Ray Ellis is behind bars for the murder of his 25-year-old ex-girlfriend, Monica Sykes, whose body was found in a deserted field in Kinloch, Missouri.
After graduating from Hazelwood West High School, Sykes matriculated at Harris-Stowe State University, where she studied early childhood education.
She was hoping to become the new owner of her grandmother’s home daycare after obtaining her degree.
In the meantime, Sykes “worked as a server at the Ol Henry Restaurant on Airport Road,” and she lived with her older sister and her three nephews in the 6300 block of Fay Drive in Berkeley, according to the Riverfront Times.
A relative stated that it was unusual for Sykes to go without communicating with her sister for more than a few hours, as she was her best friend.
So when Monica Sykes failed to return home after a trip to the store on Oct. 28, 2016, she was reported missing.
Sykes’ mother told Dateline that “you just pray that she is okay, but you don’t know. Two days without talking to her is too long. Now that it’s nearing two months, it’s terrifying.”
According to the security system at the house, Sykes was dropped off at her home around 6:48 a.m. that morning, after spending the night with a Berkeley police officer, a married father of five, who apparently took her on a date the previous night.
Thirteen minutes later, after changing her clothes, Sykes left the house. She told her nephews that she was going to the store to buy them candy and that she would return later that afternoon.
One of her nephews, who was 6 at the time, said he looked out of the window and saw Sykes getting into a white 2003 Cadillac DeVille that was in front of the house, and it drove off, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
After Monica Sykes’ disappearance, the officer she was dating was removed from his position, although he was not a suspect in the case.
The former officer stated that he learned from the media that he was fired because he failed a background check.
“There is nothing in my background,” he said. “I wish the media would put the focus on the family and what they are going through.”
Meanwhile, law enforcement officers with dogs and helicopters were searching surrounding areas for Monica Sykes, including a desolate area in Kinloch.
When volunteer search parties returned to that area on Feb. 4, 2017, they found human remains scattered across a field as if animals had been clawing at it for quite some time.
Several weeks after the remains were found, they were positively identified as those of Monica Sykes.
An autopsy revealed that Monica Sykes’ cause of death was a gunshot wound to the back of the head; the bullet went through her brain.
“We are devastated, just devastated,” Sykes’ mother said. “We will miss her dearly.”
She later formed a charity in her daughter’s name called Monica’s Voice. Regina said its objective is to “help families of missing loved ones by serving as a liaison between them and investigators.”
“What I hope to accomplish is to establish resources and collaborations with other organizations that help search for missing individuals, and help families searching for their loved ones,” she told KMOX News Radio 1120.
Detectives considered Sykes’ former boyfriend, Ray Ellis, who was already incarcerated, a person of interest in the case as his white vehicle was found engulfed in flames a week after she went missing.
A glove containing DNA was also found near the vehicle.
According to Ellis’ friend, who later testified, he confessed to the murder of Monica Sykes. FOX 2 Now reported that sometime after Ellis picked her up from her house, he shot her in the head before dragging her body into a deserted field.
However, prosecutors claim that Ellis was stalking his former girlfriend and that he waited outside her home for hours until she returned home from her date.
The witness also stated that Ellis asked a friend how to burn a vehicle because he needed to destroy the evidence. He later enlisted the help of his brother, Jermaine Benjamin, to set it on fire.
Investigators stated that after the fire was extinguished, they were able to find blood inside the car and a bullet that was wedged into the passenger side door.
On April 3, 2017, Ray Ellis was arrested and booked into the St. Louis County Jail, where he was held on a $1 million cash-only bond.
Ellis was charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, and two counts of tampering with physical evidence.
When an analysis determined that the DNA found on the glove matched Ellis’ brother, he was also arrested and booked into the St. Louis County Jail, where he was held on a $100,000 cash-only bond.
Benjamin was charged with evidence tampering and later pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
In September 2018, it was reported that a jury deliberated for 15 hours before finding Ellis guilty of the second-degree murder of Monica Sykes.
FOX 2 Now reported on Nov. 8, 2018, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Brian May sentenced Ray Ellis to life in prison.
Sykes’ father told the judge: “He [Ray Ellis] treated her like trash. He still gets to live. She doesn’t. There’s no more tomorrow for her. There’s nothing left for her.”
Judge May handed down an additional 11 years for armed criminal action and two counts of tampering with evidence.
After serving 85 percent of his sentence, he will be eligible for parole.