West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog stood in front of two photos Tuesday, one featuring the beaming face of Ellen “Ellie” Weik and the other of a rainbow over a field where the 23-year-old’s body was found Friday.
“To the family, friends and loved ones of Ellie Weik, we know this is an incredibly difficult time for them and we keep them in our thoughts and prayers,” Herzog said before reviewing the investigation that led police to the emotional discovery in a Millikin Road field in Liberty Twp.
Weik was reported missing from her West Chester Twp. home on Aug. 1. by her mother. Since that date, Herzog said the police department has been assisted by the FBI, state law enforcement, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and K-9 units from various local police departments to find the woman, who was a 2013 graduate of Lakota East High School.
On Tuesday, the Butler County Coroner’s Office identified the body found in the Liberty Twp. field as Weik.
An autopsy was performed Monday at the coroner’s office, and Weik’s cause of death is listed as pending.
Police say Michael Strouse is responsible for the death of Weik at his Liberty Twp. home, located about one-quarter of a mile from the field where her body was found. Strouse was charged with murder Saturday.
“We received a number of tips and other information from the community and the associates of Ellie which is what led us to help solve this crime,” Herzog said. He declined to say what tip led investigators to Millikin Road late Friday afternoon.
Herzog said the case has not been linked to any other missing persons case at this point, though those possibilities are being examined.
“We will not speculate on the matter until the time is appropriate,” he said.
The police chief pointed to the four smiling photos of Weik and said, “you can how free spirited she was and what a beautiful human being she was.”
Then the chief turned to the photo of a full rainbow above a treeline.
“That is directly above where Ellie was found,” Herzog said, “and that rainbow appeared shortly after we located her body.”
“That in itself touched many officers on the scene … I think it was a true sign from her, of thank you for bringing her home,” he said, noting is was a very emotional time for the investigators involved.
Herzog said Strouse and Weik knew each other, and police made contact with the Liberty Twp. man — along with numerous others — after Weik was reported missing.
“This is not a random unknown,” Herzog said of the relationship between Strouse and Weik.
Weik filed a police report in February stating she had received a “harassing text message” from an unknown person, Herzog said.
He could not say if Strouse was a suspect in that incident.
Bond was set at $2 million Monday morning for Strouse, 29, of 6054 Bluffs Drive, during a video arraignment in Butler County Area II Court.
He was scheduled to be back in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing, but that court date has been continued unit next week, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.
Investigators said Weik died of asphyxiation at the Liberty Twp. home where Strouse lived. And there was an admission during questioning, according to documents obtained by the Journal-News.
“Strouse caused the death of Ellen Christine Weik as a proximate result of committing felonious assault,” according to court records. The murder occurred on July 29, according to police.
The murder charge against Strouse “is based on information obtained through investigation to include electronic evidence, forensic evidence and suspect admission,” according to the court documents.