‘This was an execution.’ Man gets high-end sentence for killing the woman who left him

Joshua Ellis could have left.

He could have not been there in the first place.

There were many ways the night Ellis shot and killed the woman who left him after a romantic relationship could have gone differently, Pierce Superior Court Judge James Orlando said Thursday before he sentenced Ellis.

“There were so many opportunities for this incident to go right,” the judge said before giving Ellis a high-end sentence of 23 years, four months in prison.

Jurors convicted Ellis of second-degree murder earlier this month, rejecting the 28-year-old’s argument that he killed Wendi Traynor in self-defense as she was reaching for a gun Nov. 3, 2017, at her new apartment in Milton.

Ellis killed her about a month after she left their home in Kentucky and moved back to the Puget Sound. Her family found her body in the apartment about a week after the shooting.

Traynor’s father, Jerry Traynor, told the court he was proud of his daughter, who he described as outgoing and independent.

“She had what it took to make it on her own,” he said.

She had a bachelors degree in law and justice and hoped to one day work for an agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said.

He said it wasn’t long after she quit her job with the Transportation Security Administration and left for Kentucky that she realized it was a mistake. She moved back and was excited to start over, Jerry Traynor said.

“She was getting her life back,” he said. “... All her hopes and dreams went with her.”

He said Ellis shot Traynor as she was trying to get away from him that night, that Ellis reversed their roles in his account of the night.

“All he had to do was stay in Kentucky and let it go,” Jerry Traynor said. “... He couldn’t accept that she wanted a better life. If he couldn’t have her, then nobody could.”

The victim’s mother, Tammi Anderson Black, told the court that loved ones expected and feared what happened.

Their reactions to the shooting, she said, were: “He finally did it. He actually did it. He killed her.”

The family asked Orlando for a maximum sentence.

“She had just barely turned 25,” Anderson Black said.

Deputy prosecutor John Neeb told the court there was nothing to justify less than a high-end sentence.

Defense attorney James Bible asked for a low-end sentence, noting Ellis’ lack of criminal history.

“He believes that because guns were involved, not just one but two, that he didn’t have a choice,” Bible told the court. “But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel sad about this and doesn’t feel pain, because he does.”

He said Ellis has talked about going into social work and being the best father possible to his young children.

When it was Ellis’ turn to address the court, he said that he loved Wendi Traynor and misses her, and that he’s remorseful for her family’s loss.

“We were judged by a traumatic event that took place in seconds,” Ellis said.

He maintained his self-defense claim, telling the court that he made a choice to survive and that what happened was not about revenge.

“I do not in any form posses an aggressive spirit,” he said. “... Every day I relive that tragic event.”

Orlando then had his say.

The judge said he saw two Joshua Ellises.

There was the one who thanked his mother at sentencing for being there throughout the trial, Orlando said, and there was the Joshua Ellis who left a woman dead for a week while lying to others about her condition.

Orlando told Ellis that he’s sat through many murder cases but never one like that. He said he’s never had anyone treat a dead body with such callousness. Wendi Traynor met Ellis’ bad side, the judge said.

“This was an execution,” the judge said. “You shot her in cold blood.”

Then Orlando handed down the sentence and told Ellis it was probably less than he deserved.

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.