OGDEN -- The family of the 92-year-old woman killed in the 1993 homicide in which police after 20 years have arrested a suspect wants the public to know she wasn't just a victim in a cold-case file. In fact, they say, she was just the opposite.
Grace Mae Odle was a strong woman who never failed to rise up to meet the challenges in her life, including the one that resulted in her death, her family says.
"She was about 5 feet tall and very meek, very soft," Odle's grandson, Bruce Odle, 59, said in a phone interview. "But she was very strong, both in her standards and her beliefs. She was just that kind of person."
Born in 1901, Grace Mae Odle intended to spend her life on a family farm in Kansas, just like her parents, according to a statement from the family. But the Great Depression pushed her and five young children West, to Utah, where a job awaited her husband.
In Utah, she soon became the family's breadwinner, a daunting challenge for a woman in Utah in those days, the release states. Yet, she became employed at Hill Air Force Base, riding a train from Salt Lake City to work each day to provide for her family.
"Given the challenges of their low income and minimal paternal guidance, Mae's five sons could have faced problematic lives," the statement reads. "However, Mae would not allow her boys to fail. Backed by her love, strength and determination, all five sons progressed and attended public schools."
After raising her sons, all of whom fought in World War II, Odle relied on her well-honed self-sufficiency to thrive, the release states. She bought a home in Layton and surrounded herself with friends from her Clearfield church and family, who often sought her counsel.
"She was the matriarch of the family," Bruce Odle said. "You were not allowed to say anything bad about anybody. She was a friend to everyone."
The night of May 3, 1993, Odle was sexually assaulted and beaten in her room at an Ogden retirement home. She died six days later in the hospital from injuries sustained in the attack.
For 20 years, her case remained unsolved, but using DNA matching, police were recently able to identify a suspect, Stephen Phillip Ellenwood, 40, who was arrested Tuesday in Haines, Alaska.
He awaits extradition to Ogden, where he has been charged with aggravated murder.
While Odle's family is grateful for the work of police to find a suspect, Ellenwood's arrest has brought fresh pain to the family, which must now again mourn the loss of a beloved matriarch.
"I think when it happened, it was so heinous, it was such a shock," Bruce Odle said. "In some ways, it's worse now, having the photo of the guy and everything this time around. When it happened, there was a protection there, a numbness, that isn't there now."
Still, they rejoice in the memories they shared with a woman they loved, a woman whose courageous acts, they say, have inspired their own lives.
"We are all proud of her and honored to have been part of her heritage and her journey," the statement reads. "She honored justice, loved kindness and walked humbly with her Lord who she met again on Mother's Day, 1993."