FBI: Ellwood murder case may be flawed

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 9, 1998

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 9, 1998

HAHNVILLE – The case against accused serial murderer Russell Ellwood appears to be falling down around the ears of investigating officers, as an FBI report on the investigation was made public this week.

Ellwood, 48, faces trial for the February 1993 murders of Cheryl Lewis, 30, of Bridge City, and Deloras Mack, 40, of Metairie, whose bodies were discovered one day apart near Louisiana Highway 3160 at Hahnville.

His attorney, Maria Chaisson of Destrehan, said the report “basically confirms what Russell Ellwood has been saying all along, that he was set up.”The 36-page collection of statements from various officers involved in the investigation centers around the actions of Lt. Susan Rushing of theJefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, asserting such claims as evidence tampering, payroll padding and personal involvement with potential witnesses.

Detective Philip Ramon III of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office outlined for the FBI a rush to judgment by Rushing to accept obviously wrong information and exclude all contrary information to secure an indictment against Ellwood.

For example, Ramon stated, Rushing accepted claims by Sharon Jones of Boutte, a former live-in lover of Ellwood, that Ellwood had her nickname “Rat” tattooed on his penis and that she knew for a fact that a friend, Misty “Nikki” Williams, had been murdered by Ellwood.

Williams was, in fact, located alive in jail, and Ellwood bears no such tattoo.

He also asserted, as to the Lewis and Mack murders: “Evidence that was recovered from these two crimes cannot be located. Ramon believes thatthe evidence was destroyed and that Rushing is intentionally not submitting exculpatory evidence that may indicate Ellwood’s innocence.”Chaisson commented, “It is so rare for law enforcement to blow the whistle on colleagues.” She added, as to Ellwood’s reaction to news of theFBI report, “He feels somebody’s finally listening to him.”A statement from Rushing included in the pack of documents centers on her efforts to get federal grant money to maintain the inter-agency task force investigating several murders, two of which have been attributed to Ellwood.

In her statement, Rushing concludes: “The task force has again disintegrated for the third time, because of the funding issue. I am tiredof fighting to hold something together, attempting to maintain an impossible morale, of the severe limitations associated with inadequate tools, in order to simply do a job. I have often been told, and have toldsubordinates, they would not have a problem with me if they do their job.

It is chilling to realize that there are occasions where we are in fact prevented from doing our job.”Her next action will be a motion to quash Ellwood’s indictment, set for Dec. 9 before 29th Judicial District Judge Kirk Granier. “It’s obvious ifthis goes to trial, they’re not going to convict him.”The FBI probe findings were made public through Granier’s office, who forwarded it to the attorneys on both sides.

Chaisson noted, “There’s no physical evidence whatsoever” against her client and added she disputes whether Ellwood ever confessed to the crimes, as alleged.

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