Guilty plea in hammer killing
A South Lake Tahoe man pleaded guilty Monday to the bludgeoning death of his roommate.
A little more than four months after his arrest, Gerald Glenn Steele, 56, pleaded to second degree murder in connection with Lee Ellis’ death on March 27. The charge carries a sentence of 15 years to life in a California state prison. Steele’s sentencing was set for Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m.
Steele’s plea was entered onto the court record in El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow’s chambers. Deputy District Attorney Peter O’Hara said the discussion was held in chambers because potential jurors were in the courtroom.
Steele was arrested after he called 911 to report his roommate was injured.
When South Lake Tahoe police officers arrived at Steele’s residence in the Lakeside Trailer Park, they found Ellis, 51, unconscious and lying in a pool of blood on a living room bed. Steele was sitting beside Ellis and a framing hammer was on the floor near the bed, investigators said.
Steele allegedly told investigators that he and Ellis had been drinking all day and got into an argument over Ellis bringing drugs into the home. Police said the substance found was not an illegal drug.
Steele told police he picked up the framing hammer and hit Ellis in the head twice with the blunt side to get his attention, investigators said.
Ellis was airlifted to Washoe Medical Center in Reno where he underwent surgery to relieve pressure in his skull. Ellis died in the hospital’s intensive care unit about 12 hours after Steele’s call to 911.
According to investigators, Ellis had been living with Steele and his wife for a couple of weeks before his death. Steele’s wife wasn’t home during the argument.
Steele has a 1995 petty theft conviction in El Dorado County and was arrested in 1997 for spousal battery. That case was later dismissed.
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