Woman charged with murdering toddler in random attack at grocery store

Posted at 9:51 AM, June 5, 2024

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio (Scripps News Cleveland) — An Ohio woman is facing charges after police say she stabbed a toddler to death in the parking lot of a grocery store in a random attack.

A lawyer sits next to a defendant with her head down on a table

Bionca Ellis kept her head down during her arraignment. (Scripps News Cleveland)

According to North Olmsted Police Detective Sgt. Matt Beck, the suspect, 32-year-old Bionca Ellis, was at the Volunteers of America store, a thrift shop adjacent to the grocery store, where she obtained some sort of kitchen knife. It’s unclear if she paid for it or stole it.

Police say Ellis then left the store, walked over to the Giant Eagle supermarket just after 3 p.m., and approached a 38-year-old mother, who was pushing her 3-year-old son, identified as Julian Wood, in a grocery cart. Ellis allegedly stabbed the mother and child multiple times and walked off. The entire attack unfolded quickly, Beck said.

“The incident itself happened in less than five seconds, so the people that were near there did react and respond. But by that time, the incident was already over and Ms. Ellis was already walking away,” Beck said. “The young child suffered two stab wounds, one to the face, one to the back. And she suffered one to her shoulder area.”

Multiple officers responded to the parking lot after the department was inundated with 911 calls about the stabbing. Officers tracked Ellis down nearby and took her into custody without resistance. The suspected weapon was found next to Ellis when she was arrested.

The mother and Julian were taken to a nearby hospital. Julian later died from his injuries. The mother is recovering from hers. If you’re interested in helping the family, click here.

“As a mother, I cannot even begin to fathom the sense of loss that this family is going through,” said North Olmsted Mayor Nicole Dailey Jones.

Police Chief Bob Wagner added, “Our condolences go out to the family. It’s a very difficult time, I know for them, but also for all the first responders.”

Officials said the motive behind the attack is unknown, and it appears this was a random act of violence. Ellis and the victims had no prior interactions, police said.

Beck said Ellis was known to North Olmsted Police because of a 2023 shoplifting incident at a Walmart in the city.

Police tape in a Giant Eagle Parking lot

Police investigate outside an Ohio grocery store after a toddler was fatally stabbed in the parking lot. (Scripps News Cleveland)

More recently, she was arrested Thursday in the city on an outstanding warrant. Before the stabbing, Beck said Ellis had come to the North Olmsted Police Department to inquire about property secured during the arrest.

He said previous crimes never included a history of violence.

“There’s no indication why she committed this. There’s some mental health concerns that we have, but nothing concrete at this point,” Beck said.

Ellis has been charged with aggravated murder. Her bond has been set at $1 million, and she is scheduled to appear in court on June 10.

Scripps News Cleveland went to Ellis’ last known address: an apartment building on Puritas Avenue. The maintenance director called the whole situation sad. He told Scripps News Cleveland that Ellis had been evicted 30 days ago. Court records show she owed back rent.

But in March, Ellis was in Kissimmee, Florida, where records show she was arrested on a trespassing charge.

Court records there reveal Ellis tried to rent a room at a hotel, but didn’t have any money and refused to leave when asked.

She then told police she was on vacation from Ohio and that she wanted to go to jail.

This story was originally written by Drew Scofield, Catherine Ross, Bryn Caswell and Tara Morgan at Scripps News Cleveland, an E.W. Scripps Company.