RED LODGE – Friends and acquaintances are remembering a Wisconsin man who has been missing for decades, whose remains were identified this week in the Red Lodge area.
The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that the human remains found near Highway 212 in Red Lodge in 2004 belonged to Roger Lee Ellis of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. He had left town in 1976 and was never heard from again.
A high school friend of Ellis’s, Jay Nordstrum, told MTN News Wednesday many thought Ellis left to start a new life in Chicago after he ran into trouble with law enforcement.
Nordstrum says he worked for the city of Wisconsin Springs and knew where everyone lived.
“One day his mum was outside and I was talking to her about Roger and asking her where he was and what he was up to. And at that time, I don’t remember the year he left town because he had come in with some troubles,” says Nordstrum. “But I understood her when she said he went to Chicago, and I always thought that after hearing about the incidents with John Wayne Gacy down there, maybe he’d run into a problem.”
Nordstrum described Ellis as someone who kept to himself but was very friendly. He also says Ellis was an “electronics wizard,” a comment that surfaced in online obituaries.
Others who knew Ellis have differing memories of who he was and where he ended up. Tracy Lewis helped Ellis rebuild a pickup truck in 1974 and provided MTN News with a written commentary on Ellis.
“He had accumulated a lot of money (rumours) and he went to California in 1976, he said. Never heard from him again. Never heard of him hitchhiking anywhere and never a mention of Montana, but he was a very paranoid guy who keeps to himself,” explains Lewis. “Most of us who knew him thought he was an early had suffered death as he implied he was carrying a lot of cash he was very frugal and mainly rode his Schwinn 10 speed bike for transportation and rarely spent money he had a very caustic abusive personality so that not many considered him a ‘friend’.”
Others have posted online saying they are just grateful to have answers.
Ellis’ mother died over a decade ago, according to Nordstrum. His brother Frederick also died in April 2022 without ever knowing what actually happened to Roger.
But Nordstrum says he was shocked to learn Ellis had ended up in Montana.
“The news that he was in Montana came as quite a surprise to me. I never had a clue and I don’t really know what his mother knew,” explains Nordstrum. “Of course she told me when he left, they never heard from him again. And I just found that kind of sad. I felt sorry for his mother.”
The news came as a shock, but Nordstrum says when he saw the artist’s rendering of what Ellis might have looked like, he knew it was his long-lost friend.
“Seeing the artists portray what they think he looked like, I mean, it just blew my mind. It basically looked just like him,” explains Nordstrum. “I didn’t have a picture of Roger, not quite the smile I remember, but it was definitely him.”
The investigations are ongoing. The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information about the case to contact Det. Ben Mahoney at (406) 445-7284 or email [email protected]
“What a disappointing result after all these years of thinking about Roge,” says Nordstrum. “I’m glad his family now has answers, but it’s too bad his mother didn’t survive that answer.”