200 remember double homicide in Hudson

Rocky Thompson

Approximately 200 people gathered in Hudson, Wis., to recognize the one-year anniversary of a double homicide involving a University student.

Family, friends and community members met at the O’Connell Funeral Home, where Dan O’Connell, 39, and James Ellison, a 22-year-old University mortuary science student, were shot to death Feb. 5, 2002.

The crime shocked the community, where police said there has not been a murder since the early 1990s.

Nothing was stolen from the crime scene, and there is no apparent motive for the killings. Hudson police officers have tracked a number of leads – all dead ends.

In February 2002, Hudson police investigated the possible involvement of a religious group opposed to embalming that had written letters to the funeral home.

A few months later, police investigated a 26-year-old University student with a previous weapons-assault charge. Neither of the leads turned up any information, and the investigation turned elsewhere.

Hudson police are still investigating, and the victims’ families said they are optimistic the crime will be solved.

Jennie O’Connell, Dan’s widow, spoke to the crowd from a platform while thick snowflakes fell coating the ground and attendees.

“Dan and I had so many hopes and dreams,” she said.

O’Connell said she has come to know the true meaning of friends and family and still cannot believe the murders happened to a member of her family and in her community.

She expressed hope for the future, saying that she truly believed all her questions about the crime will be answered one day.

Sally Ellison, James Ellison’s mother, asked the attendees to rejoice.

She said she is thankful for the amount of time the men were in her life, and her strong faith reassures her that they have gone to a better place.

“Rejoice and look for the good, just as Dan and James would have,” she said.

The families reminded people of the $100,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the killer. They added that they believe someone has useful information but might not realize it. They said even if a person doubts the utility of a tip, he or she should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 442-7463.

Near the end of the memorial, O’Connell released two white homing pigeons, which she said signified Dan and James’ ascent to heaven. They circled the crowd once and flew out of view.

Pastor Randy Fredrickson told the crowd a story of a funeral he had presided over approximately eight years ago in Hudson.

A newborn baby was being buried and only the family and a small group of friends had gathered. Fredrickson said he heard someone crying and turned around.

“In the past 21 years, I’ve never seen a funeral director cry,” Fredrickson said that he told Tom O’Connell, Dan’s father.

To which O’Connell responded, “I have children too.”

Rocky Thompson welcomes comments at [email protected]