Roger Ellis

By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review

A man missing since 1976 has been identified through forensic DNA profiling as a murder victim whose remains were discovered by a hiker in Montana 18 years ago, according to police.

A multi-jurisdictional cold case murder investigation is now underway into the death of Rogers “Roger” Lee Ellis, who vanished after telling his family he was headed west to avoid legal issues. Ellis, of Wisconsin Rapids, was born in 1954.

Police say their investigation points to Ellis hitchhiking from central Wisconsin. They believe he was killed while traveling, his body left in Montana.

Fast forward to June 20, 2004, when a hiker discovered human remains near Red Lodge, Montana. Investigators say a forensic analysis suggested that the skull, pelvic bone and femur recovered from the area by search teams belonged to a male between the ages of 15 and 32, but there were no DNA matches in the Combined DNA Index System.

This year, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit and Carbon County Sheriff’s Department launched a genetic genealogy investigation to help identify the remains, sending the skeletal evidence to a Texas lab that built a comprehensive DNA profile. Through that profile, police positively identified the remains as those of Ellis.

Now, police are asking anyone with information about Ellis’ disappearance to come forward and investigators are turning to people who knew him in Wisconsin and neighboring areas. Investigators are not only trying to identify information about Ellis and his associates at the time of his disappearance, but any similar cases that could help point to the killer’s identity.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit has reported recent success in their efforts, announcing in September investigators had solved a 30-year-old murder investigation, according to NBC’s Montana affiliate.

Anyone with information related to this case should contact Carbon County Sheriff’s Detective Mahoney at 406-445-7284 or bmahoney@co.carbon.mt.us.