Woman killed 20 years ago shouldn't be called victim, family says

Published: Friday, May 10 2013 7:05 p.m. MDT

OGDEN — A former co-worker of a man accused of sexually assaulting and killing a 92-year-old Ogden woman 20 years ago says the suspect had a darker side.

And the family of Grace Mae Odle said Friday that she would not want to be considered a victim.

Daniel Lundberg worked with Stephen Phillip Ellenwood, 40, at sporting goods and convenience store in Haines, Alaska, and said Friday that Ellenwood gave him a “weird vibe” during one especially memorable conversation.

“He did tell me a story, just basically about how his family didn’t back down from no fighting or nothing,” Lundberg said. “If you were out partying with him or something and you might have crossed the line by saying the wrong thing or joking out the wrong way, you were going to end up beat up.”

“Just the way he said it, it’s like he was just kind of stoic and cold about it,” Lundberg continued. “The way it just kind of hit me, it made me kind of think about it.”

Still, Lundberg said he couldn’t have imagined Ellenwood being accused of murder. He described the man as a nice, fun guy whose laugh was immediately recognizable.

Ellenwood has been arrested in connection with the May 1993 sexual assault and killing of Grace Mae Odle. Ogden police said the attacker climbed in through a window at a retirement home and assaulted the elderly woman.

Detectives also suspect Ellenwood of sexually assaulting a 57-year-old woman that same day. Investigators say they tied Ellenwood to both crime scenes through DNA evidence. An arrest warrant for Odle's death was issued and sealed on April 26.

Authorities were working Friday to extradite Ellenwood, said Ogden Police Lt. Danielle Croyle, but she was uncertain how long the process will take.

Odle’s family issued a statement Friday thanking police for their 20-year effort to find Odle’s killer.

In the statement, the family defiantly objected to Odle being characterized as a victim, pointing to a life in which she overcame obstacles such as raising five children on her own with “no car, no money, no higher education and no workplace experience.”

“By her many courageous acts, Grace Mae Odle demonstrated her refusal to be labeled a victim,” the family wrote. “She valiantly fought to overcome every challenge life presented her, including the incident that eventually took her life.

“We are all proud of her and honored to have been part of her heritage and her journey,” the family said. “She honored justice, loved kindness and walked humbly with her Lord who she met again on Mother’s Day 1993.”

Email: aadams@deseretnews.com

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