Investigating the Ellington Case as a Suicide

Part III of the Vickie Ellington missing person case…

Case Summary
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, 2011, Vickie Ellington pulled her Chevrolet Suburban into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Louisville, MS. Reportedly, the fifty-three year old business owner and grandmother was going to meet someone there. Video cameras from several stores show Ms. Ellington park in the front lot and exit her vehicle, but walk away from Walmart--towards a McDonalds and Taco Bell across the street. She then walks out of range from all the cameras and vanishes.

Vickie Ellington has not been seen since.

Investigating Suicide as a Theory

Last time I discussed how authorities would want to learn as much as possible about the potential stressors in Ms. Ellington's life at the time of her disappearance.

Were there factors that would support a suicide theory?

Here are some aspects that investigators would explore:

Raising her Grandchild
As mentioned above, Ms. Ellington was fifty-three years old and a grandmother at the time of her disappearance. In the information that I found, she had four grandchildren, but had primary custody of one of them--an elementary school-aged boy. Raising children is certainly hard work. Raising children the second time around as a grandparent certainly requires a special person.

Death of a Spouse
In December of 2008, Ms. Ellington's husband, Drury "Denver" Ellington, passed away. He was under hospice care at time of death, and was only 51 years old.  I have a friend, also a grandmother, who is currently raising two grandchildren--taking over for her daughter who has substance abuse problems. This grandmother's husband recently died as well. She calls being a parent again (and this time alone) the most challenging experience that she has ever faced.

Employment Changes
Sometime between 2009 and 2011, Ms. Ellington sold part of her business "Attala Discount Drugs," and then closed the gift shop portion of that operation. She remained owner and operator of another store in Kosciusko: Attala Fitness and Tanning--which held a "grand reopening" ceremony in March of 2010. Also, in her husband's obituary, he was listed as an owner of both businesses.

With her husband and business partner gone, did she have to make a decision as to what she could handle herself? How were the pharmacy and gift shop performing in terms of profitability? What about the fitness center?

It is unclear what drove Ms. Ellington's business decisions, but certainly entrepreneurs can have very stressful lives.

Now, Ms. Ellington had possible sources of stress like these, but seemed to be handling the responsibilities well. Authorities have not released any information that would indicate suicide as a possible reason for the disappearance.

And again, the area where she disappeared was searched thoroughly and no body was found.

So, is there anything that authorities would want to know more about in evaluating a suicide theory?

A few days after the disappearance, a local television reporter interviewed Ms. Ellington's adult son, Adam.

As a disclaimer, I realize that editing and comfort level of the individual in front of a camera should be taken into account in judging every interview.

But still, his comments are odd.

On the video, the reporter's question to Adam was edited out, but it was something like: "What do you think happened?"

You can watch her son's response by clicking here (specifically: 046-057) or I typed his response below:

"I know she had a bunch of plans for the next, at least the first half of this year, and stuff that she wanted to get done, so I doubt she would do anything to herself. Umm. So, I mean I don't know what happened to her, but I certainly wasn't expecting her to disappear."

Not the answer I was expecting from a son about his mom's disappearance.

He seems to deflect the question about suicide.

And, what does he mean that she had plans for the "first half" of the year and that he did not think she would do something to herself?

Is there more that he wanted to say?

Strange and worthy of some follow-up work by detectives.

In sum, nothing released by authorities would indicate that this missing person case is suicide.

So, I'll move on.

Next time, I'll examine what investigators would do to explore a second possible theory: Vickie Ellington chose to disappear.

And, remember this peculiar interview with her son,  I will use it again in discussing another potential explanation in this missing persons case.
For all of my posts on the Ellington case you can click here, or for more Missing Person Monday posts, go here.


joeh said...

Isn't it unusual for the body to not be found in a suicide case?

Mary Kirkland said...

She had a lot of to live for and I would think if she committed suicide that she would have done it in such a way that her body was found...

Bijoux said...

Do you know who gained custody of her grandson after she disappeared? I can't imagine a grandmother deciding to end her life without knowing what would happen to the child in her custody.

Miranda Hardy said...

Yes, if it was a suicide, surely the body would be recovered. Strange case indeed.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Joeh makes a good point.

But one thing about suicide - sometimes there just aren't any clues leading up to it.

Pat Hatt said...

I'd think there would be a body if there was suicide, seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through, but then they don't always think straight. Doesn't sound like it was, with such high stress though, I'd guess she just ran away to a beach somewhere and never looked back. But then she'd have to have money for that, so who knows.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I find it odd that her body was never found. One just can't park one's car, enter a restaurant and just disappear.

messymimi said...

If she was making specific plans, they could have included suicide after all the other things were finished, but she would have kept that portion of the plan to herself i would imagine.

A friend of my daughter many years ago was having suicidal thoughts. She was under watch and care, of course, but my daughter says the girl would tell her things like, "I can't commit suicide until after Tuesday, that's when I want to go to the mall, and then on Friday I want to see that new movie, so I'll guess it will have to be this weekend."

That may just been the way a teen thinks, though, i'm no expert.

lisa said...

She certainly hit most all the life stressors! That is a lot for one person to handle…especially if she didn't have a strong support system. I'm with Bijoux, I can't see a grandmother voluntarily ending her life or disappearing in her situation. But I guess when the brain snaps there isn't a lot of logic going on anymore.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I think she'd make sure her grandson was well taken care of before she killed herself. Something is fishy here...

WomanHonorThyself said...

how tragic when one feels so utterly despondent :(

Gail Dixon said...

I, too, found the son's interview a I certainly hope they are able locate her so the family can have closure. Have they looked on her computer to see who she had been communicating with in the days leading up to the disappearance? If I were an investigator, that's one of the first places I'd check.

Stephanie Faris said...

Yeah, if anything, I would think a grandmother would want to make sure her grandchildren were well taken care of if she were going to kill herself. Unless there was a history of depression... The death of her husband could have sent her into a depression even if she'd never suffered from it before. That could lead her to just walk away from it all or kill herself.

Unknown said...

This is such a bizarre case -- it doesn't seem likely that a grandmother with custody of her young grandchild would commit suicide. And her son's comments seem totally bizarre -- I agree. What's with the "first half of the year" comment?? I just can't see this as anything but a voluntary disappearance or a homicide. Thanks for the fascinating update, SD!

Slamdunk said...

Thank you for the comments all.

@ Joeh: For the most part yes, it is unusual for a suicide victim's body not to be found, but there are lots of factors that play into that generality. For instance, individuals who disappear into the vast land area that is Alaska and decide to kill themselves certainly may never be found--much in contrast to a suicide victim in an urban area like Philly or NYC.

Also, it is reasonable to assume that of the thousands of missing persons that are currently being sought in the US, a significant number of those persons committed suicide and their bodies have just never been recovered.

With the Ellington case, the likelihood of suicide seems much smaller since authorities have video of her leaving the parking area, and the area woods were thoroughly searched soon thereafter by dogs and personnel who found nothing. This was winter when foliage would have been minimal. One certainly can eliminate suicide as an explanation, but it would seem other theories are more likely.

@ Bijoux: Good question, but I do not know the answer to that one.

@ Messymimi, Stephanie, & Lisa: Good points. Taking one's life could be integrating into the plan--one that was kept very secret.

@ Gail: Authorities were asked that question and responded that they had gathered information on Ms. Ellington's electronic activities prior to disappearance. If they did find anything relevant to her case, they have not released it to the public.

Gloria Baker said...

If somebody suicide usually find the body!
Maybe we never know.

Hilary said...

I'm wondering if the son in the interview is the father of her grandchild for which she held custody. said...

I think there do not have to be "stressors" to trigger suicide, as can be seen from Robin William's suicide.

That said, there would be some questions:

A. Did LE use a scent dog and what was the result?

B. What is the area like where she disappeared? Could she have killed herself and the body not discovered?

Slamdunk said...

@ JJ: Your point is well taken, but I don't think Robin Williams is a good example as he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and struggled with dependency issues.

As to your other questions--A) Yes, LE used scent dogs to search the area around Walmart where she was last seen, but reportedly nothing was found. As I said, in a previous post, one cannot eliminate this theory, but since it was winter and foliage was at a minimum, it is difficult to understand why dogs would not find anything.

B) It is a non-urban part of MS and the area around Walmart and the fast food restaurants was described as fields and woods. said...

Okay, she left her purse. Did she leave money and/or ID in her purse?

Anonymous said...

My home town is Louisville where this lady disappeared. Honestly, I've heard people say who know the family personally that this family was always a little strange. I didn't know them however so I can not confirm rumors. What I do know though is that where she disappeared, it's a high a traffic area in the tiny town of louisville and there isn't a lot of woods around that area. I would think if some one were wanting to end their life, they would do it in a more private area. On this side of town new places are being built. I have heard multiple people say she was talking to men online, again I can not confirm if that is true or not. I am more willing to bet that either she met with foul play or chose to disappear on her own. If she did in fact meet with foul play, it would have to be with the man whoever it is that she planned on meeting. Louisville is a tiny town, it's not known for violence or crazy murders.