The frozen bodies of Shirley Johnson and Richard Ellison were discovered on the deck of their Superior Wisconsin home by a meter reader, more than likely they had been dead for approximately 48 hours. In a statement released by the police a few days later, it was determined that the couple had died from exposure from being in sub-zero temperatures for an extended period.

The cause of death lead to more questions

Although Shirley was 78 and Richard was 82 the mystery of how they both became confused and unable to get into their home at the same time, has raised many questions.

Keys to the house, as well as a van parked in an unlocked garage, were found underneath Richard's body. On the sidewalk approximately 6 feet from where the couple's bodies was found another set of keys that would have unlocked the house, as well as the car they had just driven home was found. A functioning cell phone was found in Richard's pocket; there were no calls made from the phone. It appears they fought to get into the house and were overcome by the below zero temperatures and died a few feet from the door, inches apart.

No signs of foul play

Their autopsies showed no evidence of trauma and no serious health conditions. Alcohol was a contributing factor, but the extent is unknown. Richard's son Todd Ellison has said that he cannot make sense of the situation.

The couple had spent the past several winters in Texas, this year they decided to stay north. Todd was home for Thanksgiving and observed that both Shirley and Richard seemed physically and mentally weaker.

A typical day

The couple left home the afternoon of December 18th, stopped for gas the time stamped receipt showed they were at the gas station at 2:47 pm.

It is unclear where they were for the next 90 minutes; they arrived at Les Bird's bar at 4:34 pm, this is described as a daily routine for the couple. Surveillance video at the bar showed them sitting at the bar each with a mixed drink, chatting with other patrons, they then made their way to the video gaming area, Richard spent the next 2 and a half hours playing the gaming machines, while Shirley sat with him and watched.

They spent over 4 hours at the bar, and both consumed several drinks, a video does show Richard staggering, and unsteady as he made his way to the bathroom. They left the bar at 8:10 PM, they were both legally too intoxicated to drive, but not especially intoxicated for regular drinkers. It is presumed that they went straight home, but no one knows that for sure. Once they arrived home, the events that led to their deaths are speculation; it appears that one of them tried to break a window with a plastic shovel. They were not found until two days later; the deck partially obscured their bodies. Their deaths were determined to be accidental.