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Wisconsin serial killer dies in South Dakota

Walter E. Ellis mugshot
Walter E. Ellis mugshot

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Milwaukee serial killer Walter Ellis died yesterday.

He was serving seven consecutive life prison terms for killing seven female prostitutes in Milwaukee over a 21-year period ending in 2007. The 53-year-old Ellis was being held in a South Dakota prison under an interstate agreement.

An autopsy was planned, and South Dakota authorities will investigate his death. A prison official said he died from natural causes at a hospital in Sioux Falls.

Ellis never said why he killed the women. He was arrested in 2009, after Milwaukee Police learned that his D-N-A matched semen found on six of the homicide victims, plus a blood sample at the scene of the other murder. Two men were convicted of killing women who were later tied to Ellis. Those men were exonerated. A third man was tried and found innocent.

In an indirect way, Ellis helped law enforcement statewide, when his arrest exposed flaws in the state's system for collecting D-N-A samples from convicted felons. As it turned out Ellis persuaded a fellow jail inmate to submit his D-N-A under Ellis's name -- and in 2009, it was learned that over 12,000 criminal suspects throughout Wisconsin never provided their required samples. Those samples are in a database that police use to solve past and present crimes. This year, the state expanded the D-N-A collection requirement to include those arrested but not convicted of felonies and sex crimes, plus those found guilty of misdemeanors.

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