Alleged criminal ring-leader arrested, possible motive determined in stabbing death of former Peoria surgeon

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PEORIA, Ill. (WBMD) — A suspect in the stabbing of Dr. William H. Marshall of Peoria has been arrested, the Peoria Police Department and State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos announced Thursday.

At a press conference, Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos said Robert Ely, 54, was taken into custody Wednesday morning in the St. Louis area and was charged with first-degree murder in Peoria County.

Ely allegedly ran a crime ring where criminals would target the elderly to enter their homes and burglarize them. Hoos said it is unclear why Ely chose Marshall’s home specifically, other than it fit the MO (motive).

Peoria Police Department (PPD) Captain Brad Dixon said Ely’s group was a “traveling criminal enterprise with a very specific MO.”

Marshall had defensive wounds, which indicates he possibly figured out Ely was there to burglarize the home and tried to stop it. This ultimately led to the situation escalating, resulting in Marshall’s death.

It’s suspected Ely had been casing the neighborhood ahead of the incident.

“Mr. Ely was good at what he did. Today, that criminal enterprise has come to an end,” she said

Based on that information, law enforcement was able to find the car Ely drove, which lead them to his location in Missouri. The murder weapon was in his car at the time, and he was subsequently arrested.

Paintings were found in a storage unit under Ely’s name that were determined to have been stolen out of Marshall’s home. Hoos said she could not comment on anything else found in the unit.

At the time of the crime, Dixon said the department was confident the neighborhood in which the murder happened was not at risk, because the investigation pointed to a suspect out of state.

Hoos said the community should not feel concerned, but encouraged people to “be smart about the people you let into your home.”

Additional charges against both Ely and others involved in the crime could be coming in the future, she said.

With the investigation ongoing, Dixon said the PPD is currently working with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Hoos said she expects Ely to be extradited to Peoria within the next seven to 10 days.

In reaction to Ely’s arrest, some neighbors of Marshall say they now feel a sense of relief.

“I was really happy, it just made me really happy that they found someone,” said Susan Coad, community member.

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