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U Student Shot, Killed in Hudson

HUDSON, Wis. – A University Medical School student was the victim of an apparent homicide late Tuesday at O’Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson, Wis.

James D. Ellison, a 21-year-old senior in the mortuary science program, was found dead along with a 38-year-old man by St. Croix County Coroner Marty Shanklin.

Police would not confirm whether they were investigating the deaths as a double homicide or a murder-suicide late Tuesday night.

“Right now we are not looking for any suspects because, like I said, we don’t know what we have,” said Hudson Police Sgt. Marty Jensen. “Right now we are still
processing the scene. We’re hoping by tomorrow we should have a better understanding (of what happened).”

Shanklin went to the funeral home to get a death warrant signed Tuesday at about 1:40 p.m. when he found the two men with gunshot wounds near an office in the back of the building.

Both men worked at the funeral home.

Police did not know if anyone else was in the building when the deaths occurred. They did not find any other bodies, Jensen said.

James’ mother Sally Ellison confirmed he was a University student and would only say the family was devastated.

Ellison attended class Tuesday morning in Minneapolis. Assistant professor Michael C. Mathews, who taught the class, said the news quickly shook the entire department.

“I am absolutely devastated. He was one of the finest young men you would ever want to meet,” Mathews said. “I had almost every student in the department call me tonight. Every one was just absolutely stunned.”

The 38-year-old man was identified as Daniel O’Connell, the son of funeral director and owner Tom O’Connell. Daniel O’Connell reportedly took over operations at the funeral home a few years ago.

The O’Connells are a prominent Hudson family, with various members serving as heads of United Way fund drives and as volunteer firefighters. The family has operated the funeral home since 1926.

Ellison was a native of Barron, Wis., and was in his second year of the two-year mortuary science program. He had interned at the funeral home for almost a year.

Barron is a town of 3,226 located on U.S. Highway 8 approximately 55 miles north of Eau Claire.

Hudson is 18 miles east of St. Paul, on the St. Croix River.

The Wisconsin State Crime lab sent in a team to aid in the

Hudson police planned to begin their investigation as soon as the crime lab team wrapped up, Jensen said.

All mortuary science students are required to clock 320 hours at a University-affiliated funeral home as part of their program, a requirement Ellison was fulfilling at the time of his death.

A shaken Mathews recalled joking with Ellison before he left class to drive to Hudson.

“He had a great sense of humor, and he was very serious about funeral care,” Mathews said. “He was just the nicest young man you could possibly want to meet.”

– Mike Wereschagin contributed to this report.

Joanna Dornfeld welcomes comments at [email protected]
Josh Linehan welcomes comments at
[email protected]


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