One charge against Ellwood will be dropped

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / February 24, 1999

HAHNVILLE – New evidence has been uncovered in the St. Charles murdercases against Russell Ellwood, set to stand trial June 7 in Lafayette.

That evidence, uncovered by the state, determines Ellwood’s alibi for one homicide he was accused of committing is valid. Ellwood’s attorney alsocommented she expects the other case to collapse as well.

Assistant Attorney General Doug Freese said Ellwood’s story that he was not in Louisiana when Delores Mack, 40, of Metairie, was killed, is true. Amurder charge in that case will be dropped.

“It came from information from the defendant’s family members. It wasnot what the defense has done,” he said.

Ellwood, 48, a former New Orleans cab driver, will still face trial for the February 1993 murder of Cheryl Lewis, 30, of Bridge City, whose body was found near Louisiana Highway 3160 at Hahnville.

Ellwood is the only suspect to be charged through the work of a multi- jurisdictional task force convened to investigate a string of 26 homicides in the greater New Orleans area from 1991 through 1996.

Mack’s body was discovered in St. Charles Parish Feb. 21,1993, and Lewis’body was discovered Feb. 22, 1993.Freese said the discovery that Ellwood was in Ohio closing a bank account with his brother when Mack’s body was found cast a cloud over the state’s case in that murder.

Freese said if the charge on the Mack homicide was not dropped, as is the plan on March 1, a jury might have voted to clear Ellwood of the Lewis murder as well.

Jefferson Parish investigators, reviewing the evidence gathered against Ellwood in the wake of assertions that serial killer task force commander Lt. Sue Rushing had destroyed evidence supporting Ellwood, uncoveredEllwood’s alibi in the Mack case.

“When the information came to light that the Mack homicide was likely impossible by Ellwood, we did what we were supposed to do,” Freese commented.

While there may be doubt in the Mack case, Freese believes the evidence in the Lewis case points to Ellwood.

“It indicates we’ve got the right person,” he said.

Ellwood’s attorney, Maria Chaisson of Destrehan, commented as to the news of plans to drop the prosecution in the Mack homicide, “Of course, we’re happy we only have one charge to deal with instead of two. Theydon’t have much of a case.”Chaisson added as to the prosecution of Ellwood, “I don’t see a point in continuing this,” and pointed out as to the Lewis case, “They really don’t know when she died. They have no evidence worth anything.”The trial is set for Lafayette because a change of venue motion by Chaisson was granted due to pre-trial publicity, which could possibly prejudice potential jurors in St. Charles Parish. Moving the trial to a new location could have the effect of getting a jury who has not read months of stories, nor seen much television publicity on the case.

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