EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Family and friends of Mona Ellison, 50, said she was someone who loved helping people. It now turns out the man accused of murdering her is someone they said she also lent a helping hand to.
Renette Johnson, Ellison’s friend of 30+ years, said loved-ones are now left with one big question.
“Why is the ultimate question and the sad thing is we may never know why,” Johnson said.
This comes after Peoria Police responded to a missing person’s report on Ellison Wednesday only to discover her body Thursday morning behind an apartment complex in East Peoria.
“She wouldn’t be in East Peoria at that time by herself,” Johnson said.
Police, then, arrested 42-year-old Christopher J. Sanders Thursday night, believing he was headed south towards the greater St. Louis area, and charged him with first-degree murder on Friday.
Johnson said Ellison was helping Sanders last year.
“He is somebody she helped previously in life when he was homeless,” Johnson said.
She said Ellison would let Sanders stay on her couch when he had no place to go, making her loss sting even more.
“You just can’t understand or fathom why somebody she opened her home up to would do this to her,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Ellison was always known for her kind gestures, sentiments echoed by Tracy Ortega, another one of Ellison’s friends.
“If you wanted a best friend she could be that,” Ortega, said. “She was a lot of best friends to a lot of people.”
Johnson said although they’re not blood-related, Ellison is the aunt of her children and they even have matching tattoos. She said she’ll cherish all of her memories with Ellison and remember her love for tie-dyeing, antiquing, and restoration.
“She wouldn’t want people to be sad,” Johnson said. “She would want people to enjoy life and live life to the fullest, do somethings in her memory.”
The Tazewell County Coroner was scheduled to perform an autopsy Friday morning. Johnson said Ellison would have celebrated her 51st birthday Tuesday, Jan. 26.