It has been more than 40 days since a local cold case researcher and father was found shot and killed in his apartment in World Golf Village, and deputies still haven’t given the manner of death.
Ellie Washtock, 38, died while investigating the controversial 2010 death of young mother Michelle O’Connell.
For the first time, Action News Jax is speaking exclusively with Michelle O’Connell’s mother, Patty.
“I was petrified. I was shaken,” Patty O’Connell said about learning of Washtock’s death.
“[Washtock] was intrigued because he didn’t think Michelle killed herself,” she added.
Putnam County deputies identified the victim as Ellie Washtock, saying he lived as a man and woman. Patty O’Connell said she knew him as “Eli.”
Investigators ruled Michelle O’Connell’s death as a suicide, but her family has long suspected St. Johns County Deputy Jeremy Banks, her then-boyfriend, was involved.
“[Washtock] said if that happened to me, I’d want someone to fight for me,” Patty O’Connell said.
Washtock and O’Connell kept in close contact during his investigation.
In a St. Johns County records request, a forensic expert hired by Washtock asked for evidence like 911 calls and specific crime scene photos.
“[Washtock] said this is a bombshell,” Patty O’Connell said. “Eli knew this request was going to wrap it up.”
The letter was stamped received Jan. 23, one week before Washtock’s death.
Investigators said Washtock’s son found him shot dead in his unit January 31.
Action News Jax has spoken with multiple friends and neighbors, and no one believes Washtock would take his own life.
“In my mind, he was just murdered,” Patty O’Connell said. “I think they just busted in there and killed him.”
Due to the O'Connell ties, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office recused itself, allowing the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office to take over.
Deputies said they're waiting on lab results to tell them if this is a homicide or suicide.
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