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THE BETTY CLOER MURDER TRIAL
THE FALL FROM GRACE OF WITNESS  STANLEY GENE ELLIS


by Kathryn Joanne Dixon
 

The trial of Philip Arthur Thompson for the murder 37 years ago of Betty Cloer is scheduled to begin in the historic El Dorado County Courthouse on February 19, 2008.  The main prosecution witness is a convicted armed career criminal named Stanley Gene Ellis. 

For the past two years deputy district attorney Trish Kelliher has fought to keep the history of her star witness secret from the defense, the media and the public.  Judge James Wagoner has, until recently, accommodated her every request to do so.  Following a successful legal fight by this writer and newsmakingnews.com the name of this hidden crucial witness was revealed as Stanley Gene Ellis. (Was Ellis Given a Deal to Testify Against Thompson? and Introducing Ellis aka "DOE" and Is the Betty Cloer Case Too Old to Bring to Trial?)

This article details the fall from grace of Ellis.  It chronicles his descent from minister collecting money to feed the homeless in Coos Bay, Oregon in 1992 to federally convicted armed career criminal in 2005.  How credible is this individual?

Stanley Gene Ellis first caught the attention of federal law enforcement in 1984 when he participated in a bank robbery in Stockton, California as a get away driver.

On July 24, 1984 Bobby Joe Floyd followed by Michael Earl Tigner, walked into the Wells Fargo Bank on North Pacific Street in Stockton, California.  Tigner stood watch by the entrance of the bank, while Floyd presented a note to a teller which said, “This is a robbery….”  Floyd demanded $100 bills.  The teller handed him $1,256.99.  Floyd and Tigner left the bank and hurried to a car parked near by.  Stanley Gene Ellis drove them away.  Three miles from the bank, police stopped the car and arrested Tigner, Floyd and Ellis for bank robbery.  The police searched the car and found the demand note, a .32 caliber revolver and a .38 caliber revolver.  Floyd had $456 in his possession.  Seven $100 bills were near Tigner’s seat.  Inside the trunk of Ellis’ getaway car, the police discovered a .44 caliber revolver which belonged to Ellis.

On November 2, 1984 a jury convicted Ellis of bank rubbery despite his attempts at an alibi and a mental defense. At the time of his conviction Ellis age 35 had charges pending before a Sacramento, CA court  for auto theft and being under influence of a controlled substance. On December 6, 2004, United States District Court Judge Milton L. Schwartz sentenced Ellis to 12 years for the bank rubbery.  Ellis was taken to Lompoc prison.

Ellis served 6 years of a 12-year sentence on the bank robbery charge and was released in January 1991.  While in prison, like so many other prisoners, Ellis “found religion”.  When he was released from prison, Ellis at age 41 became an ordained minister and opened a small mission in Lompoc.

Then he moved to Coos Bay and opened a small mission called Shepherd Staff Gospel Mission which was incorporated in Oregon on October 26, 1992.  This mission changed its name on April 13, 1993 to the Bay Area Rescue Mission.   Ellis became the Director of the Mission.  The mission grew under Ellis’ leadership until the late 1990s. The purpose of the mission was to organize food drives and provide beds for the destitute.  It also offered Christmas and Thanksgiving Programs. Ellis solicited donations for these programs and he ministered to the needy.

When Ellis was sentenced as an armed career criminal in 2005, Ellis’ lawyer Bryan E. Lessley stated, “It is difficult to know how many thousands of people benefited from his [Ellis’] service to the poor of that community.  It is difficult to estimate the number of hours he spent advocating in the community to keep that mission going, looking for money to keep the mission going, and even more importantly than any of that, running the mission’s programs and reaching out to these people.”

In 1999, the Rev. Bill Parham took over the Bay Area Rescue Mission and wanted to move it to a former industrial supply store off U.S. Highway 101 and West Pine Avenue in Coos Bay.  According to Andrew Sirocci, writing for The World on December 11, 2001:

When the Rev. Bill Parham took over the Bay Area Rescue Mission two years ago, his biggest challenge was to reform the shelter's then-beleaguered reputation and establish its credentials as an upstanding part of the community….

No one disputed that Parham has reformed the once-ignominious reputation of the Bay Area Rescue Mission. In his two-year tenure, Parham has transformed the formerly controversial shelter into a model operation and a good neighbor for the Empire area….

In August [2001], the City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Agency, agreed to buy three of the mission's Empire buildings and a vacant lot for $255,000.

On April 25, 2002, the mission changed its name to the South Coast Gospel Mission, Inc. and is now located now at 544 Newmark Avenue, Coos Bay, Oregon.

About a year after Rev. Parham took over the Bay Area Rescue Mission, the former director Ellis went astray.

On December 7, 2000 North Bend, Oregon Police Officers Jon Bohanon and Jeff Mylniec arrested Ellis at his home .  They had responded to a call from a resident on Park Avenue that the home in Simpson Heights had been burglarized and a gun and other items were missing.  The resident identified Ellis as a suspect.  Ellis refused to talk to police.

The officers executed a search warrant at Ellis’ home and confiscated stolen jewelry, cash, a stolen gun, heroin and methamphetamine paraphernalia and other items.  Ellis was transported to Coos County Jail and held on $250,000.00 bail.  He was charged with first- and second-degree burglary, first- and second-degree criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespass, first-degree theft, possession of schedule 1 and schedule 2 controlled substances and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Then on December 29, 2000, Ellis’ second wife, Betty Ellis, 40, was arrested by the North Bend Police.  According to The World, December 29, 2000:

Betty Ellis, who gave police a Norman Avenue address in Coos Bay, has been charged by police with first-degree criminal mistreatment, tampering with evidence, first-degree burglary, possession of heroin, possession of methamphetamine, hindering prosecution, theft by receiving stolen property and forgery. She was taken to Coos County jail, where she is being held on $275,000.

Betty Ellis was the caretaker of the woman who was burglarized.  Ellis’ burglary was an inside job.

At a plea hearing on January 8, 2001 Circuit Judge Michael Gillespie appointed John Meynink, of Coquille to represent Ellis.  Ellis’ previous representation by the public defender constituted a declared a conflict of interest.

On January 22, 2001, Ellis pleaded guilty to one county of first-degree theft in exchange for the prosecutor’s dropping one count of first-degree burglary and one count of first degree theft.  The Judge sentenced Ellis to 13 months in an Oregon prison.  Ellis was transported to the Oregon Corrections’ Intake Center in Oregon City.

Ellis served 9 months in prison.  By November 2001, Ellis, age 52, was a free man.

At age 53, Ellis was once again arrested.  This time the charge a stolen and forged check. 

Why did Ellis go back to a life of crime after he had been straight for the ten year of his ministry?  According to Ellis’ lawyer Bryan Lessley, Ellis had been a drug addict as a child.  He had also been addicted to heroin and other street drugs most of his life.  He then became addicted to the prescription drug Dilaudid.

According to Narconon (http://www.addictionca.com/FAQ-dilaudid.htm):

Dilaudid is an analgesic narcotic with an addiction liability similar to that of morphine. It is apparent within 15 minutes and remains in effect for more than 5 hours. Dilaudid is approximately 8 times more potent on a milligram basis than morphine. Often called "drug store heroin" on the streets, Dilaudid inhibits ascending pain pathways in Central Nervous System. It also increases the pain threshold and alters pain perception.

Ellis’ doctor withdrew the Dilaudid prescription partly because Ellis had become addicted to the medicine and partly because Ellis has altered a prescription form in order to obtain more Dilaudid. When the doctor cut off his Dilaudid, Ellis turned back to heroin. 

Heroin addiction was nothing new to Stanley Gene Ellis.  In 1971, during the time that Ellis knew murder victim Betty Cloer, he had a $500 per day heroin habit. Heroin addicts need big money to support their habit on a day to day basis.   A heroin addict’s mental and physical need for heroin is so great that he or she will commit crimes to obtain money to support the habit. The withdrawal of Dilaudid and his return to heroin was the excuse Ellis gave for continuing his life of crime.

Defense attorney Bryan E. Lessley told the judge at Ellis’s sentencing hearing in 2005 on the charge of being an “armed career criminal”:

He was running his mission.  And he was trying to make a go of this.  And so we see how he went back into the former life. And as I said moments ago, I’m not saying it’s anybody’s fault of what he did but his, and I’m not trying to say that he didn’t make bad choices, but he didn’t handle the situation well, and I’m—you know, a lot of people say I made a mistake.  You knew he was committing crimes.  But it’s not like he has had a life that’s a continuous episode of crime. He did have a period in which he did a great deal of goof for a great many people.  And he fell back into it for reasons that are not 100 percent his fault.

The second time Stanley Gene Ellis caught the federal government’s attention was on December 12, 2003.  It was then that Ellis, age 54, and his accomplice John Curtis Bedford were caught after burglarizing the home of Donald Wayne Baughman.  Ellis and Bedford stole 63 guns from Baughman. Again it was rumored that this burglary was another inside job by Ellis because he had known Donald Wayne Baughman for years prior to the crime.  It was also possible that a relative of Stanley Ellis had knowledge of Baughman’s home.

On January 20, 2004, Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin issued an arrest warrant and a complaint was filed against Stanley Gene Ellis in the US District Court for the District of Oregon, Eugene Division. 

At Ellis’ sentencing hearing on July 26, 2005, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank R. Papagni stated:

He did try to help folks when he was a minister.  It’s a shame he didn’t keep doing that.  But he resorted to hurting them again.  The government’s recommendation is the same as the Probation Office’s. 

Ellis’ attorney, Bryan E. Lessley stated:

But Mr. Ellis didn’t engage in an endless criminal episode in his life.  He actually tried to do quite as bit of good for a great many people.  And, of course, they were the lowest members of society, the poor and downtrodden. And that was the life that he chose after he got out of prison to try to minister to these people.

Ellis told the judge:  

Your Honor, I served the Lord for 10 years, and I’m proud of it.  That’s it.

On July 26, 2005, Judge Michael R. Hogan sentenced Ellis, 54, to 188 months in federal prison.

On February 19, 2008, Stanley Gene Ellis will be the main witness for the prosecution in the trial of Philip Arthur Thompson in El Dorado County Superior Court for the murder of Elizabeth (Betty) Marie Cloer.  Her body was found on June 19, 1971 in Cameron Park, El Dorado County, California.  This 21-year old single mother from Roseburg, Oregon had met her fate in California where prosecution witness Ellis first became involved in his life of crime. 

Ellis is the only eyewitness who had identified Thompson as the man who left with Ms. Cloer from her friend’s apartment on the night of her murder.  She was never seen alive again.

Ellis is now prisoner number 02293-097 at Fort Worth FCI, Texas.  His expected release date is August 4, 2017.  He will then be 68-years-old.  Ellis could possibly obtain an earlier release date by cooperating with the government in convicting another person of a crime.  Is he doing that in the case of Phillip Arthur Thompson?  

What a mixture of traits make Ellis the man is!  He is a heroin addict, a chronic user of guns to commit robberies and crimes, a man who found religion in prison, an ordained minister who formed and directed missions helping the poor and the downtrodden for about ten years. Then Ellis turned back to a life of crime.

Which of Ellis’ traits will be in play at the trial Philip Arthur Thompson?  Is it an honest desire to do a good deed by helping the prosecution convict a man of an unsolved homicide?  How accurate is his eyewitness identification 37 years after Betty Cloer’s murder?  Or is Ellis simply desperate to make a deal with the prosecution to get out of prison early?  Does even the prosecution believe that Ellis is a credible witness?

Kathryn Joanne Dixon © January 18, 2008

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