• Michelle O'Connell: 7 things to know about suspicious death of person looking into case

    By: Action News Jax

    Updated:

    There are still few answers in the death of a 38-year-old who was looking into the controversial death of Michelle O’Connell. 

    Deputies have identified the victim as Ellie Marie Washtock. Washtock also identifies as a male, according to deputies.

    Here are seven things to know about the death investigation:

    1.    The victim was found shot to death in a St. Augustine condo 

    Investigators say the victim’s 15-year-old son found Washtock dead inside a unit at the Laterra Condos in St. Augustine on Jan. 31. Police said Washtock was shot but wouldn’t say where or how many times. 

    Action News Jax got inside the condo building where Washtock was found. The door to the unit has been replaced but investigators are not saying if they took it as part of the investigation, for prints or ballistics.

    2.    A neighbor says the victim was in fear for their life

    Alec Laughlin, who lives right across the hall from Washtock, says he knew Washtock as a man named Eli. He lives across the hall from the condo where Washtock was found dead.

    “He knew that somebody was coming for him, so he rented the place downstairs, didn’t tell anybody, let his kids stay there,” Laughlin said. “And he stayed in his regular place. So he knew it was coming.”

    Action News Jax asked Laughlin if Washtock said it was related to the O’Connell investigation.

    “Didn’t tell me. Didn’t tell any neighbors anything like that,” he said.

    According to court records, Washtock changed his name from Craig to Ellie in 2009.

    3.    The victim had requested documents about the Michelle O’Connell case

    Action News Jax obtained a public records request filed with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office six months before Washtock’s death. 

    In August, an 'Eli Washtock' requested crime scene photos in the controversial death of Michelle O’connell in 2010. The case was ruled a suicide but many suspected St. Johns County Sheriff Deputy Jeremy Banks. 

    Deputies are calling the death suspicious but said Banks is not a suspect in the investigation.

    4.    Michelle O’Connell’s mom says victim was ‘another son’

    Patty O’Connell, Michelle O’Connell’s mother, posted about the victim’s death on Facebook, saying “He knew the price was high to continue investigating.”

    She said “My heart is broken. He was another son. He cared about Michelle.”

    In another post, she said "My Thoughts: This was a planned killing."

    5.    The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office recused itself in the case

    After Washtock’s body was found, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office recused itself from the investigation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also declined to assist, leading Putnam to take over the case.

    On Friday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent Action News Jax a statement explaining its absence from the case.

    Both agencies investigated O'Connell's 2010 death. The FDLE said they're not involved to ensure there's no "unnecessary distraction and impartiality."

    They added their "lab system will provide forensic assistance."

    6.    Investigators took five days to identify the victim

    Putnam detectives took over the investigation Thursday hours after the body was found, but didn’t release Washtock’s identity until Monday. 

    The Sheriff's Office had planned a news conference for Friday afternoon but canceled 45 minutes before it started because the medical examiner was not able to identify the body.

    Deputies said they would have to rely on dental records but said Monday that the medical examiner was able to make positive dentification from physical characteristics of the deceased.

    7.    Investigators say they have no suspects in the case

    Putnam investigators say the death is still classified as suspicious but there are no suspects in Washtock's death.

    Next Up: