UPDATE: Arrest made in 1979 Missouri slaying case

Saturday, April 11, 2009 | 8:05 p.m. CDT; updated 8:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 11, 2009

CAPE GIRARDEAU — A 61-year-old man paroled in 2007 after serving time for kidnapping now faces charges in a southeast Missouri woman's 1979 slaying.

Max Allen Ellison Jr. was arrested Friday on first-degree murder and robbery charges. He was taken into custody by U.S. marshals in Christian County and was to be transported to Cape Girardeau County.

His bond was set at $10 million, cash only.

Ellison used to work as a sheriff's deputy in Stoddard County. But more recently, prosecutors say, he had been an inmate at a federal correctional facility.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle told The Associated Press that Ellison was paroled in 2007 after serving about half of a 65-year federal sentence in central Illinois for kidnapping.

Swingle would not comment on the murder investigation and what led authorities to link Ellison to the slaying.

Ellison is accused of killing 24-year-old Deborah Martin. She was found dead in September 1979 near a staircase in the building where she lived and ran an antiques business in Cape Girardeau. Her residence was upstairs and her shop on the lower levels.

One of Martin's employees found her bruised, nude body. Former Cape Girardeau County Coroner Harold Cobb ruled the death a homicide.

Swingle told the AP that Dr. Michael Graham, medical examiner for the city of St. Louis, ruled that Martin died from a "lethal attack that included mechanical asphyxiation and causing her to fall from a height."

Martin fell over a rail of an indoor balcony — a 14 feet drop — and landed next to the first-floor stairwell, Swingle said.

Martin's boyfriend had been in Texas at the time of her death and was ruled out as a suspect.

Police narrowed their leads to a handful of suspects, and a grand jury was asked to review the case in 1986. After the grand jury rested, prosecutors announced they had determined how Martin was killed and who had done it but declined to release details or file any charges.

By 1989, lead detective John Brown told the Southeast Missourian that police were convinced that they knew who killed Martin and that the suspect was in a federal penitentiary, but that charges wouldn't be filed.


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