OGDEN, Utah — Nearly two decades passed between the brutal sexual assault of a 92-year-old Utah woman and the arrest this week more than 2,000 miles away of a man police say raped and beat her, leading to her death.
The arrest came in small-town Alaska almost 20 years to the day after Mae Odle’s 1993 killing in Ogden.
Police say they arrested Stephen Phillip Ellenwood Wednesday, but not before the 40-year-old fugitive ran into the woods to hide. He fled after troopers showed up at his home in the community of Haines, Alaska, with a warrant from Utah. They soon arrested him on murder charges, troopers said.
Ellenwood’s DNA matched fingerprints and hair found in Odle’s room at a retirement home, Weber County Attorney Dee Smith told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah authorities on April 26 filed an arrest warrant for Ellenwood and charged him with aggravated murder. They sealed those documents to keep news reports from tipping off Ellenwood.
Ogden police say the attacker climbed through an unlocked window at a retirement home in the early hours of May 3, 1993, then raped and beat Odle in her room. Police say he was buttoning his pants when an employee who heard the noise came in to check on the woman, and he fled.
Odle died six days later in a hospital from the beatings to her head, chest and limbs.
Ogden police Lt. Danielle Croyle said Thursday that Ellenwood does not yet have an attorney. Five years ago, he was released from an Idaho state prison, where he served a 2002 aggravated assault conviction. In November of 1993, he was convicted of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon. In 1994, Ellenwood admitted committing aggravated assault. And in 2001, he pleaded no contest to drunken driving charges.
Police booked Ellenwood into an Alaska jail Wednesday evening. It’s unclear when he might be flown back to Utah to be tried.
In Alaska, Haines resident Dan Lundberg told the Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/VqgjMK) that he worked with Ellenwood as a liquor store clerk. He said Ellenwood and his girlfriend moved from Idaho to Haines, a town of about 2,600, in summer 2012.
By October, Ellenwood had been fired after making a habit of failing to show up for work, Lundberg said.
Lundberg said Ellenwood’s deep laugh could be infectious, and the others who worked at the liquor store liked him. But, he said, Ellenwood told him a story once about drinking and beating up people in Idaho that gave Lundberg a “weird vibe.”
The story made him wonder about Ellenwood’s past. He said he’s always wondered about certain people who just show up.
“You never know anything about these people that come up to little towns in Alaska,” Lundberg said.