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Man gets prison for up to life for killing Utah woman in 1993

Published June 10, 2014 10:05 am

Courts • His guilty plea removed the possibility of a death sentence.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • Though Grace Mae Odle died more than 20 years ago, the 92-year-old woman's murder still affects the lives of her family.

She was the "core" of her family, granddaughter Karen Odle Epiledo told a judge Tuesday. She made her five sons feel as if each was her favorite, and loved her grandchildren fiercely.

She was "little grandma" ­— standing only 5 feet tall — and had no way to protect herself 20 years ago from the man who broke into her Ogden apartment and beat and sexually assaulted her.

That man, 41-year-old Stephen Ellenwood, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole for Odle's May 1993 death.

But 2nd District Judge W. Brent West said he will recommend that Ellenwood never be released from prison — which was exactly what Odle's family wanted.

"I just don't understand how a person can sneak in and do this dastardly deed," son Robert Odle told the judge. " ... I do not understand why this man should see the light of day outside of prison again. He should be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Ever."

Ellenwood pleaded guilty in April to aggravated murder, an offense punishable by death. But in exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors removed the death penalty from consideration. Though the plea agreement gave the possibility of parole, Deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders said prosecutors believe he should never be released.

"This is a case that we feel strongly about that the defendant should not be paroled," Saunders told West before sentencing.

Odle's family members, who came to the courthouse Tuesday with roses pinned to their chests in her memory, described her as a soft-spoken woman who worked all her life to support her family. She loved the assisted-living home she where she had been living near 24th Street and Adams Avenue, and she was making friends, Epiledo said.

Odle was active in her old age and had taken up oil painting when she was in her 80s.

"She was a sentient, fully present person who was beaten, fractured and the recipient of sexual acts from an evil person," Epiledo said. "... She was deprived of a graceful death in the arms of those who loved her."

Ellenwood did not speak at his sentencing, but his mother, Melanie Ellenwood, stood up and asked if she could say something just before West handed down the sentence.

"My son doesn't know what happened that day," she said. "I didn't raise him to be like that. He was not raised to be a horrible person or whatever. ... He is a kind and gentle person."

West said he will recommend to the parole board that Ellenwood never be released from custody, telling the man that his "selfish self-absorption," and drugs and alcohol, led him to make decisions that have affected both Odle's and his own family for the past two decades.

Odle was sexually assaulted and badly beaten inside her room at an assisted-living home the night of May 3, 1993.

An employee told police she heard faint cries for help coming from Odle's room. When the employee opened the door, a man ran out, down the hallway and out of the building, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Odle died six days after the brutal attack.

But it took more than 20 years for police to link DNA evidence to Ellenwood, who was arrested at his home in Alaska last May.

At a January preliminary hearing, prosecutors laid out much of the DNA evidence that placed Ellenwood at Odle's residence — including that Ellenwood's fingerprints were found on Odle's window, that his DNA was on clothing left behind in Odle's apartment, and that his DNA was linked to a sexual assault of a 57-year-old woman that occurred later and just blocks away.

Prosecutors allege that Ellenwood stabbed the 57-year-old woman, who was walking near 23rd Street and Washington Boulevard, with a letter opener that he had taken from Odle's apartment. That woman told police that a man stabbed her, then told her to lie down in some nearby bushes. She complied, and he subsequently raped her.

Ogden Police Detective Richard Childress testified at the preliminary hearing that a DNA match in the second rape case didn't come until October 2012, when the match tied Ellenwood — whose DNA profile was taken while he was incarcerated at an Idaho prison from 2002 to 2008 for an aggravated-assault conviction — to the second crime scene.

The detective testified that the match was made only recently because DNA testing has become more sensitive as science and technology improved through the years.

Ellenwood was never charged in the rape of the 57-year-old woman.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller