MANDEVILLE, Manchester — On the same day detectives commenced an investigation into the murders of a mother and son in north-east Manchester, a Mandeville couple was found dead in a suspected case of murder-suicide three days into the New Year.
Keith and Stephanie Ellis (both in their 40s) were found dead at their home on Bonnitto Crescent in Mandeville, mid-afternoon Tuesday, after a missing person report was filed with the police.
Police say they found the wife, a bank employee, with a wound to her forehead inside the house, and the husband, otherwise called “Ricky”, a former taxi operator, was found hanging from a scaffold at the back of the property. A police source said a crowbar, believed to be the murder weapon, was found at the scene.
Relatives told the Jamaica Observer that the couple was going through a divorce.
“Maybe about two months now… She gave him a paper (divorce), tell him fi sign it,” a grief-stricken Ivy Nembhard, Keith Ellis’s mother, told the Observer.
“Him seh him tell her him nah sign it and she a quarrel that she want the divorce. He got a lawyer, because she had one already… I think it was today (Tuesday) that he was supposed to get back to the lawyer, because he got everything the lawyer asked for,” added Nembhard.
She added that she had seen her son Tuesday morning, but that he wasn’t acting strangely.
“Today (Tuesday) a dem anniversary, enuh. Him come a mi yard this morning about six o’clock. Mi ask him if him did a go out, him seh ‘Yes, alright later’,” she said, adding that the couple, who had been constructing a two-storey house, had stayed with her for two years until they finished a section of the house.
According to Nembhard, her son had suffered a stroke overseas and had recently recovered. However, she claimed that he had been undergoing stress due to problems in the marriage.
Alford Hewitt, an uncle of Stephanie Ellis, said the couple had been married for about 12 years.
“He (Keith) was such a nice guy to me, but they were going through a divorce…. I saw her on Sunday and I hugged her up and sat down with her. She was so nice and calm. I said to her ‘Mi a come roun’ a yard for my Christmas gift’. They were nice young people. I never see dem quarrel. She grew up in the church,” he said.
A female relative of Keith Ellis was inconsolable, throwing herself onto the road near the scene of the tragedy.
“The year just started and look weh mi reach inna. Father God, only you alone know everything,” she cried.
Meanwhile, hours earlier, 52-year-old Althea Rowe and her son, 35-year-old Cleon Palmer, had been found with what appeared to be gunshot wounds at a house in Providence district near Holmwood Technical High School.
A senior police source told the Observer that Palmer had been wanted for shooting incidents in Manchester and had managed to elude the police in several operations. He reportedly fled to the northern parishes of Trelawny and St James.
The source said Palmer had returned to Manchester and was residing at the house in a remote section of Providence.
Police believe Palmer’s criminal lifestyle was a factor in his demise and the killing of his mother. Investigators theorise that the two were killed on New Year’s Eve.
Relatives told the Observer that they became concerned after multiple attempts to contact Rowe and Palmer had been unsuccessful.
A police source said shortly after 11:00 am a relative went to the house and found the bodies.
The Observer was told that Rowe, who worked at a bar in the Corporate Area, was visiting her son at the time of the incident.
The woman’s sister, Doreen Rowe, said she was shocked to find where her sister was staying with her nephew.
“Althea was a good person. The son lived up here for a while, so I don’t know if he and anybody had any problem… If my sister did call me and tell me seh she did a go move from weh she did live come up here, me woulda tell her not to come up here. I would never live up here so. I don’t know how she come up here come stay overnight and cause her death. I don’t know what happened, only the dog can tell, because the dog sat down at the doorway guarding the bodies,” said Rowe.
“I know my sister came up here to the wrong place at the wrong time. It seems to me like them dead from Saturday, because you could smell odour in the house. A neighbour heard gunshots, but he thought it was clappers. Right now you go inna the house, the stove is still on,” she added.