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PI wants public's help on O'Connell murder

Bob Staebell, like so many others in Hudson, knew Dan O'Connell and his family. Following O'Connell's murder and that of James Ellison at the O'Connell Funeral Home on Feb. 5, 2002, Staebell, a former detective, came out of retirement to work again as an investigator with the Hudson Police Department on the case and later was hired by the O'Connell family as a private investigator.

Staebell is well known for his skills as an investigator by law enforcement agencies throughout the area and is respected for his ability to get information from a variety of sources. He has set all his skills to work in the O'Connell case and admits he is frustrated that more information hasn't come to light in the two years since the murder.

But those who know Staebell also know he is a patient man and he is willing to work for as long as it takes to get to the truth. Because of his long-standing relationship with the Hudson Police Department, he has had full access to their investigation and has shared any information he has gathered with their investigators. He spends up to 10 hours a week going over the hundreds of contacts, leads and follow-ups he and police have gathered since the investigation began Feb. 5, 2002. That includes going over phone and other records, retracing the steps of the men in the days and hours before their murders, talking with the families, their friends and contacts, and reviewing, then reviewing again, all of the information that has been gathered in the investigation.

"You keep going over things because there is always a chance that you missed something, that something will jump out at you that you didn't notice before. Or something will cause you to go in a direction you hadn't thought of or make a connection that hadn't occurred to you," said Staebell.

Staebell said they have investigated numerous tips and leads that have come from a variety of "jailhouse sources" including people being held on other crimes, their lawyers, and prosecutors. So far, none of these sources has provided any reliable information about the case.

"None of it has proven to be anything. When it gets right down to it, the facts of the case don't match anything we've been told by these people."

Staebell said he tries to keep an open mind when it comes to information about the case. Several psychics have contacted the family and authorities claiming to have information about the case.

"I'm not sure I believe a lot of what psychics say but I don't automatically dismiss it either. A lot of the ones that contacted us didn't really have anything, but there are two, one in New Mexico and one in northern Minnesota, who have had some credible information, information they couldn't have gotten anywhere else but through the contact they claim to have had with Dan and James. They haven't been able to tell us who did it or why, but I don't dismiss it."

Closer to home, Staebell is looking for something more concrete. Dan O'Connell attended a fund-raiser at the Hudson Bowling Center on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2002, three days before his death. Staebell wants to talk to people who were at that fund-raiser and he especially would like to see any pictures taken at the event. He says it's another place to look.

His hope is that the anniversary of the murders may stir some memory or observation that could prove useful. "Sometimes people are not comfortable talking with the police. I hope they will consider contacting me."

Staebell said he has regular contact with the family about his work, which often extends beyond the hours he is paid for.

"Dan was a friend and this is something I can do for him and for his family. "

Staebell can be reached by calling (715) 386-1955 or writing him at PO Box 532, Hudson WI 54016.

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604