Ronald Ellis, charged with murdering six persons at his Camp Springs home, was denied release on bond yesterday by a Prince George's County judge who rejected arguments that Ellis has strong ties to the community.
Ellis, who turned himself in to the FBI late Sunday after being sought as a fugitive for eight days in the fatal shootings of his wife, two daughters and three other persons, sat with his head bowed as District Court Judge Bess Lavine conducted his bond hearing. His attorney, Kenneth Mundy, argued that there were six reasons to release him on bond, which Mundy suggested be set at $50,000.
There were, Mundy said, the facts that Ellis surrendered in Washington, that he did not fight extradition to Maryland, that he had been "gainfully employed" as a printer, had lived in Prince George's County for many years and has a sister in the county. Finally, Munday argued that Ellis would be at a "serious disadvantage in preparing for these very serious charges" if he had to do so in jail.
Judge Lavine rejected the arguments, citing the seriousness of the charges and Ellis' apparent flight from authorities before he turned himself in. She finally declared: "The ties that he once had in this community are no longer apparent."
Mundy said he and Ellis were disappointed by the judge's decision to keep Ellis in the County Detention Center without bond.
He said he plans for Ellis to plead not guilty but has not yet decided whether the plea will be innocent by reason of temporary insanity. Mundy said he will make that decision after reading indictments against his client, which he expects the county grand jury to issue today.
If convicted in the mass slaying, Ellis could be sentenced to die in Maryland's gas chamber.
Ellis is charged with murdering his wife, Ingrid, 33, a D.C. police sergeant; their daughters Tammy, 12, and Monica, 4; Sherry Robinson, 32; Janet Jackson, 31, and Jackson's son, Tyrone, 12. Robinson and the Jacksons were visiting the Ellis home when the shootings occurred May 2. One of the Ellises' children, 15-year-old Tracey, was away from home at the time and survives.
Ellis and his wife recently separated after she began taking more interest in her police career, and Ellis, according to friends, had difficulty accepting that their marriage was crumbling.
Ellis' parents, John and Mary Ellis, as well as his brother, Rodney, and his sister, Deborah Ellis Riddick, sat in the crowded courtroom in Upper Marlboro during yesterday's proceedings. Half a dozen sheriff's deputies stood guard, and several onlookers had to stand up because all the seats were filled.
As Judge Lavine read each charge against Ellis, Ellis shook his head slightly back and forth. "Charged, that on May 2 Ronald Ellis did feloniously, willfully, deliberately and maliciously murder Ingrid Ellis," the judge began. Her voice quivered at times as she read the same sentence six times, each time with a different name.
After the hearing, Mundy spoke privately to Ellis' parents for 20 minutes in the courthouse.
Later, the attorney told reporters he had suggested to the judge a $50,000 bond because such an amount "seemed reasonable, seemed affordable, plus he had no prior record and he came back."
Mundy tried to characterize Ronald Ellis' feelings, saying: "He has internal anguish. He realizes the enormity of his family being gone."