Still no major leads in Ellison murder

Amy Hackbarth

Investigators pursuing leads in the double homicide of a University student and an alumnus are no longer considering the involvement of another University student.

A search warrant filed in Hennepin County District Court on June 3 requested academic records for a 26-year-old University student with a 1999 weapon-assault charge.

The warrant also requested records for James Ellison, a senior shot to death along with graduate Daniel O’Connell at the O’Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson, Wis., in February.

According to the warrant, investigators were looking for indications that Ellison and the student knew each other. Both Ellison and the student attended the School of Mortuary Science, which has 48 students in its program.

But Hudson police Chief Richard Trende said the lead was unfounded and will not be investigated further.

“It’s a house-cleaning issue, a lead we needed to check but proved unsubstantiated,” he said.

The department investigates almost all the tips it receives, Trende said.

“We’ve minimally received 500 tips,” he said. “But you never know when something could be of value, so you check them all.”

The student’s former probation officer supplied the tip to the department, according to the warrant. Three years ago, the student was arrested and charged with possessing a gun during a fight outside a Minneapolis bar, according to the police report.

In February, the department also investigated the possible involvement of a religious group that decried embalming practices.

While many tips have fallen through, Trende said, he encourages anyone with information they might consider relevant to share it with the police.

“It’s our hope that at least some point in time someone will have some information of value,” Trende said.

In February, the families of both victims announced a $100,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest.

More than four months after the shooting occurred, Trende said he remains optimistic that the killer can be found.

“I think it can be done,” he said. “But this situation is rather unique. Many times you either have a suspect or a motive. At this time we don’t have either.”

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]