Ronald Ellis, wanted for the slaying last weekend of his wife and five other persons, contacted his father by telephone yesterday and said he was going to turn himself in to authorities.
John D. Ellis Jr. received the call from his son at 9:25 a.m. at a relative's apartment in suburban Maryland. The call was the first indication that Ellis, who has been the object of a nationwide manhunt since the slayings in Camp Springs Saturday afternoon, planned to surrender. s
According to his father, Ellis gave no indication where or when he would surrender, and FBI and Prince George's County police said they had no new leads in the case. The FBI refused to comment on any details of the manhunt.
When the call came yesterday morning, the elder Ellis clutched the phone and -- in the presence of two Washington Post reporters -- told his son in urgent tones: "Get in touch with the FBI. Period. Not those local yokels."
John Ellis said after the conversation that he did not know where his son was calling from, or where he has been since he was last seen in Chicago on Sunday.
Ron Ellis has been charged in arrest warrants with the slaying of his wife, Ingrid, a District of Columbia police sergeant, his two youngest daughters, and three other persons in his home Saturday afternoon. He allegedly fled to Fairfax County and forced a female acquaintance and her son to drive with him to the Midwest. The two captives escaped at a Chicago highway rest stop when Ellis allegedly got out of the car, leaving his keys in the ignition.
Yesterday's telephone call came as the Ellis family, gathered in the home of one of Ron Ellis' sisters, made final preparations for last night's wake for Ellis' wife and his two youngest daughters, Tammy, 12, and Monica, 4.
The phone rang, and the elder Ellis, who was being interviewed by the two Post reporters, picked it up and said, "Ron?" in a questioning tone. Seconds later, the father said, "Do it with the FBI."
There was a slight pause, and then the father said, "Have your lawyer plead temporary insanity." After another pause, the father, a look of anguish on his face, quickly told the caller, "Get in touch with the FBI. Period. Not those local yokels," apparently advice to Ron Ellis not to deal with local police.
The phone call lasted a minute, and moments later, Ron Ellis' only surviving daughter, 15-year-old Tracy, came into the apartment with two of Ron Ellis' sisters.
John Ellis told them calmly. "We just heard from Ron. He's going to turn himself in. He's okay."
Tracy Ellis, looking wide-eyed and gaunt, said nothing.
The elder Ellis, a retired printer living in Shelby, N.C., had been contacted previously by his fugitive son, according to police in Shelby.
Shelby Police Capt. Harold Smith said he had learned about a telephone call Ron Ellis reportedly made Sunday night to his father, who came to the Washington area that day after learning of the killings. But Smith said he knew nothing of what was said in that conversation. The elder Ellis confirmed yesterday that his son had contacted him previously, but he would not say what they discussed.
John Ellis said he spoke to his son so briefly each time that he could not even tell what mental state he was in. Ellis, obviously concerned about his son's safety, said Ron Ellis refused to talk for more than a few seconds because he feared the line was tapped.
John Ellis and his family spent yesterday on the final, minute details of mourning. The elder Ellis returned in the morning to the house at 6700 Cooridge Rd. where his daughter-in-law and two of his grandchildren were killed to pick up clothes for Tracy Ellis.
In the afternoon, the family attended the wake for Ingrid Ellis and her children at the Isle of Patmos Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, where hundreds of mourners, in a line that stretched around the block, waited for their arrival.
Inside the brick church, the caskets of the Ellises were surrounded by a profusion of flowers. Men, women and children, many of them sobbing, passed by to pay their final respects.
Scores of Sgt. Ellis' police colleagues came, including Chief of Police Burtell Jefferson, and her elderly parents, Archibald and Marie Withrow of Pleasantville, N.J.
The caskets of Sgt. Ellis and Monica were open for viewing. Tammy Ellis' casket was closed, but a photograph of a smiling 12-year-old was lying on top.
At the same time the wake was beginning, police were searching in the 100 block of Ingraham Street NW, for Ron Ellis, after receiving an anonymous tip that Ellis was in a house there. Residents were told to stay indoors and the street was cordoned off, but the heavily armed police found no trace of the missing man.