Prosecutors in Stephenson County, Ill., Monday, Oct. 14, announced first-degree murder charges in a case that had police stumped for 26 years.
David Larry Ellis, 59, of Freeport, Ill., is scheduled to make his first court appearance this week after being arrested Friday, Oct. 11, reports the Freeport Journal-Standard.
The charges stem from the death of Hugh Plata, 60, also of Freeport. Plata was found dead in his home Nov. 13, 1987. According to autopsy records, Plata suffered multiple stab wounds and was killed with a thin, bladed object.
Police say Ellis has a criminal past, including offenses that happened right in Freeport as detectives searched for the killer. Dating back to 1992, Ellis has been convicted of domestic battery, forgery and possession of a controlled substance.
A possible motive in the case has not been released. However, Plata also has a criminal record, including charges from a failed burglary, during which he was shot in the chest by officers.
Three years before he was murdered, Plata was tried and acquitted of charges in the attempted murder of former Stephenson County State’s Attorney Charles Hartman.
Since 1987, there have been multiple suspects and leads in Plata's death, yet none led to Ellis until two years ago, when Ellis' daughter came forward with new information.
In 2011, Freeport police began a joint-investigation with the Illinois State Police crime lab in nearby Rockford.
“I’ve been here 26 years,” Freeport Police Detective Sgt. Jeff Mastroianni said. “This homicide happened five months after I started. There hasn’t been another one like this in the 26 years I’ve been here in this department.”
Mastroianni said details of the case will not be released until after court proceedings begin.
Ellis is lodged in the Stephenson County Jail on $1 million bond. He is scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Stephenson County Courthouse.