in which bodies were left everywhere from Orleans and Jefferson parishes to St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes.One early suspect in the case was New Orleans Police Officer Victor Gant.

Champagne said Monday, however, that Gant is now only considered a suspect in one death, that of his former girlfriend, Sharon Marie Robinson, who died April 30, 1995.

Ellwood, a former New Orleans cab driver, is charged with the second- degree murders of Cheryl Lewis, 31, and Dolores Mack, 41, whose bodies were found one day apart near Louisiana Highway 3160 in Hahnville.

Lewis, of Bridge City, was discovered in a roadside canal on the morning of Feb. 21, 1993, by a father and son who were crawfishing alongside theroadway. The body was found nude, floating face down in the water.Mack was found nearby 800 feet away by three teen-age boys the following evening. When first discovered, Mack’s gender was in questionas she was a post-operative transsexual.

Lewis’ autopsy showed she died from drowning, with cocaine and amphetamines present in her blood. Mack’s autopsy showed she died fromsuffocation and strangulation, and cocaine was also present in her blood.

Champagne said Ellwood came to the attention of the task force after he was reportedly discovered parked on the roadside engaging in a lewd act near the area where the bodies of Lewis and Mack were found.

A significant break in the case developed in October 1997 when officers from the Jefferson and St. Charles parishes sheriff’s offices traveled toSebring, Fla., and interviewed former fellow inmates of Ellwood.Ellwood reportedly told an inmate he enjoyed sex with males and females, especially when they were drugged and out of control.

“I personally believe he is linked to other cases in St. Charles Parish,”Champagne added, “and possibly others in St. John Parish.”Champagne said while Ellwood was in a Florida prison he reportedly made comments to other inmates that he had killed women in the past. He alsoreportedly claimed to have killed a prostitute in Florida.

He voluntarily returned to St. Charles Parish on Jan. 16 to face anoutstanding traffic warrant.

Anyone with information to assist the continuing investigation is urged to phone Sgt. Olga Fourroux, Lt. Sue Rushing or Detective Phillip Ramon of thetask force office at 466-7448 or 466-6573.

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