This article was originally published in The World-Herald on Feb. 22, 2007.
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Roy Ellis once told a fellow inmate that he killed Amber Harris, getting her blood on the hood and bumper of his car, according to newly released court records.
In a recorded jailhouse phone call to a girlfriend, Ellis also said that "something happened" in November 2005 — the month that Amber, 12, disappeared on her way home from a school bus stop. She was not seen again until May, when her remains were discovered, half-buried, in Hummel Park.
Amber died from blunt-force trauma to the head. Ellis, 53, is charged with first-degree murder in her death. Prosecutors say he killed Amber in an attempt to conceal a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.
In eight search warrants unsealed Wednesday in Douglas County District Court, Omaha police investigators detailed evidence and interviews that led them to believe that Ellis killed Amber, including:
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A police interview with a man who had been incarcerated with Ellis. Ellis reportedly told the man that he had killed Amber, and in killing her got blood on his car.
Ellis also told the man he tried to use a cloth to wipe up the blood.
Conversations Ellis had in jail with a corrections officer in February and March 2006. Ellis showed an "intense interest" in news reports concerning Amber, and asked the officer how long it would take a body to decompose after it had been buried.
When the officer replied that it could take up to two years, Ellis became visibly upset.
Ellis also asked the officer how long DNA in blood and semen would be viable for forensic testing.
Recorded jailhouse telephone conversations Ellis had with his girlfriend. After Amber disappeared, Ellis told the woman that "something happened last month but I don't want to talk about it."
Ellis told her that he had been "evil the last couple of months because of things going on in my life and not because of you."
Recorded jailhouse telephone conversations Ellis had with a friend. Ellis told the man, "I need to clean my trail."
The man told police that he let Ellis use his 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass in November and December 2005, including one time during which Ellis kept the car overnight. Omaha police cut out cloth from the car's seat covers and headrests for testing.
Investigators did the same to Ellis' car, a 1988 silver Mercedes-Benz. From his car, they also seized cloth gloves, soil samples from its wheel wells and eyeliner from under a back seat.
From the house where he was staying, 2125 Ohio St., they seized a letter Ellis had written from jail, leather boots, a gold bracelet, a wood-handled hammer and a shovel with a broken handle.
DNA testing confirmed the presence of Amber's blood on her jeans and jacket, which were in her book bag that was discovered Feb. 14, 2006, in a trash bin a block from Ellis' home.
Ellis' DNA showed up on the left leg of her jeans, near the hem.
A man who knows Ellis told police Ellis once described how he liked to intimidate females. Ellis would take a woman to a wooded area, dig a grave and then threaten to put her in it, the man told police.
Antoinette Pollock, a former Ellis girlfriend, told investigators that Ellis did that to her in September 2005 -- two months before Amber disappeared on Nov. 29.
In court earlier Wednesday, Ellis waived his right to a preliminary hearing. At such hearings, a judge typically determines whether enough evidence exists for a case to move to trial.
Michael and Melissa Harris, Amber's parents, were prepared to hear detectives testify about the evidence police have against Ellis.
To their disappointment, they didn't get the chance.
Police officers usually testify at preliminary hearings about the evidence prosecutors are relying on to bring charges against a person.
Instead of hearing the details during Ellis' brief appearance in court, the Harrises could only stare at Ellis.
Melissa Harris said she caught a half-second glance from Ellis as he left the courtroom. But what was harder, she said, was hearing his voice.
When Douglas County District Judge Greg Schatz asked Ellis if he agreed to waive the hearing, Ellis replied, "That's correct." He left the courtroom with his hands shackled behind his back and holding his black-rimmed glasses.
The Harrises, with their supporters, held a consistent gaze on Ellis during the short hearing.
"I want him to try to realize what he did, " Melissa Harris said, "but I don't think he ever will."