Elvis Impersonator Killed.. Gunned Down in His Alabama Pawn
Todd Venezia ORRVILLE, Ala. (APB)
of the world's most famous Elvis impersonators was killed
when a robber with a sawed-off shotgun stormed into a
pawn shop he owned and blasted him and his ex-wife at
close range, authorities said. Jimmy Ellis, who for years
used his remarkably Elvis-like voice in a masked stage
persona he called Orion, was standing before the display
counter in his Jimmy's Pawn and Package Store just after
noon Saturday when the gunman burst in and, in seconds,
turned the quiet shop into a slaughterhouse.
"Mr. Ellis never had time to do nothing or say nothing," Dallas
County Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr. told APB News. "He just
opened fire in seconds and hit Mr. Ellis in the side." After
the first blast, which left the 53-year-old Ellis mortally
wounded and crawling for safety, the gunman turned his weapon
on the singer's 44-year-old ex-wife, Elaine Thompson, who
was on a stool behind the counter.
fired once into her face, killing her instantly and hitting
another worker, Helen King, in the hand. Wounded victim shot
at again.. The gunman, who police believe is Plantersville
resident Jeffery James Lee, then fired twice more in an attempt
to blast Ellis a second time as he struggled to find a haven
behind a computer desk, Huffman said.
shot missed, and then Lee allegedly turned his attention to
the cash register, which he knocked off the counter after
he could not open it, Huffman said. He then dropped the gun,
fled the store and drove off in a car with two accomplices,
authorities said. Huffman said King, who played dead, was
treated and released from a hospital for her hand wound.
died in his store about 10 minutes after the attack, Huffman
said. Later that day, sheriff's deputies caught up with the
two alleged accomplices, Andre Darren Lee, 19, who is the
alleged gunman's brother, and Jerry Dewayne Johnson, 17, who
is his cousin. Police later found Lee holed up in a motel
about 30 miles outside Atlanta.
three are being held without bail and are facing the
possibility of the death penalty on two counts of capital
murder, authorities said.
mourn star's death.. Word quickly spread through this
town about 20 minutes west of Selma that one of its
most popular residents was killed. Soon, Ellis fans
around the country were mourning.
was just devastated," said Kathy Hoffman, a Maryland
woman who is the president of the Jimmy Ellis fan club.
just a very sad thing. He was just the sweetest guy."
career took off after Elvis Presley's death in the late 1970s
when producers at Presley's former record label, Sun Records,
discovered that his voice sounded hauntingly like the King's.
They suggested that he don a mask and perform under the name
"Orion," doing a mix of old Presley standard and his own work.
stood out among the many Elvis impersonators partly because
of his voice and partly because he only performed as Orion,
never claiming publicly to be copying Elvis. Broke from Presley
image.. He enjoyed several years of popularity and worked
with many of the top performers in Nashville such as Jerry
Lee Lewis and Loretta Lynn.
to Hoffman, his fan club once numbered in the thousands. However,
in the mid-1980s, the novelty of his act wore off, and he
removed his mask in an attempt to be taken more seriously.
It wasn't an easy move for the Orrville native. In a 1997
interview, he said that his attempt to be a star in his own
right was stifled by his voice's natural likeness to Presley.
been both a blessing and a curse," he said. "The Nashville
establishment won't accept anyone who sounds that close to
Presley." In the '90s he went back to his Orion persona and
played the U.S. earlier this year. He also stayed closed to
his core fans. "He was a friend," Hoffman said.
was a very easygoing person. His career was important to him,
and he was sometimes discouraged because he had so many ups
Venezia is an APB News staff writer
Jimmy Ellis at: http://www.orionjimmyellis.com