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Victim's brother questions delay in release of suspect's photo

Joseph Demetrius Muller, 40, is wanted in the death of 28-year-old Jessica Ellis. Police warn that Muller is considered armed and dangerous.

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DURHAM, N.C. — With Durham police going door-to-door Wednesday evening seeking more information on the shooting death of 28-year-old Jessica Ellis, her brother is questioning the police department’s handling of the investigation.

Jerry Pannachia said it took four days before police released a photo of Joseph Demetrius Muller, the man wanted in connection with Ellis' shooting death.

“I don’t feel like they did their job. I feel like she was another name on another list of people that died,” Pannachia said.

Police say Ellis died near her home on Newsom Street Saturday evening. She had multiple gunshot wounds.

Chief Jose Lopez said investigators were working to get a better picture of Muller.

“Investigators were looking to see if we could get a better photograph that represented the way he looked today. Obviously, that hasn’t happened,” Lopez said.

Lopez said in the future the department is “looking to ensure that when we do get any photo of the suspect that we put it out as soon as possible.”

Pannachia said Muller, 40, was once friends with several members of their family.

“We went to clubs with this guy. We had Thanksgiving dinner multiple times. He came over to my house for Christmas,” Pannachia said.

Pannachia said Muller went to the Sears store where Ellis worked on Saturday and eventually wound up at her home, where he claims Muller shot Ellis in front of another family member.

Pannachia also questioned why surveillance video from Sears wasn't released by police. Police said they did get video from the store, but the quality was not good. Investigators also said they had to sign an agreement saying the video could only be used in court.

Police warn that Muller is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about Muller's whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

On Wednesday evening, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force sought information connected to Ellis’ death.

The task force, consisting of police and civilians, canvassed the 400 block of Newsom St., talking to residents and handing out fliers.

On Thursday at 4 p.m., the Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force will also canvass Hart Street, where a 7-year-old boy was shot on Sunday.

Just after 3 p.m. the child was found in front of 2307 Hart St., authorities said. The boy was injured by a stray bullet to the buttocks. He was treated at Duke Hospital.

Two parked vehicles and a stop sign were also struck by bullets. Authorities said at least nine more shots were fired in the incident.

The incident is still under investigation.

Anyone with information about the Hart Street shooting is asked to call Investigator J. Smith at 560-4415, ext. 29312, or Crime Stoppers.

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Erin Hartness, Reporter
Pete James, Photographer
Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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