4 years after Detroit man was killed and set on fire, family seeks justice

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Four years after Robert Ellis's burned body was found inside a house on the city's northwest side, his sister said she's still waiting for the killer to be held accountable.

Ellis, 69 of Detroit was fatally shot in a house in the 19100 block of Archdale. Fire fighters responding to reports of smoke coming from the home found his body on fire in an upstairs room.

Robert Ellis, whose body was found Dec. 23, 2015 in a burning house on Detroit's west side

Detroit police say they had identified a suspect in the killing.

"We investigated the case and submitted the warrant, but it was denied," Detroit police homicide Sgt. Derrick Griffin said. "That's where it stands now."

Assistant Wayne County prosecutor Maria Miller said in a written statement: "In this case extensive work was done ... however (the warrant) was denied. There was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was involved in the homicide."

That's no comfort for the victim's sister, Linda Ellis.

"There will never be closure, because my brother was killed, but we were hoping for justice," she said. "We didn't get it. Everyone keeps asking, 'have you heard anything new about the case?' But I have nothing to tell them.

"The most shocking thing for me was to go through all that, and have the prosecutors say they weren't pressing charges," Ellis said. "It'll be a year ago this month when they told me that. I was dumbfounded. I still am."

Robert Ellis, an Air Force veteran, owned a business selling furniture and refurbishing homes, his sister said.

"He also made signs for businesses," she said. "That was lucrative for him for years."

Robert Ellis, a father of two daughters, also volunteered for the Salvation Army, his sister said.

"He had a very pleasing personality; everybody loved him," Linda Ellis said. "I can't figure out why anyone would want to kill him, because he was a good man, and wasn't involved in anything like selling drugs.

"This is pure speculation, but I think maybe they tried to rob him, and then tried to cover up their crime (by setting him on fire)," she said. "The hard part for my family and me was, we had to identify him by his dental records.

"After they shot him and set him on fire, we didn't find out about it until 2-3 weeks later," Linda Ellis said. "He was burnt so bad. The people at the Medical Examiner's Office were very compassionate and understanding of what we went through."

Linda Ellis said her family has canvassed the neighborhood where her brother was killed, passing out fliers. Now, she said, they're left wondering why anyone would want her brother dead.

"Why in the world would you do something like this?" she said. "Karma is something else; what goes around comes around. How are you going to feel when it comes back on you?

"When someone commits a crime like this, they're not only hurting the victim's family," Ellis said. "They're hurting their side of the family, too."

Anyone with information about the Robert Ellis killing is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Michigan at (800) SPEAK-UP (773-2587)


(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN