Hal Lamb, an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Detective, said he commenced his investigation of the cold case murder of Elizabeth (Betty) Marie Cloer on April 3, 2002 as part of the California Cold Hit Program when he looked at panties, a bra and other evidence in the Betty Cloer file and detected some potential biological samples. The bra was bloodstained and the panties, also bloodstained, contained a stiff crusty area. Lamb stated he booked the evidence into the property section.
Betty Cloer was murdered sometime after 1:00 a.m. on June 19, 1971. She had been out with friends at a club called “Fromas” in Sacramento, California. Karen June Chappell (now Karen Chappell-Hulse) and Betty Cloer left Fromas around 1:00 a.m. because Chappell had to be home by 2:00 a.m. Ms. Chappell drove to Betty Cloer’s apartment at 2681 Fairfield Street. Ms. Chappell stopped to go to the restroom at a Texaco service station on Madison Avenue near Interstate 80 in Sacramento. Ms. Chappell noticed a white man, 5’10” or 5’ 11” tall, average build, dark hair, wearing light pants and a light colored shirt. He got into his car, a white or off-white 1963 Oldsmobile, 4 door hardtop and followed Ms. Chappell to Betty Cloer’s apartment and pulled in behind Ms. Chappell's car. Betty Cloer told Ms. Chappell that she intended to go back and talk to the man. Ms. Chappell drove away. Elizabeth Ford saw Betty Cloer when she arrived at the apartment she shared with Elizabeth Ford. A man accompanied her and Betty Cloer said she was going to Lake Tahoe with him. Betty Cloer borrowed one of Ms. Ford’s coats. Next, Betty Cloer and the man stopped by the apartment of Robin Messner, Betty's neighbor. Ms. Messner’s sister Sandy was baby-sitting Robert, Betty Cloer’s five-year-old son. Betty told the Messners she wanted to go to Lake Tahoe with the man and asked if Sandy would baby-sit Robert.
No other persons have reported seeing Ms. Cloer after she left Ms. Messner’s apartment. The crux of the prosecution’s case is that the man Betty was last seen with is the man who killed her. The problem for the prosecution is that none of the three women identify Philip Arthur Thompson as that man.
On the afternoon of June 19, 1971, two teenage girls on horseback came upon a body in an open field 30 yards east of Cambridge Road, approximately one-half mile south of Highway 50. Shocked at what they saw, the girls summoned their father who called Sheriff. At the time, this was an isolated rural area described by an officer in 1971 as a “lover’s lane”. Betty Cloer was naked except for a bra and had been shot three times with a .32 caliber handgun. Her head and face had been pulverized by a large, blunt object, rendering her unrecognizable. Betty Cloer’s pants and jacket were located 5 yards off the roadway. Shoes and panties were found 30 yards west of her body, and 5 yards from the edge of the roadway but south of the location where her pants and jacket were located.
On December 11, 2002, The Department of Justice Crime Lab in Richmond found a cold DNA hit in reference to a sperm sample extracted from the victim’s panties submitted by Detective Lamb. On January 7, 2003, the Lab notified Detective Lamb that it had a "hit" and by January 10, 2003, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee wrote: “The match was made after a routine check of the state Department of Justice's prisoner DNA data bank.” The Department of Justice withheld the identity of the prisoner. On April 9, 2003, Lamb met with Thompson at Solano State Prison, Vacaville, California. Lamb served Thompson with a warrant to obtain a confirmation saliva sample for DNA testing. On June 2, 2003, criminalist Angelynn Moore began work on the confirmation saliva sample to confirm the tentative identity of the cold hit. Her report stated it matched Philip Arthur Thompson's genetic profile.
On October 24, 2003, Thompson was arrested for the first degree murder of Betty Cloer and transported to jail in El Dorado County.
Six weeks later, on December 12, 2003, Stanley Gene Ellis, age 54, and his accomplice John Curtis Bedford, were caught after burglarizing the home of Donald Wayne Baughman in Clyde, Oregon. They had stole 63 guns from Baughman.
Little did Thompson know that Ellis was soon to become the El Dorado County District Attorney’s main witness. In January 2004 Philip Arthur Thompson essentially knew Ellis as a witness who told Detective Mergen shortly after the crime, that he had seen Betty Cloer leave Ms. Messner’s apartment with a man on night of her murder. In a court hearing, it was revealed that Ellis had given a physical description of the man which did not match Thompson. Thompson said he had never met Ellis.
But the pressure was on Ellis.
On January 20, 2004, a complaint was filed against Ellis in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Eugene Division. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin issued an arrest warrant for Ellis. On January 26, 2004, Ellis appeared before Magistrate Coffin and Federal Public Defender Bryan E. Lessley was appointed to represent him because he found to be indigent.
At first, in January 2004, Ellis faced only a gun charge. He was charged with a one count violation of 18 United States Code, Section 922 (g) (1), which reads, in part, as follows:
18 United States Code, Section 922 Unlawful acts: …
(g) It shall be unlawful for any person -
(1) Who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
…. to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.]
18 United States Code, Section 924. Penalties
(d) 2) Whoever knowingly violates subsection (a)(6), (d), (g), (h), (i), (j), or (o) of section 922 shall be fined as provided in this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.]
The penalty Ellis faced for the gun charge was not more than 10 years in prison and fine.
On January 27, 2004, Ellis’ preliminary hearing and detention hearing were heard by Magistrate Coffin. He found probable cause on the complaint to bind Ellis over for presentation to the grand jury and he set arraignment for February 23, 2004 and ordered Ellis detained.
Then Ellis’ life turned gloomy. On February 19, 2004 the Indictment was issued. Assistant US Attorney Frank P. Pagagni Jr. announced the grand jury indicted Ellis on one count of violation of 18 United States Code, Section 922 (g) (1) and 18 USC Section 924(e). This was a charge under the Armed Career Criminal Statutes which states:
18 United States Code, Section 922. Unlawful acts
(g) It shall be unlawful for any person -
(1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; …. to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
18 United States Code, Section 924. Penalties
(e) (1) In the case of a person who violates section 922 (g) of this title and has three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922 (g) (1) of this title for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another, such person shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than fifteen years, and, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall not suspend the sentence of, or grant a probationary sentence to, such person with respect to the conviction under section 922 (g).
(2) As used in this subsection—
(A) the term “serious drug offense” means—
(i) an offense under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21U.S.C. 951 et seq.), or the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (46 App. U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law; or
(ii) an offense under State law, involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. U.S.C. 802), for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law;
(B) the term “violent felony” means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that would be punishable by imprisonment for such term if committed by an adult, that—
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another; and
(C) the term “conviction” includes a finding that a person has committed an act of juvenile delinquency involving a violent felony.
If Ellis were to be convicted on this indictment dated February 19, 2004 he would face 15 years to life in prison. Can it be presumed that Ellis immediately began to think of who he might be able to snitch on to get a lesser prison term than the life term he potentially faced?
Meanwhile, Thompson’s case seemed stalled. Thompson did not have a preliminary hearing until about a year after his arrest, on November 1, 2005, because his original attorney, the Public Defender, declared a conflict of interest. The next attorney appointed to represent him had to have time to get up to speed. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution did not call Ellis to the stand. Obviously, Ellis was one witness whose location was known. He was in Sheridan Prison in Oregon.
At the end of the preliminary hearing at the Courthouse in Placerville, Judge Proud indicated he would not hold Thompson over for the murder of Betty Cloer, if not for the existence of the DNA evidence. DOJ criminalist Angelynn Moore had testified that a sperm extraction from the crotch area of the panties, which allegedly had Cloer’s blood in the same area, matched Thompson’s genetic profile. A reasonable deduction from Judge Proud's remark was that the other evidence presented by the DA was so weak it did not support probable cause to hold Thompson over for trial. Therefore, it probably would not pass the test of evidence sufficient to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
What other weak evidence did the prosecution withhold at the preliminary hearing?
The preliminary hearing did reveal that the hypnosis of Karen Chappell, which took place in Placer County eight years after Betty Cloer’s murder, was flawed. She could not remember all the license plate numbers of the car driven by the man who approached Betty Cloer at the Texaco station on the night of the murder and followed her home. Judge Proud ruled that the prosecutor’s evidence attempting to link a set of keys, secured by a key chain with a rock emblem lacked a sufficient evidentiary foundation and was deficient as a matter of law and could not be introduced.
Finally, even the DNA evidence was flawed. The preliminary hearing revealed that the DNA link to Thompson lacked credibility because of a failure in the chain of evidence of the DNA samples contained in the bra and the panties. Property records to prove the chain of evidence since 1971 were deficient or lacking at the El Dorado County Sheriff’s department. Also, Detective Lamb had tainted the DNA by storing the garments containing DNA samples in his file cabinet. He had mixed up the panties with other clothing in a plastic bag to store them. There was a green spongy substance on the panties which potentially contaminated them. A mysterious defect – a hole on the back of the panties -- was made while the panties were in possession of law enforcement and/or the Department of Justice lab.
After the preliminary hearing in November 2005, the District Attorney of El Dorado County and law enforcement began to take more interest in Ellis. So did Thompson's attorney.
On April 25, 2006, Dain Weiner, court-appointed attorney for Thompson, filed a “Request for Discovery” and sought a copy of the 1971 interview of Stanley Ellis, referred to in Detective Fitzgerald's April 26, 2005 interview.
This April 25, 2006 Request for Discovery was not sealed, nor was the District Attorney’s response dated May 18, 2006, in which Deputy District Attorney Trish Kelliher stated:
All information which the People have regarding any contact with Stanley Ellis in 1971 has been discovered. The People are not aware that any report exists, and if it does, there is no showing of relevance. All information regarding any contact with Stanley Ellis by Det. Mergen in 1971 has been provided; i.e. Det. Mergen’s notes and testimony.
The Judge's Minute Order of June 2, 2006 regarding the hearing on the defendant’s Request for Discovery does not reflect that any matters were sealed even though the issue was discovery regarding Ellis.
However on November 10, 2006, Judge James Wagoner sealed “The People’s Motion to Admit Uncharged Acts Pursuant to Evidence Code Sec. 1101(b) filed 11/10/06" and completely redacted it. He also redacted the Defendant’s response and further documents pertaining to it. Later, the defendant's attorney Wiener filed a petition for a writ regarding this motion to the Third District Court of Appeal. That Court did not did not seal the matter. The documents pertaining to this Writ mention Stanley Gene Ellis.
However the Motion and Writ filed at the Third District pertain to two female witness against Thompson, one of whom, Sharon Strain, was actually deceased. The prosecution wanted to call these witnesses to testify to the prior bad acts of the defendant, namely that he allegedly had sexually assaulted them around the time of Betty Cloer’s murder. Judge Wagoner ruled that the testimony of both witnesses was admissible, including the testimony of the deceased witness Sharon Strain. Her testimony was to be read at Thompson's trial from a preliminary hearing transcript dated 1971. Wagoner made this ruling despite the fact there was no evidence that Betty Cloer was sexually assaulted by the killer. This rendered testimony about both alleged sexual assaults irrelevant to the modus operandi of the killer.
One problems the prosecution had regarding the alleged prior bad acts in its Evidence Code Section 1101(b) motion was that the defendant had actually been acquitted of the alleged assault on Ms. Strain. Another problem the prosecution had was that the charge against Thompson pertaining to the alleged assault on the other female was dropped by the prosecutor.
Ellis seemed more important to the case as time went on. Could he really identify the defendant as the man who was in Ms. Messner’s doorway that night with Betty Cloer?
On March 28, 2007, the defendant filed a “Supplemental Request for Discovery” and requested Brady evidence regarding the prosecution's witness Stanley Ellis. The Brady case is a United States Supreme Court case which requires that the prosecution produce all potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. Attorney Wiener stated:
We request a copy of Mr. Ellis’ rap sheet. We furthermore request copies of all law enforcement reports of any of Mr. Ellis’ crimes involving violence, firearm use, untruthfulness and any other behavior indicating moral turpitude. Furthermore, the defendant requested regarding Ellis all records from Mr. Ellis’ past regarding his:
a. Cooperation with law enforcement.
b. Providing information to law enforcement for leniency;
c. Any consideration he has received for working for law enforcement/prosecution on this and any other case.
Suddenly, after Thompson’s lawyer wanted to know if Ellis was getting any “deal” for his testimony, Judge Wagoner began sealing matters regarding Ellis. In his minute order of April 20, 2007 the judge stated:
M. Kelliher has an opposition prepared, however she requests the response be filed “UNDER SEAL”. Court GRANTS People's request and orders the response filed 4/20/07 to be placed in a Confidential Envelope only to be opened by order of this court.
The issue of whether or not Ellis was getting a deal was apparently too sensitive for the public record. The Judge’s zeal to seal matters regarding Ellis was such that the public record reflects that he did not require the prosecutor to file any official applications or motions to seal the record at this point.
On June 13, 2007, Thompson's lawyer Dain Wiener filed a "Response to the People’s 1) Request for Discovery and 2) Information Request for Discovery". It stated:
Defendant hereby responds to the People’s “Request for Discovery” as follows:
1. Photo shown to Ellis. A copy of this photo is presently lodged with the Court as an Exhibit submitted during the
2. Statement of Ellis.
The Defense does not plan on calling Mr. Ellis at trial. The Prosecution has advised that they have not decided whether or not they will be calling Mr. Ellis as a witness. The Prosecution relies on this position in refusing to provide substantial Brady information on Mr. Ellis. The Prosecution’s request for potential rebuttal evidence or statements is premature.
By June 13, 2007, it can be inferred from court testimony and the public record, that Dain Weiner and the defendant’s private investigator Fran Trunzo visited Ellis. Ellis then serving time as a convicted Armed Career Criminal in Victorville federal prison They showed him a photograph of Thompson. Apparently they were trying to inquire about the credibility of Ellis in regard to his new eyewitness identification of the defendant.
Weiner and Trunzo had a duty to investigate. They had to keep up with Detectives Rich Strasser and Rick Fitzgerald who were beefing up the case day by day. Fitzgerald took over the case from retired detective Hal Lamb and Strasser was an expert in crime scene "reconstruction".
Sometime prior to June 13, 2007, one or both El Dorado County Sheriff’s detectives had visited Ellis in prison and shown him a six pack. A six pack is six photos of similar looking men which includes one of the defendant, in this case Thompson. When asked to identify the defendant, Ellis allegedly picked out Thompson’s photograph. By then, Philip Arthur Thompson’s photograph had been published many times on the world wide web. Newsmakingnews had also published an early photograph of Thompson in an article by reporter Virginia McCullough. After the detectives obtained the new identification of Thompson by Ellis, using the six pack, Wiener and his investigator went down to Victorville to investigate how this occurred.
Perhaps Elli’s identification of the defendant had weakened during his interview with Wiener and Trunzo.
After these interviews, the District Attorney utilized an amazing strategy to bolster Ellis' credibility. Deputy District Attorney Kelliher stated that Ellis accused Dain Weiner of threatening him during the prison interview in Victorville. Kelliher filed documents seeking to remove Weiner as counsel for the defendant. This move, if successful, would have destroyed Thompson's right to counsel of his choice.
On July 16, 2007, DDA Kelliher filed three documents entitled “People’s Motion to Seal Records (Redacted) with the words written under it “Under Seal”. This document is completely redacted from the public file. On July 16, 2007, the prosecutor also filed “Notice of Motion and Motion to Admit Evidence of Identification (Under Seal). This document is also completely redacted.
On July 23, 2007, the Judge's Minute Order states, in part:
In Re: People’s motion to Seal Records COURT ORDERS: People are to give a copy of motion to Atty Dain Weiner; Mr. Weiner is order NOT to make duplicate copies of motion but can let the defendant and investigating officer read the motion.
IN RE: PEOPLE’S MOTION TO SEAL ALL I.D. INFORMATION. The Court orders all information be sealed until further hearing in August. This includes Court Reporter Transcripts
….. Motion Re: seal identifying formation SET FOR 8/3/07 AT 13:30 IN Department 1.
Again Judge Wagoner did not require any public hearing to determine whether the documents should be sealed.
Suddenly on August 2, 2007, the name “John Doe” or Doe was being used by the defendant’s attorney Weiner. He filed a “Motion for Full Disclosure of Brady Discovery re: “John Doe” (Filed Under Seal). The first page, not redacted states in part:
In light of the Prosecution’s recent confirmation that they are calling “John Doe” as a witness, the Defense again requests FULL Disclosure of ALL Brady material regarding “Mr. Doe”. This is the third (3rd) request for discovery regarding “Mr. Doe.” The trial in this matter commences in sixty (60) days.
It now became abundantly clear that prosecutor Kelliher was fighting any release of information about her star witness Stanley Gene Ellis.
On August 2, 2007, the Thompson's lawyer Weiner filed a “Response to Prosecution’s Motion for a Protective Order”. It was not filed under seal or redacted. It states in part:
The Prosecution’s statement of facts regarding conversations between inmate John Doe, Defense Counsel Dain Weiner and Investigator, Fran Trunzo is full of false statements by John Doe. John Doe was never, in any way, shape or form, threatened or intimidated. The statements attributed to Dain Weiner by Jon Doe are outright fabrications by Mr. Doe. However, aside from Mr. Doe’s vivid imagination and predilection for creative story telling, the Defense does not oppose the Prosecution’s request to refer to this perjurious individual as “John Doe” except as is necessary to subpoena additional records documenting Mr. Doe's extensive history of nefarious activity.
On August 3, the Judge's Minute Order shows that sealing matters regarding “DOE” was imperative:
IN RE: PEOPLE’S MOTION TO SEAL CERTAIN COURT DOCUMENTS. There being no objection by the Defense: the Court GRANTS the motion.
IN RE: Witness to be identified as “John Doe”. Court hears from Counsel.
On motion of the People; Court and Counsel retire to chambers to discuss issues out of the presence of the public and off the record. Defendant’s Presence is waived.
Court to hear further argument regarding confidential issues in this case.
COURT ORDERS: Material identified as “John Doe” be produced before the next Court hearing.”
On October 15, 2007 at 11:00 a.m., Judge Wagoner stated he would close the hearing regarding two motions pertaining to John Doe, one of which pertained to impeachment evidence. This reporter asked for a due process hearing regarding closing the hearing. During the hearing, Ms. Kelliher pointed out to Judge Wagoner that he had issued no order regarding her Motion for Protective Order filed on July 16, 2007. DDA Kelliher stated words to the effect that the Protective Order was her motion that Mr. Doe not be referred to by name and that on page 4 of the motion it states “parties should not publish the name to anyone.” Judge Wagoner stated he would grant the motion (3 months after it was made) and issue an order regarding the protective order and sign it.
After the hearing, this reporter, Kathryn Dixon, asked Judge Wagoner when she could obtain a copy of his order regarding the protective order. He stated words to the effect that he had not prepared the order yet and did not know when he would have it signed. This reporter then asked if she would request a press hearing on the issue of the Protective order on Friday October 19, 2007 the same date set for press motions during the hearing that day and the judge responded affirmatively.
In summary, the public record and testimony in court reveals an orchestrated attempt by the prosecutor and the Judge to protect Ellis. As soon as Thompson’s lawyer filed some information about Ellis in opposition to the prosecution's "Motion to introduce the Uncharged Acts Pursuant to Evidence Code Sec. 1101(b)" on November 10, 2006, Judge Wagoner sealed all documents pertaining to the motion. On March 28, 2007, when Thompson’s lawyer sought discovery as to whether Ellis was getting a deal for his testimony against Thompson, the Judge responded by sealing matters pertaining to Ellis on April 20, 2007. Then, suddenly, Thompson’s lawyer was the object of a criminal inquiry about his allegedly threat against Ellis.
Eventually, the judge ruled that Wiener could continue as defense counsel. DDA Kelliher when asked by this reporter if a Grand Jury was impaneled regarding the alleged threat to Ellis, and she stated "no comment".
There is also no evidence in the public record that the District Attorney ever provided the defendant with the answer to the critical question: Did Ellis obtain a deal or leniency for his testimony against Thompson during the United States Attorney's case against him in Oregon, for the charge of being an Armed Career Criminal? The case number is Case No. 04-CR-60009-1-HO located at the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Eugene.
What evidence did the District Attorney and the lead investigators obtain from Ellis in prison while he was awaiting sentencing in Oregon?
At a hearing on October 22, 2007 before Judge Wagoner, regarding, in part, this reporter’s attempt to unseal the name of “DOE” for press purposes, the following exchange occurred:
Philip Arthur Thompson stated: “Regarding DOE, I first learned about DOE in 2005 and then I had a public defender or maybe was not represented at the time. I sent out copies of information, a report I had on Ellis to about 20 people including McCullough, asking them to please obtain information for me about Ellis. At that time there was no gag order. I want this on the record.”
Deputy District Attorney Kelliher responded: “The defendant cannot have any copies of any witness statements with witness information. I request he turn that over immediately. The defendant is not to be given information regarding witnesses."
Thompson explained: “It was something from the Public Defender.”
Kelliher further stated: “I will need information about what reports and other information the defendant gave regarding “DOE” to 20 people.”
Judge Wagoner said, “You and Weiner (Thompson’s defense counsel) should hash over the issues of the reports.”
At this hearing on October 22, 2007, after a bruising series of hearings where this reporter sought to unseal DOE’s name, Judge Wagoner ruled that there was no direct gag on this reporter and the press regarding the name of “DOE”. This reporter and Newsmakingnews can now reveal that “DOE” is Stanley Gene Ellis, the prosecutor's primary witness against Philip Arthur Thompson.
Who is Ellis? When and where did he get involved with Betty Cloer and this case against Philip Arthur Thompson? What is his motivation? Why is Ellis the primary witness for the prosecution and why was his name sealed as DOE? How has the testimony of Ellis developed and what will his final testimony be, if he testifies? The defendant, the press and the public have a right to know the answers to these questions even as the prosecution seeks to keep the answers secret.
First, of all, Stanley Gene Ellis deserves as proper introduction. To the left, is his mug shot taken in 1971. Here is his description and personal information:
Date of Birth: August 27, 1949
Place of birth: Oregon
Names used (AKA’s):
Ellis, Stanley G.
Davis, Henry A.
Ellis, Stanley Gene
Lin, Eric Henry
Social Security Number 542 660 418
Stanley Ellis’ first wife is Margaret Ellis who lived with him at the apartment complex where Betty Cloer resided during the last two weeks of her life. Margaret has also known as:
Bailey, Margaret A.
Bailey, Margaret E.
Clines, Margaret A.
Klines, Margaret A.
Ellis’ first official involvement in the murder case occurred when he gave a description of the man he saw who was with Betty Cloer to Detective Mergen right after her body was found. This description did not match Thompson.
The central question in the murder trial, other than the alleged DNA match, is who is the man who followed Betty Cloer and Ms. Chapell from the Texaco station to Betty Cloer’s apartment? Betty Cloer’s roommate Ms. Ford saw the man at the apartment, and then Betty Cloer went to see Ms. Messner to check on her son. Ms. Messner vaguely remembered a man coming into the room. When Betty Cloer arrived at the apartment, Ms. Messner was laying on a mattress in the living room floor with a boyfriend she had met at the bar, and Ms. Messer admitted she was under the influence when she observed the man standing inside the apartment by the door.
Stanley Ellis stated that he was present with Ms. Messner – not as her boyfriend -- but just present with her in her apartment when Betty Cloer arrived to check on her son in the early hours of June 19, 1971. None of Betty Cloer’s friends who were present that evening. Ms. Messner, Ms. Ford or Ms. Chappell, had never heard of Mr. Ellis. At the preliminary hearing, each woman denied Ellis was present at any of their apartments.
Shortly after the investigation of the murder began, Ellis provided a stolen handgun to Sacramento Police Department Detective Koupal. Soon Ellis was incarcerated in the Sacramento County Jail. El Dorado County Detective Mergen interviewed him but Mergen's report written at the time is missing. Did Mergen view Ellis as a suspect at that time? Could Ellis have been the “man” who followed Cloer or left with her?
34 years after the murder Ellis provided information to assist the El Dorado District Attorney.
A Supplemental Narrative dated 6/16/05 written by Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Fitzgerald was obtained by this reporter. At this point, as a result of this Supplemental Report, Ellis entered the case. Detective Fitzgerald wrote the Supplemental Narrative of June 16, 2005 at 10:09 a.m. which stated:
March 2005, I received a phone call from Toni Pisani, investigator for the Oregon Fed. Public Defender's office. She said that, Stanley Ellis, who was in federal custody in Oregon, wanted to talk to somebody about the Betty Cloer murder."
04-26-05, Noon, I met with Stanley Ellis in the Federal Correctional Facility in Sheridan, Oregon. Also present at this meeting were Bryan Lessley, (Attorney) and Toni Pisani (Investigator) of the Oregon Federal Public Defender’s Office.
Ellis said that he had seen an article in “The Oregonian” newspaper a couple of months ago about the murder of Betty Cloer. Ellis was shocked. He knew Betty Cloer and had seen her the night before she was murdered. He assumed all of these years that the murder had been solved. Keeping in mind that thirty-two years had now passed, I asked Ellis to tell me what he could remember about Betty Cloer’s last night. The following is a summary of what Ellis told me.
Ellis and his Wife, Margaret, lived in the same apartment complex that Betty and her son lived in back in June of 1971. Although they only knew each other for a few months, Ellis and his wife had become friends with Betty. Betty was a good mother and didn’t date or party much. The night before Betty was found murdered, Ellis drove Betty and a girlfriend to a bar in Sacramento. He left them there and returned home to his wife. Betty’s son was being babysat by another girl who lived in the apartment complex.
Betty returned to the apartment at about one thirty or two in the morning. Ellis and his wife were up in Betty’s apartment while she was preparing to leave again with a stranger she had shown up with. The stranger was a man who Betty had met that night, and was promising to take Betty to the Tahoe area. Ellis was in the front room of Betty’s apartment, while the stranger stood in the threshold of the front door. Ellis tried to get the man to come in but he would not. Ellis was uncomfortable with the man, it seemed like the man was intentionally avoiding contact. Ellis tried talking to the man but the man would say very little, only offering that he lived by McClellan Air Base and that they (he and Betty) had to go by his house too, before heading out of town.
All of this made Ellis very uncomfortable. He took the opportunity to tell Betty that something was wrong and that he didn’t ‘like the stranger. Ellis said that Betty was no overly attractive and didn’t get out much, and he thinks she was overwhelmed with the opportunity to go somewhere exciting like Tahoe with this handsome stranger. Betty ignored Ellis’ warning. Ellis watched as Betty and the stranger walked to a mid sixties, four door Lincoln continental hard top parked in the parking lot. From the apartment window, Ellis saw them get into the car and drive off. The car was blue or dark green and appeared to be in good condition. This was the kind of Lincoln Continental that had a tire kit on the back of the trunk section.
Betty never returned, and late the next day was found dead in our county. Ellis and his wife were interviewed at the time by Sacramento police officers and he told all of this to them.
Ellis described the stranger as a good looking guy who was a couple of years older than him (23-25), tall, thin, good shape, clean shaven, dark medium length hair, tan.
Ellis told me he doesn’t want anything from our county for this information. He said he had us contacted because he liked Betty, and her murder always has struck with him. There were tears in his eyes as Ellis told me that he knew the guy had bad intentions, he could see it in his eyes “that the guy was on the hunt”. He wishes he had been more assertive with Betty.
Toni Pisani gave me a copy of “The Oregonian” newspaper article (See attached.)
When Ellis provided information for Fitzgerald's Supplemental Report on April 26, 2005, he anticipated being sentenced on May 3, 2005 and that these charges could send him to prison for life. He desperately needed to convince the United States Attorney, the federal probation officer and Judge Hogan that he merited a reduction in sentence.
The government can make a Section 5K1.1 motion to request that the court depart from the normal sentencing guidelines to take into account a defendant’s substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.
In the Ellis case there is no cooperation motion filed by the United States in the public record or under seal. However, even without a government departure motion, the federal court can consider the defendant’s cooperation in placing the sentence within the guidelines range, or in determining the extent of a departure based on other grounds, or as one of the factors justifying a lower sentence under Section 355(a).
Therefore, Ellis, when he provided information to Detective Fitzgerald in the Betty Cloer murder case, could seek mercy from the Judge based on this cooperation. In the opinion of this reporter, he did so, by attempting to finger Thompson with an eyewitness identification. Ellis’ story about his seeing Cloer leave her apartment with a man on the evening of her murder would dramatically change over time to conform with other witnesses' testimony and the known facts of the case.
On July 26, 2005, Ellis was sentenced in the federal case in Oregon. The US Attorney did not recommend that Ellis get life in prison or a high-end sentence of 235 months. The US Attorney joined the federal probation officer’s recommendation of 210 months. Then on July 26, 2005, Judge Michael R. Hogan sentenced Ellis too even less time – 188 months. Was there a deal made for Ellis based on his cooperation against Philip Arthur Thompson in the Betty Cloer murder trial? Why doesn’t the El Dorado County District Attorney reveal whether or not a deal was made? Finally, why doesn’t Judge Wagoner compel the District Attorney to reveal this fact and all other Brady evidence about Stanley Gene Ellis?
Kathryn Joanne Dixon © January 13, 2008
PO BOX 217
Fremont, CA 94537