Examining the Ellenbecker case


KIMT News 3 – Former Forest City Police Chief Dan Davis can’t forget what happened at the police department in October 2011.

“There’s a fire at the police station and that’s pretty much all they told me.  I got dressed right away and went up there and of course it was much bigger deal then just a fire at the police station,” Davis said.

As former police chief of Forest City, Davis brought Thaddeus Ellenbecker onto the force.  In 2011, the police station was set on fire.  Ellenbecker confessed to law enforcement to the crime.  Davis sat through Ellenbecker’s first trial and several others that followed. He was convicted and sent to prison, but then, a major shake-up.

“You have to realize the criminal justice system and the court system are not perfect and you don’t always agree and I didn’t agree with the court findings regarding the Miranda warnings,” Davis said.

Thaddeus Ellenbecker
Thaddeus Ellenbecker

Ellenbecker’s confession was eventually thrown out after the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement had obtained it illegally, never reading Ellenbecker his Miranda rights. That’s what Davis doesn’t agree with.

“A coerced in-custody confession cannot be used as evidence against you in capital crime.  In Iowa, that means in a felony that the confession can’t be used doesn’t mean its gets out of a jail the card,” Joel Yunek, an attorney with Yunek Law Firm said.

Ellenbecker has been a free man since. In the most recent development, the Winnebago county attorney and an Iowa Assistant Attorney General dropped all charges against him.

“What happened here is they got no other evidence so if they only evidence is that of a confession and it gets thrown out, you can’t proceed with the case,” Yunek said.

Leaving those close to the case without closure.

“Even though it’s obvious to everybody concerned the evidence shows that this person probably did it and is guilty, there’s a guilty person walking around that’s just the nature of it,” Davis said.

We reached out to Ellenbecker, but he did not return our call.  Forest City has filed a civil suit against him for damages done to the police station.

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