Family offers reward in mortuary student’s death

Joanna Dornfeld

Nearly three months after the shooting deaths of two men in a Hudson, Wis., funeral home, their tearful families announced a $100,000 reward Tuesday for anyone providing information that leads to an arrest.

James Ellison, a 22-year-old University mortuary science senior, and Daniel O’Connell, a 38-year-old University alumnus and Hudson resident, were shot dead at the O’Connell Family Funeral Home in early February.

Ellison was an intern at the funeral home managed by O’Connell and his father. Hudson police are investigating the crime.

Businesses and citizens from Hudson and Barron, Wis. – Ellison’s hometown – donated the funds, said Tom O’Connell, Daniel O’Connell’s brother.

“This was truly a community effort,” Tom O’Connell said.

Both families asked that anyone with information, no matter how trivial it might be, talk to the police.

“I believe somebody has some information whether they know it or not,” said Hudson police Chief Richard Trende.

During the press conference, Trende released a description of a man seen in front of the funeral home between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the day of the killings.

“This person is not presently a suspect but may have information important to the investigation,” Trende said.

The man is described as a white male between 5-foot-8 and 6-foot-1 with a slender to medium build. He was wearing a light colored T-shirt, light blue pants and a baseball cap.

The man was seen getting into a white, mid-sized, four-door vehicle, Trende said.

This man could provide information that might be crucial to the case, Trende said, because he was seen around the time investigators think the killings occurred.

“The police have assured us that those responsible for the crime will be captured,” O’Connell said.

The Ellison family thanked Hudson and Barron community members for their support during the past three months.

“This is small-town America,” said Sally Ellison, James Ellison’s mother. “We take care of our own.”

She said Barron residents have been deeply impacted by her son’s death.

“It’s a close community, and everyone wants to know why,” Ellison said.

The Ellisons said they can’t predict how they will feel if the perpetrator is apprehended.

“Even when we find out who did it, it’s not going to change that our son was taken from us,” Ellison said. “I haven’t felt angry up to this point, but there’s not a name and a face.