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Police are confident O'Connell murders will be solved

Hudson Police Detective Shawn Pettee says he feels stronger now about solving the O'Connell/Ellison murders than he has since the case began almost three years ago.

Pettee is assigned to the murder investigation along with Detective Jeff Knopps. Pettee's comments came following last week's visit to Hudson by Richard Walter, a forensic psychologist, criminal profiler and crime scene specialist who is a frequent consultant on Court TV's "Medical Detective."

He is also founding member of the Vidocq Society, an exclusive group of experienced criminal investigators and professionals who specialize in helping law enforcement solve "cold cases." The society reviewed the O'Connell case last spring, and Walter came to Hudson to review the investigation and consult with Knopps and Pettee.

Both Knopps and Pettee stopped short of Walter's prediction that an arrest in the case was imminent but said the department does have suspects on their "radar screen," and both men believe the case will be solved.

Pettee said Walter's input has started to make "some of the pieces of the puzzle fit together." He said the most valuable information Walter gave them during his three-day stay was some insight into criminal behavior based on the close to 1,000 cases Walter has investigated.

"He gave us some perspective on selective memory, how the criminal mind works in a case like this and how that can lead to establishing a motive," said Pettee.

Walter observed some interviews and interrogations and provided analysis and feedback to the detectives on what he saw and heard. He also reviewed the entire case file and did what Pettee called "statement analysis," which gave the detectives some new insight into information they had already gathered.

Pettee said a lot of what Walter told them confirmed what they already knew but that the visit did open new areas in the investigation.

Said Pettee, "It would be great to say we are going to arrest somebody soon but that just isn't the case. But we are feeling more confident than ever that this case will be solved."

Knopps said the case has been a priority investigation in the department since the beginning, and they will continue to consult with Walter until the case is solved.

There is a $100,000 reward being offered for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the killer(s) of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison. Anyone with information about the murders can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 442-7463 or contact Pettee and Knopps at the Hudson Police Department, (715) 386-4771.

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.

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