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Published: Thursday, April 18, 2019 @ 12:00 AM
BUTLER COUNTY — A Liberty Twp. man who admitted to murdering a 23-year-old woman then wrapping her in a blanket and dumping her in a field across from his house received a maximum sentence Wednesday of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 17 1/2 years.
Michael Strouse, now 30, of Bluffs Drive, pleaded guilty to murder, gross abuse of a corpse and menacing by stalking last month for the death of 23-year-old Ellen “Ellie” Weik. Charges of tampering with evidence and petty theft were dismissed in exchange for the plea. The aggravated murder charge was also lowered to murder.
Judge Greg Howard’s courtroom in Butler County Common Pleas Court was standing-room only for the sentencing. West Chester Police officers and detectives attended in force. Many of Weik’s family and friends wore tie-dye shirts and ribbons in honor of the woman who they was a loving free spirit studying cosmetology.
Tamara Weik, Ellie’s mother, shook as she spoke to the judge about her grief.
“One month from today, Ellie would be 24 years old. He has taken way more than our beloved Ellie,” she said. “I also ask my honor that his punishment for stalking Ellie, murdering her and disgracing Ellie’s precious body be the maximum allowed. My prayer is that his life sentence is never shortened. That he experience his life in prison as long as we experience our lives without Ellie.”
Weik’s father, David, told the judge Ellie was unique and special.
“Ellie’s ability for compassion and empathy was second to none, and she was extremely self-aware,” David Weik said. “As far as the terror and the heinous crime, I just can’t imagine, there’s a lot of things I don’t want to imagine.”
Strouse’s mother and grandmother also spoke before he offered a statement to the judge. Both said they had empathy and sympathy for Weik’s family.
“But we will never stop loving Michael,” said his grandmother, Rhonda Strouse.
Strouse, wearing glasses covering two large black eyes, sniffed and appeared to be crying while speaking.
He said he was not making excuses or “begging for forgiveness.”
“I am merely here in an attempt to apologize and take accountability for the reckless actions that led to the premature death of Ellie Weik,” Strouse said. “I never wanted to hurt anybody. If there was any way to bring Ellie back, I would trade places in a second.”
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, by placing a plastic bag over her head, investigators said. Strouse was charged with the death on Aug. 25, 2018.
Weik went missing July 29 from her West Chester Twp. home. Her mother reported her missing Aug. 1.
Strouse’s family said Michael was “jumped and beaten” by an inmate at the Butler County Jail last weekend, which caused the black eyes. He was talking to them on video during visitation when it happened, they said.
BCSO Major Mike Craft confirmed there was an altercation, but said Strouse refused to prosecute. The inmate was disciplined internally.
Weik’s family hugged West Chester police following the sentence. Weik’s sister, Laura, thanked the detectives and the prosecutor’s office for their work and dedication.
“This case had elements to it we really hadn’t seen before,” Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said after the sentencing. “Mr. Strouse was the author, director and producer of his own twisted movie that he directed himself that resulted in the death of this fine young lady.