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Utah cold case murder suspect arrested in Alaska

Grace Mae Odle (Family photo)

By Michael McFall | The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 08 2013 07:09PM
Updated May 11, 2013 05:01PM

Whoever sexually assaulted, beat and killed 92-year-old Grace Mae Odle left clues.

A man’s clothing was found in Odle’s room. There were hair samples and partial fingerprints. It’s taken 20 years, but police and prosecutors believe they know who left the evidence.

Stephen Phillip Ellenwood, 40, was arrested Wednesday in Alaska. Police documents state that he was living in the small town of Haines when Alaska state troopers and police from Haines and Ogden descended on his home. Ellenwood fled and tried to hide in the nearby woods, the documents add, but was eventually apprehended.

Utah authorities had been worried Ellenwood would run. The arrest warrant and aggravated murder charge were filed under seal April 26 in Utah’s 2nd District Court so as not to alert Ellenwood before he was arrested.

"We’re grateful that he was caught and found [and] we’re thankful for the police for their efforts, the time they’ve taken to reopen the case. It brings some good closure to our family that we haven’t had in a long time," said the woman’s grandson David Odle, 47, who lives in Layton.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith on Wednesday said Ellenwood’s DNA matched evidence found in Odle’s room.

Ogden police say Odle’s killer about 2 a.m. on May 3, 1993, climbed through a ground-level unlocked window and entered her room at a retirement home at 2433 Adams Ave. After the suspect sexually assaulted and beat Odle, he was getting dressed and doing up his pants.

That’s when an employee, who had heard the unusual noises came in to check on Odle. He fled, wearing only his Levi’s.

Odle was taken to the intensive care unit of McKay-Dee Hospital Center, where she died six days later as a result of the blunt force injuries to her head, chest and extremities.

Three hours after Odle’s assault, Ogden police say a 57-year-old woman was walking to a bus stop that’s two blocks from the retirement home when someone attacked and sexually assaulted her, stabbing her twice and robbing her of her purse. Her assailant matched the description of Odle’s killer.

Prosecutors suspect it was Ellenwood, but they’re still trying to determine whether they can charge him. The statute of limitations may have expired, depending on exactly how many days he’s been in Utah — when time on the statute runs — and how many he’s been out of state, when the statute doesn’t.

Ellenwood’s prior criminal history in Utah is short and dated. In November of 1993, he was convicted with carrying a concealed dangerous weapon, and in 1994, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault — both unrelated to the May 3 attacks. In 2001, he pleaded no contest to driving under the influence.

More recently, Ellenwood was convicted of aggravated assault in Idaho in 2002. He was released from an Idaho state prison in 2008.

On Wednesday evening, Ellenwood was in a jail in Juneau, Alaska. There was no indication when extradition proceedings might begin.

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Twitter: @mikeypanda

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